What Should You Look for When Hiring Your CFO?
January 15, 2021

What Should You Look for When Hiring Your CFO?

Companies fall apart without proper financial management. Whether it’s HR, Sales, or IT, all other departments rely on a steady flow of income and good accounting practice.

At the head of the company’s flowing cash lifeblood is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a critical top-level executive.

Responsible for various financial duties and tasks, they help steer the company in the right and most profitable direction.

Considering how important they are, you must choose a good one to join your organization’s executive board. But finding good help is hard. AHK Accounting Recruiters can make this process easier. We specialize in financial candidate searches, even on the executive level. In addition to getting recruiting help, there are several other factors to consider when hiring a CFO.

What is a Chief Financial Officer?

A CFO is a senior executive tasked with overseeing and managing a given company’s financial actions. Their duties might include cash flow tracking, overall financial strategizing, and close analysis of an enterprise’s financial strengths and weaknesses.

With their in-depth understanding of their company’s financial well-being, a CFO is uniquely positioned to propose adjustments and actions to benefit the organization.

In some ways, they are similar to a treasurer or controller, as they share responsibility for running the finance and accounting departments. They also ensure the timely completion of relevant financial reports.

Here’s an example of what a CFO can do. A marketing division wants to launch a new campaign. Once the company has decided to go ahead with this initiative, the CFO steps in to help ensure that this campaign is feasible while also providing input on the amount of cash available for the program.

Hiring Considerations

Now that you know what a CFO is, you likely want one for your company. There are several factors you should take into consideration when making this choice.

Engage a Search Firm

Find a recruiting organization with a good board of directors and industry relationships. The more networks they have in this area, the better. It can also help assign an executive as a search partner to streamline this process further and customize it to the organization’s needs. You can also use the relationships you have access to here to vouch for your potential candidates externally. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that the candidates here already have outside backing to confirm their capabilities.

Go Deep on References

Considering the importance of this role, you must check on references. Take the existing list that the candidate gives you and expand it even more, looking for other sources like board members or audit partners that the potential CFO has worked with. You want someone with strong reference backing and a proven history of good work.

Look for the Right Skills

The right skills can make or break a candidate. You should look for someone with a strong passion for your company’s work and who is intimately knowledgeable about the industry. Financial understanding is essential, but the more your CFO knows about your stakeholders, customers, and specific needs, the more likely they are to excel in the position.

This can be particularly important in non-profits or software companies where accounting rules and how revenue is recognized can differ widely. However, if you find a candidate who seems to be a quick learner and has a history of working across multiple industries, don’t rule them out entirely.

You also want someone with strong leadership abilities. They need to unite and drive a team towards specific goals and milestones while getting the most out of their employees, all without causing tension.

Other essential skills include reliability and communication. Since you’re relying on the CFO to stand as one of your company leaders, you need to know that you can rely on them during hard times and good. Communication is vital for leadership, as mentioned above, but it also helps grease the wheels of teamwork and collaboration.

You’ll also want someone with a wide span of financial knowledge. They should understand the basics and other key areas like accounting, risk management, and investment. They should also be knowledgeable in functions like payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.

For outside confirmation that your CFO candidate has these critical skills, look at their certifications. A Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant certification is something you should look for in this vein.

Cultural Fit

Nothing’s worse than hiring someone who clashes with your existing office environment. For an executive to succeed, they need to fit in with the business. To check that someone will fit your culture, interview them, and see how well you seem to get along. It can also be important to check that they share common values with your workplace, which is another question you can ask during your initial conversations.

It can also help you know your company’s vision and direction very well before beginning the hiring process. This understanding can help you set strategic goals for your potential CFO. And it’s crucial for ensuring your CFO’s vision aligns well with the company’s goals as a whole.

A Proven History

The CFO is a high-ranking member of your management team. Consequently, you’ll want them to have a proven history of helping their companies. They should be able to do more than just manage numbers. Look for professional accomplishments in improving work processes or increasing profits and the bottom line. If you tie this in with the soft skills mentioned above, you’ll have a strong and reliable candidate.

Hiring a CFO is a Major Decision

The CFO is a top-level management position that you want to be filled with only the best. Since they’re responsible for so much of your company’s finances, the wrong pick can be disastrous.

However, as long as you consider their history, their connection to search firms, and their skills, you’ll be sure to find an excellent candidate.

For more help finding the perfect financial officer for your company or if you are a CFO looking for opportunities in Toronto and beyond, call AHK Accounting Recruiters at 833-399-1663 or contact us here.

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