The Ultimate CFO Hiring Guide - CFO Search & Recruiters - Cowen Partners

      Chief Financial Officer Recruitment: The Ultimate CFO Hiring Guide

      Cowen Partners conducts more CFO searches a month than most executive search firms do all year. That is why we have compiled this industry-defining resource, detailing what it takes to hire top talent for the role of Chief Financial Officer for C-suites in any company, any industry, and any city nationwide.

      Created for today’s leaders and key decision-makers, this Ultimate CFO Hiring Guide explains what it takes to identify, screen, and hire the best CFOs to take your company to the next level.

      Cowen Partners: A Top CFO Search Firm

      Cowen Partners, a premier CFO search firm with the nation’s top CFO recruiters, works with small and large, publicly traded, pre-IPO, private, and non-profit organizations for all types of CFO search needs.

      We have curated case studies, interview questions, CFO profiles, and more from our exceptionally experienced CFO recruiters to walk you through the ins and outs of what it takes to hire top chief financial officers.

      Our guide covers the following topics (simply click on a title in the list below to “jump” to that section):


      A Profile of the Modern CFO

      There’s a CFO crisis in the global economy. In fact, recent studies show that:

      • 2/3 of surveyed CEOs believe that CFOs will increase in their significance over the next three years (which, incidentally, they have)
      • 1/3 of those CEOs feel that their CFO is not up to the challenge.

      Now, this might not sound like news- CEOs putting pressure on CFOs is certainly not an unprecedented 21st-century phenomenon — but it’s not just the CEOs of the world demanding more of Chief Financial Officers.

      It’s everyone.

      There was a time when the role of the CFO was grounded in risk aversion and crisis management.

      They were the ones maximizing company resources, monitoring cash flow, and tempering the large-scale visions of more creative executives to ensure longevity and stability.

      Now, however, the scope of a CFO’s role is radically different. CFOs are now getting wrangled into more public-facing responsibilities, developing equal partnerships with CEOs, and taking an active role in day-to-day operational management according to long-term strategic policy.

      Why? Because companies who don’t lean on their CFOs fall flat.

      What does this modern CFO look like? The modern CFO:

      • Brings much more creativity, communication, and technological skill sets to the table
      • Is far more than simply an accountant
      • Serves as a true partner to the CEO
      • Works as a vocal leader of an organization and an action-based executive within the context of a company’s structure.

      What was once the highlight of a CFO’s resume – extensive financial management and accounting experience – is now a minimum requirement to take on a CFO role. In fact, a strong accounting and ERP system management background holds no guarantees.

      President and CFO Search Practice Managing Partner of Cowen Partners Executive Search, Shawn Cole stated:

      There is an evolution taking place. While CFOs with ERP experience have been in demand for a long time, ERP experience is now a prerequisite, not unlike an accounting or finance degree. Many of the CFOs we are placing are inheriting ERP selection and implementation initiatives at their new companies as part of their company’s data automation, analytics, and forecasting goals.

      Technology has permeated every facet of commerce and generated increased opportunities for gains and losses. It determines everything from advertising and marketing to sales to internal operations, and it has the potential to make or break a company. Today’s unpredictable technology-driven market means that companies need to constantly cultivate stronger connections between departments that result in more strategic and organized operations. CFOs play an integral role in cohesive company management.

      Even more importantly, CEOs are looking for someone who understands how to leverage technology to improve data analysis, strategy development, risk management, and communication within departments.

      They want to see a CFO bring a wealth of both financial and non-financial expertise, innate creativity, and technological prowess to the table. They expect CFOs to use their abilities to implement meaningful, data-driven, and company-wide initiatives.

      Additionally, CEOs need CFOs who:

      • Understand the global, changing market
      • Can effectively leverage their understanding of emerging markets and new industry players to adapt and modify an organization’s strategies at a moment’s notice
      • Demonstrate flexibility, creativity, and craftiness, three of the most in-demand soft skill sets for today’s CFOs
      • Have deep expertise in crisis management and successful growth strategies

      Modern CFOs face the enormous task of bridging daily operations, long-term strategy, and financial goals. Consequently, the role of a CFO is no longer about signing off on expenses and monitoring budgetary concerns. Rather, the modern CFO has to:

      • Analyze their company’s cash flow
      • Leverage effective and cutting-edge technologies for deeper insights and profit-generating competitive advantages
      • Work collaboratively with other executives to develop short-term and long-term plans that safeguard a company’s assets without compromising a CEO’s vision
      • Embody the detail-oriented, data-driven CFO of the past while embracing the volatility and international nature of today’s markets and global economy

      While the task of becoming a modern CFO may seem daunting, the role has never been more exciting, engaging, or unlimited in its potential to make a tangible impact on company growth and performance.

      CFO Profiles: What Type of CFO Does Your Business Need?

      The role of the chief financial officer (CFO) has evolved a lot over the years. In addition to the financial responsibilities of a company, many CFOs are now handling technology transformation, outsourcing personnel, and talent management, among other business needs.

      Given the diverse role a CFO can play within a company, it can be difficult to put together your ideal CFO’s profile.

      Naturally, the CFO role varies by company, but it can be helpful to have a general profile pinpointing the top characteristics of the CFO you need.

      4 Types of CFO Profiles

      Below are four types of CFO profiles, each with different competencies and areas of expertise.

      Understanding how each of these roles works within a company can help you determine which CFO profile is best for your business.

      1. CFO as the Financial Guru

      The financial guru CFO has years of experience with different roles related to financial functions within a company. This typically includes duties such as financial planning and analysis, auditing and compliance, treasury, financial reporting, and controlling.

      The financial guru is often an internal hire, frequently a Controller or Chief Accounting Officer prior, and comes with a comprehensive understanding of the company as a whole. You can expect the financial guru to have an advanced accounting degree, CPA, and to excel at standardizing procedures.

      This particular profile is generally suited for businesses with inefficient financial departments or early-stage businesses that are scaling up and need to strengthen their financial functions.    

      2. The CFO Who Is a Jack-of-All-Trades

      The jack-of-all-trades CFO typically has a broad range of experience and has often worked outside the company with exposure to multiple businesses. Other areas where these CFOs have worked include marketing, general management, and operations. Management and communication skills are often prioritized in this profile over more technical skills. The jack-of-all-trades CFO can be found both internally and externally and is hired at a company where personal influence is highly valued and required for results. 

      3. The CFO Who Is the Achievement Leader

      Achievement leader CFOs are known for transforming businesses to create results. They modify financial functions and other processes within an organization to promote cost management and the use of metrics. Achievement leaders also focus on standardizing data and systems to enhance efficiency and performance within an organization. 

      The CFO with this profile is generally an outside hire with previous CFO or accounting experience. This type of CFO is beneficial for companies looking for exacting analytics and striving for aggressive growth. 

      4. The CFO as the Change Agent

      The change agent CFO is best suited for industries that experience a lot of disruptions.

      This type of CFO is an outside hire and has a background working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and has an extensive external network of resources as well as exceptional strategic insight.

      Businesses undergoing mergers and acquisitions as well as PE companies looking to revamp portfolio businesses are a good fit for this CFO profile.

      In many of these cases, the companies experience a considerable reshaping of the business as well as adjustments in resource allocation so a CFO who has experience with this type of disturbance can make the transition run more smoothly. 

      How to Make the CFO Role Fit Your Company: 3 Questions to Ask

      These profiles are not perfect. One may not cover exactly what you need in a CFO, but it is a place to start when shaping the role for your company. Use these profiles to determine the characteristics and general skill set of a CFO that will help your company grow the most. When searching for a new CFO, it is also a good idea to evaluate your current corporate strategy.

      Below are a few questions you should ask yourself as you start looking for your next CFO.

      1. What Are Your Corporate Strategy & Goals?

      Your CFO profile should reflect the structure and performance of your company. Knowledge of the industry is highly valuable when selecting your CFO, as is choosing someone whose characteristics fit the company’s strategic plan.

      CFO candidates will have financial expertise and management skills, but you need to determine where else your company’s CFO can be useful.

      For instance, if your company is pursuing an M&A strategy, then a CFO candidate experienced with mergers and acquisitions as well as proven strategic insight would be the best fit.

      2. What Are the Strengths & Weaknesses of Your Management Team?

      Hiring a new CFO is an opportunity to fill some of the skill gaps on your management team. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the CEO and other leading board members to determine what expertise would benefit the team.

      A leadership team with a diverse skillset allows team members to lean on each other and build on one another’s strengths. Select a CFO who will shore up any weaknesses in your team. 

      3. How Capable Is Your Finance Group?

      It is important to determine how capable your financial functions currently are. If your company is currently struggling to efficiently manage basic financial functions such as accurate data and systems compliance, then you need to focus on a CFO with a financial guru-type profile. If your basic financial processes are not going well, then your first order of business needs to be strengthening this area above all else.

      It is a good idea to look at potential internal candidates to promote to CFO who have significant financial experience as well as a proven record of results. Of course, if your financial functions are running smoothly, then you can consider candidates with other qualifications such as more management experience and strategic insight. 

      Finding the right CFO for your company requires a lot of consideration concerning the right characteristics as well as the needs of the business. As you determine the right CFO profile for your company, remember how the CFO position has evolved over the years and adapt your profile to best fit your needs. 

      CFO Qualifications

      • 10yrs+ Executive leadership experience required
      • Bachelors Degree in finance or accounting from a major university required, MBA preferred
      • Public accounting experience at a big 4 accounting firm preferred 
      • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Preferred
      • Strong understanding of US GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles)
      • Strong communication and analytical troubleshooting skills
      • Cash-flow planning, cash-flow management, account analysis, and reconciliations experience
      • Previous experience working with external auditors
      • Working knowledge of major accounting software systems

      What Private Equity Firms Want CFOs to Know

      Many chief financial officers (CFOs) are excited by the opportunity to lead a private equity portfolio company’s financials.

      The position looks good on a resume, often comes with a certain prestige and monetary bump; however, many CFOs do not realize what it takes to be successful at a private equity-backed company.

      According to a recent survey, the turnover rate for private equity (PE) CFOs is greater than 80 percent. A majority of these exits take place within the first two years of a PE firm acquiring a company.

      CFOs are not meeting expectations or understanding their role in driving value. When this happens, PE firms don’t see the results they expected and contact me, an executive recruiter, to find a new CFO candidate.  

      Private equity environments are very demanding, and it can be difficult for the CFO to know which skills need to be honed and which pitfalls to avoid.

      To make the transition to a PE-backed company a little easier, below are four pieces of advice private equity operating partners and executives want CFOs to know.  

      PE CFO Tip #1: Communicate openly with your Operating Partner or PE executives.

      The role of a private equity operating partner (OP) can vary greatly between PE firms and their portfolio companies. In many cases, CFOs don’t fully understand what the OP has to offer, and that is why it is important for the CFO to have open communications with their operating partner. Ask your OP what resources are available so that you can have a full understanding of the tools at your disposal. 

      CFOs should also not be afraid to occasionally push back when OPs or other PE executives make a request. For example, if a requested financial report is going to take an inordinate amount of time and resources to compile, it is OK to:

      1. Ask why the numbers are needed and find out what the PE firm is trying to accomplish.
      2. Explain to the executives what it will take to provide what they requested so everyone is on the same page about the resources being dedicated to the task.
      3. Prioritize spending time and energy on completing other work, especially when what they want can be included in a regular report. 

      PE CFO Tip #2: Keep your messaging consistent. 

      As the CFO of a private equity-backed company, you should be working closely with the company CEO to deliver consistent financial reporting and data analytics to the PE firm. It is surprisingly common for CFOs and CEOs to miscommunicate or to carelessly deliver divergent information to their private equity investors.

      Inconsistent information and communication do not inspire confidence. A successful CFO is able to work with the CEO to produce clear, consistent information that accurately reflects the state of the business sometimes on a weekly basis. 

      PE CFO Tip #3: Strategically invest in technology.

      Due to the stringent financial reporting requirements of PE firms, staying up to date on the latest technology trends is important for increasing efficiency and staying relevant in a rapidly advancing industry.

      According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 82 percent of PE investors believe automation and technology are going to have a major impact on finance functions over the next 10 years. A successful PE CFO will make strategic investments in technology to enhance processes. Ideally, these investments will eventually cut labor costs and create a more efficient workflow within the PE portfolio company.

      As a private equity CFO, you must start embracing technology. Old school financial reporting methods are being replaced by automation and as the CFO, you must be the one leading those changes. If technological advancements are not part of your strategic plan for the portfolio company, you need to pivot to start including them.

      PE CFO Tip #4: Stay agile and be prepared to wear a lot of hats.

      As a private equity CFO, you must be flexible and wear many different hats. Before a business is acquired by a PE firm, a CFO might be perfectly fine filling the role of accountant. After a business is acquired, however, this is no longer the case.

      A PE CFO has to know how to strategically scale the business. Oftentimes, the duties the CFO previously held are increased exponentially to accommodate the rapid growth a PE firm demands. 

      How to Succeed as a Private Equity CFO

      A typical PE-experienced CFO will naturally oversee finances, as well as playing a vital role in shaping and advancing several other areas of an organization, including (but not exclusive to):

      • Human resources
      • Operations
      • Supply chain management and negotiations
      • Legal
      • Information technology
      • Real estate

      A lot of CFOs inherited through an acquisition do not know how to adapt to these new duties required by the PE firm. That is part of the reason why CFO turnover is so high. You must realize a PE CFO role has higher expectations and you must quickly grow accordingly to match your new duties. 

      Ultimately, a strategic CFO is forward-thinking and has a personal and professional growth mindset. Your role as a PE-backed CFO might be evolving into a more complex and challenging position, but it can also be the most fulfilling job opportunity of your career. With the four insights shared by private equity leaders, it’s easier to zero in on the most exceptional leaders who can serve as your next PE CFO. 

      Interim CFO vs Fractional CFO: Which One Does Your Business Need?

      There is no doubt that a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is one of the most valuable assets of a company. Be it a blue-chip company or a small business, every entity needs a skilled person to take care of its financials.

      Although startups and small businesses frequently can’t afford to hire a CFO, they still need some level of qualified financial help from an expert; someone who is experienced in accounting and finance and can manage cash flow, profit margins, debt, and the overall financial performance of the business.

      Mid to large-sized businesses may already have a CFO, but what do they do if their business is going through a financial crunch?

      What if the CFO isn’t skilled enough to help you navigate the rough waters?

      Worst of all, what if the CFO gives notice during a rough season?

      It’s simple: you can hire an interim CFO or a part-time CFO (also known as fractional CFO), but first, you need to understand the difference between the two.

      Key Differences Between Interim CFOs & Fractional CFOs

      As the term suggests, interim CFOs are finance experts who temporarily fill in the role of a permanent CFO when the company is in the process of hiring a new one. In fact:

      1. Interim CFOs are usually brought on to work full-time for one to three months only (six months in rare cases). They overlook and manage the financials of the company in the gap between the last CFO’s departure and the arrival of a new one, and may also help companies during a financial crunch or other major change such as an ERP implementation.
      2. Fractional CFOs provide financial services to a company on a part-time basis, almost like a vacation timeshare. This means that they will work for you for only a few days every week and have the liberty to provide the same services to other companies simultaneously. Usually, small and mid-size businesses hire fractional CFOs because they are operating on a small-scale, and thus, they don’t require full-time professional CFO assistance.
      Top CFO Search Firm in Seattle & Portland

      Interim CFO vs Part-Time CFO: Which One Should I Go For?

      Let’s look at the difference between an interim CFO and a part-time CFO to figure out which one your business needs.

      Interim CFO: Full-time Assistance for a Limited Time

      Interim CFOs don’t deal with startups and small businesses. They are usually appointed by middle market or large-sized organizations when:

      • There are leadership disruptions: Companies facing challenges or undergoing leadership changes, such as financial disruptions or hiring a new CFO, can benefit interim CFOs.
      • Current CFOs are underqualified: Some companies hire interim CFOs when their current CFO doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to handle systems implementation/integration or mergers/acquisitions. In such cases, an interim CFO is like an extra pair of eyes and arms, available and ready to guide and assist an organization through various processes, including due diligence, negotiations, and more. By providing their valuable insight, they help the company owners and executives make more informed decisions that will increase the overall profitability of the company.

      Since interim CFOs are hired for a specific purpose or project, their job is done after the engagement is finished. As mentioned above, the average duration of their job is between one to three months, after which you probably won’t hear from them again.

      Fractional CFO: Part-time Assistance for Extended Periods

      Usually, fractional CFOs are hired by small and medium-sized businesses when they are beginning to grow and get more traction. These startups or small businesses need more than a bookkeeper due to their sophistication, but are not yet ready for full time support due to their small operations scale.

      While a bookkeeper can help with small tasks like recording transactions, a fractional CFO can:

      • Begin tracking your financial activities
      • Set up a proper accounting system
      • Provide you with valuable insight into your business’s financial performance

      Depending on which growth stage your business is at, a fractional CFO can provide a range of services, including:

      • Debt negotiations
      • Building cash-flow models
      • Advising on capital-market investments

      Fractional CFOs can also help you in strategically reinvesting your profits to maximize your returns. In addition to this, if you need to raise capital for business growth, a fractional CFO can help you find potential investors, and can also draft all the necessary documents needed as proof for private equity or banks. Fractional CFOs usually work a few days a week, but they are available for as long as you need.

      Interim CFO or Fractional CFO? It Depends…

      Depending on your company’s needs, either a full-time or fractional CFO may benefit your bottom line. The distinction between interim CFOs and fractional CFOs is unmistakable:

      • If your business is undergoing a change and needs a CFO temporarily to help take charge over the next 1-3 months then you should hire an interim CFO.
      • If you need assistance with major financial decisions but not as often, hire a fractional CFO.


      What Private Equity Firms Need in an Interim CFO

      Consulting Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) play an important role at private equity (PE) portfolio companies. An interim CFO can be strategically added to a company’s team to navigate a merger or acquisition, implement new systems, or serve as a critical stop gap between incoming and outgoing CFOs.

      According to a 2019 survey by Deloitte, the turnover rate for PE CFOs is greater than 80 percent, and finding a permanent CFO for a PE-backed company takes a lot of time and consideration.

      To avoid rushing the decision, a lot of private equity firms will hire a temporary or “interim CFO” who can come in and handle immediate needs. Of course, choosing an interim CFO is also an important decision, so it is wise to understand the unique circumstances under which an temporary CFO is engaged.

      An Interim CFO Needs the Ability to Quickly Adapt

      An interim CFO is brought in to a PE-backed company for a short period of time, typically one to three months. This means the temporary CFO has to hit the ground running when introduced to the PE-backed company. The ability to quickly adapt to business needs and tasks is an essential capability every temporary CFO should have.

      Adaptability does not just come into play for completing work tasks, either. An interim CFO’s ability to adjust to a new setting can also be very useful when it comes to addressing company culture. The temporary CFO should be able to seamlessly adapt to working with various departments within the PE-backed company as well as understand best practices for interacting with the private equity board. 

      How to Find an Interim CFO

      An Interim CFO Needs Exceptional Interpersonal Skills

      A key component of adaptability is interpersonal skills. Being able to effectively lead, communicate, and motivate team members is part of what makes an interim CFO successful. An interim CFO with a positive attitude and effective communication can integrate into an existing team a lot faster than someone who lacks the necessary interpersonal skills. Demonstrating effective communication also lends credibility to the temporary CFO’s ability to perform well for the new team. 

      Private equity leadership also benefits from an interim CFO’s interpersonal skills. Clear communication allows the interim CFO to interpret financial data in a clear, concise manner that will result in constructive interactions when reviewing financials. 

      Interim CFOs Should Focus on Specific Goals

      One big mistake of many private equity firms when hiring an interim CFO for a portfolio company is looking for someone who has the same skill set as a full-time CFO. A temporary CFO should be hired to complete three main tasks or goals, and the skill set of this CFO will be dependent on the specific tasks that the PE-backed company needs to be completed.

      For instance, the company may need help with ERP system implementation or company restructuring. Often, an interim CFO is hired to fill the gap between the departure of the previous CFO and create a soft landing for the start date of the new CFO.

      Interim CFOs Should Be Objective Overseers

      Since an interim CFO typically only stays with a company for up to three months, it is easy for the CFO to remain objective and avoid office politics. A neutral point of view regarding company processes and procedures is incredibly valuable. This objective viewpoint can clearly see which areas can use improvement and where cuts need to be made.

      An interim CFO should be able to identify areas for financial improvement, as well as a major investment within the PE portfolio company. Even when the feedback is negative, an interim CFO should have the confidence and impartiality to honestly assess and comment on the state of the portfolio company.  

      Experience Matters

      Consulting CFOs might not have the same type of experience as the permanent CFO you seek, but they still have a high level of expertise, usually in a consulting capacity.

      Ideally, the temporary CFO will have an MBA in finance as well as five to 10 years of executive-level experience.

      A promising temporary CFO will also be able to demonstrate past experience leading financial or accounting functions of sizable companies. An interim CFO might not need to have the same experience as a permanent CFO, but they should still be an extremely competent professional familiar with the financial reporting and performance demands of private equity.

      The right interim CFO for your portfolio company can make a huge difference in a short amount of time. Whether you need someone to help during a business acquisition, to implement new systems management procedures, or to just temporarily fill the gap between permanent CFOs, an interim CFO is a good investment for your private equity-backed company.  

      What Is the Average CFO Salary?

      The Wall Street Journal published a list of the five highest-paid CFO’s late last year. The list cited high power executives, including:

      • Safra Catz, CFO at Oracle Corp. – $108.3 million
      • Ruth M. Porat, CFO at Alphabet Inc. – $47.3 million
      • Luca Maestri, CFO at Apple Inc. – $26.5 million
      • Michael Fleisher, CFO at Wayfair Inc. – $23.6 million
      • John P. Nallen, CFO at 21st Century Fox Inc. – $20.8 million

      These numbers are a far cry from the national average CFO salary, which is roughly $133,000. 

      Regardless of the total dollar amount, however, we must delineate salary from total compensation. As the complexities of company management expand, so too do the kinds of rewards. Total compensation is an umbrella term that encompasses both a base salary as well as additional benefits, bonuses, stock shares (in publicly traded companies), and perks. 

      Cash bonuses are often commission-based or tied to specific performance benchmarks while perks come in the form of golden handcuffs or golden parachutes, which incentivize an executive to stay for a particular amount of time or guarantee them financial compensation upon the end of their tenure respectively. General Electric’s Carolina Dybeck Happe holds an $8 million golden handcuff agreement the conglomerate and Stanley O’Neal, Merrill Lynch’s former CEO, famously pocketed $161.5 million from his golden parachute agreement. 

      Average CFO Salary by Revenue

      CFO Salary Guide - Average CFO Salary by Revenue

      How do you develop a competitive and compelling CFO compensation package that will bring the best, most qualified talent to your company?

      You do that by considering each of the following factors that typically play a role in CFO salary and compensation.

      CFO Salary Factor #1: Location

      The age-old real estate saying holds true in the case of understanding and allocating CFO compensation. While CFO paychecks are inexorably intertwined with the broader company structure, current financial status, and trajectory, geographic location makes a tangible impact on their salary- just as it does for any other company employee. The regional differences in the cost of living and economic opportunity correlate to CFO salary. 

      To put this into context, a CFO in Keya Paha, Nebraska, can expect the lowest CFO salary in the country at $284,250 and a compensation package totaling $354,259. An average CFO in San Francisco, however, needs nearly double that salary to live and work. The average San Francisco CFO salary rises in proportion with the cost of living and comes in at $451,070 with total compensation of $724,006.

      The price variations based on geographic location may or may not decrease as we resume commerce in a post-pandemic world. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he’s letting employees work from home forever, even after COVID-19 is eradicated.

      These kinds of financial-saving decisions might close the regional pay gaps in CFO compensation packages, should they be adopted by other organizations. Cowen Executive Partners stays abreast of developments like these and evolves our CFO consulting services to accommodate shifts in the market. 

      Beyond physical location, each company has a unique approach to financial structure, commerce, success, work ethic, and values. We take all of these ideas into consideration when matching CFOs to open positions, but the financial structure is the second major determinant of a CFO’s compensation. 

      CFO Salary Factor #2: Company Structure

      The median base CFO salary is roughly $362,030, and the median total compensation package (including bonus, healthcare, and retirement) as $506,386.

      Keep in mind that each CFO is compensated differently, depending on the company, the CFO’s experience, and many other factors. Non-profits, private companies, and public companies all compensate their executives differently and in proportion to their previous and potential earnings. 

      Average CFO Salary in Private Companies

      According to, the average cash compensation for a CFO in a private company with less than $20MM in annual revenue is $194,354. For companies with $21-$99MM in yearly revenue, CFOs make an average of $237,983 in base salary. Tack on benefits and bonuses, and you can expect to shell out somewhere between $225,000-$275,000, depending on business size. 

      CFO Job Description

      The CFO job description, though different across industries, generally contains these key requirements, responsibilities, and credentials.

      Chief Financial Officer Job Responsibilities

      • Develops financial well-being of the organization by providing financial projections and accounting services, preparing growth plans, and directing staff.
      • Accomplishes finance human resource strategies by determining accountabilities; communicating and enforcing values, policies, and procedures; implementing recruitment, selection, orientation, training, coaching, counseling, disciplinary, and communication programs; planning, monitoring, appraising, and reviewing job contributions; and planning and reviewing compensation strategies.
      • Develops finance organizational strategies by contributing financial and accounting information, analysis, and recommendations to strategic thinking and direction and establishing functional objectives in line with organizational objectives.
      • Establishes finance operational strategies by evaluating trends; establishing critical measurements; determining production, productivity, quality, and customer-service strategies; designing systems; accumulating resources; resolving problems; and implementing change.
      • Develops organization prospects by studying economic trends and revenue opportunities; projecting acquisition and expansion prospects; analyzing organization operations; identifying opportunities for improvement, cost reduction, and systems enhancement; and accumulating capital to fund expansion.
      • Develops financial strategies by forecasting capital, facilities, and staff requirements; identifying monetary resources; and developing action plans.
      • Monitors financial performance by measuring and analyzing results, initiating corrective actions, and minimizing the impact of variances.
      • Maximizes return on invested funds by identifying investment opportunities and maintaining relationships with the investment community.
      • Reports financial status by developing forecasts, reporting results, analyzing variances, and developing improvements.
      • Updates job knowledge by remaining aware of new regulations, participating in educational opportunities, reading professional publications, maintaining personal networks, and participating in professional organizations.
      • Accomplishes finance and organization mission by completing related results as needed.

      CFO Job Description: Chief Financial Officer Qualifications & Skills

      • Financial planning and strategy
      • Managing profitability
      • Strategic planning and vision
      • Quality management
      • Promotion of process improvement
      • Forecasting
      • Corporate finance
      • Budget development

      Education, Experience & Licensing Requirements

      • MBA or bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting, or equivalent experience.
      • Master’s degree preferred.
      • Certified Public Accountant certification a plus.
      • Minimum 10 years’ experience in accounting and financial management practices.
      • Experience in a senior management position.
      • Proficiency with accounting software, word processing, and spreadsheets.
      • Solid GAAP and financial reporting technical skills.

      Benefits, Culture, Etc.

      We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

      100+ CFO Interview Questions

      Here are the best questions to ask when interviewing CFO candidates. We’ve broken them down by category, so you can unpack the key details you need to know about different candidates’ history, qualifications, ability to “fit” with the company, and more.  

      CFO Role Interview Questions

      1. Do they understand the job opportunity and your company?
      2. Are they asking intelligent questions about the job and the job opportunity?
      3. What appeals to them about this particular opportunity and what do they bring to the table?
      4. What value will they immediately add to the company? How will their experience benefit the company?
      5. What does their compensation history look like and does this opportunity make sense from a financial perspective? If not, why would they take a pay cut?  (No one ever wants to take a pay cut no matter what they tell you and they must prove to you logically why it makes sense.)
      6. Does the commute work for them and have they had a similar commute for many years? Check to see how long they lasted the last time their commute was this long. (No one wants to drive farther regardless of what they tell you and again it is on them to prove to you why they would do that.)
      7. What concerns do they have about moving forward in the process and is there anything that would keep them from being interested in the opportunity at this point? Do they have questions for you and/or anything else they would like to share with you?

      CFO Job History Interview Questions

      1. Is the candidate currently employed full-time?
      2. What is their reason for considering a new opportunity?
      3. What are their reasons for movement over the last several years?
      4. Specifically, what made them leave each position and move to the next one?
      5. Does the candidate have good tenure in each of their last few positions?
      6. Have they progressed nicely in their career into higher level roles?

      CFO Communication Interview Questions

      1. Do they communicate extremely well?
      2. Are they high energy?
      3. Do they speak loud and clearly or are they timid and reserved?
      4. Are they more introverted or extroverted?
      5. Do they make you pull questions out of them or do they explain their ideas fully, take cues from you, listen at the right time and speak at the right time?
      6. Do they speak English fluently, smoothly and eloquently?
      7. Is it easy to understand what they are saying, and do they make sense when they are talking to you without you having to put effort into understanding them?
      8. Do they talk too much, or are they overbearing?
      9. Do they say things that are politically incorrect?
      10. Do they speak abrasively or harshly?
      11. Do they speak negatively about a former employer or co-worker?
      12. Are they likable and were you able to develop a good rapport with them?

      CFO Personality Interview Questions

      1. Are they irritated, or do you sense any frustration when you ask them to explain things in detail or ask them difficult questions?
      2. Do they stay positive and embrace the questions or do they seem distant, cold, short, frustrated, or irritated with you for asking them?
      3. Ask situational questions specific to the opportunity
      4. Describe a time when you made a bad decision that impacted your team in a negative way and what the outcome was
      5. Tell me about a time that you and a board member did not agree
      6. What was one project you never finished for the President/CEO

      CFO Industry Experience Interview Questions

      1. How does their experience align with the position? Do they have experience within the same industry?
      2. Have they been at companies that are the same size, smaller or larger than your company?
      3. Is there anything relevant to this position that they have not done and if so how will they get up to speed quickly and overcome those challenges? Have they faced this situation in the past?
      4. Do they meet all the requirements on the job description? Ask them which areas they are stronger in and which areas they are weaker in and then ask for specific examples of their experience.

      CFO Professional Accomplishment Interview Questions

      1. What have they done to improve the margins and profits at their current company? What financial strategies have they implemented that had a positive outcome at their current or past company?  Give specific examples.
      2. How have they contributed to the bottom-line growth in previous companies? Specifically, what steps were taken to increase annual revenues?  Improve EBITDA? Add locations?
      3. What are some examples of improvements that they have made?
      4. Automated processes?
      5. Increased efficiencies by implementing new ways of doing things?
      6. System or software implementations?
      7. Have they increased profits? How?
      8. Have they increased growth? How?
      9. Have they cut costs? How?

      CFO Management Style & Experience Interview Questions

      1. Have they managed a group of people about the same size or larger?
      2. What is their management style and would their employees have good things to say about them?
      3. Do they lead with an iron fist or is it more of a respect situation where they are a natural leader and people want to follow them? Give specific examples.
      4. Are they a hands-on manager? Give examples
      5. Are they willing to get down in the trenches, roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes? What would their employees say about them?  What would their supervisors say about them?
      6. How do they feel about working overtime or coming in on weekends?
      7. Do they leave at 5:00pm every day? Do they leave at 6:00pm every day?
      8. How do they handle having too much to do?
      9. How do they prioritize their workload?
      10. How do they do in a stressful chaotic environment?
      11. How do they deal with difficult people?
      12. Are they able separate their emotions from situations that are challenging and are they able to respond in a cool, calm, collective way?
      13. Do they like to understand the details behind every process or are they a higher-level manager who likes to manage from a distance relying upon their staff? How do they stay sharp and up to date if others are completing tasks for them?
      14. Are they heavier on the accounting side or the finance side and if so what will they do to make up for their weakness on the weaker side?
      15. Are they proactive in their execution? Do they constantly look for new of opportunities, increasing efficiencies, cutting costs and producing more, etc.  What new ideas will they bring to the table?
      16. Are they more of heads down accountant or more of a higher energy outgoing individual?
      17. How do they handle difficult staff and how do you determine how much time to spend mentoring them before letting them go?
      18. How do they build relationships with other team members, investors, employees, board members and is there a difference in how you interact?

      CFO Software & Tech Experience Interview Questions

      1. Do they have extensive experience with the ERP or accounting system that the company utilizes?
      2. Do they have experience with a similar system?
      3. Are they comfortable learning a new ERP?
      1. What ERP systems have they used or implemented?
      2. How is their technical ability with computers, systems, etc.?
      3. What were some of the challenges they faced when implementing a certain ERP system?
      4. How do their technical skills (computer skills) rank with those of other CFOs that they know? Are they the “go to” person to answer questions and help others or are they the ones that are technically challenged?

      CFO Interview Questions About Private Equity, Venture Capital, IPO & SEC

      1. Do they have significant capital-raising experience, and do they bring PE/ VC contacts with them?
      2. How extensive is their network of contacts should the company find itself in a position of need to raise additional funds?
      3. Do they have private equity/ venture capital experience, where/ when?
      4. Do they have technical accounting and strong financial reporting experience?
      5. Have they ever filed an IPO, are they SEC experienced, 10K, 10Q?

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