Top 10 Tips for Hiring a CFO

By October 7, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments
Hiring a CFO
  1. Work with the right search firm. If you need to hire a CFO, be sure to speak with several different finance executive recruiting firms and make sure you choose a firm that has experience specifically in filling CFO and finance executive positions.  You won’t find a whole lot of A+ CFO candidates applying to jobs on the internet these days, so be prepared to spend a little up front to get the right person in place.
  2. Sell your company. Generally speaking, a great CFO can go to work anywhere, so you must be able to point out why they should want to work for your firm. What makes it a great place to work and what is enticing about the opportunity?  Why would they want to work there instead of somewhere else?  What are the advantages and what are the benefits?  Hiring a CFO who is best in class and at the top of their game will take some effort – put some thought into it and present your company in the best light possible.
  3. Gain information. During the entire hiring process from the initial phone call and then again throughout the interview process, you should be trying to obtain as much information as possible regarding anything that could potentially keep you from hiring an incredible CFO.  You need to be aware of, to the extent possible, what other opportunities the CFO candidate is currently pursuing.  Ask them directly if they are in the process with other companies and if so where are they at in the process?  Deals blow up regularly as the result of timing issues.  An extremely well-qualified CFO is going to have multiple interviews with multiple companies.  If they are talking with you, then they are also talking with other companies.
  4. Be flexible. Again, keep in mind that when you are hiring a CFO, you may need to slightly adjust your hiring process and/or time frame for interviewing. After 6 different interviews and 8 straight weeks of interviewing, is it really that important for the CFO candidate to meet that last board member who has been in Switzerland for the last 2 months?  No, it’s not – stay focused on hiring the right CFO versus the CFO that has time for an extraordinarily lengthy interview process.  It is common for companies to lose great candidates towards the end of the interview process because they are unorganized and/or because their interview process simply takes much longer than it should.  The best candidates don’t stay on the market long.  Hiring your new CFO should be a top priority and you need to be willing if necessary to adjust your process and schedule in order to successfully accomplish your mission of hiring a great CFO.
  5. Make a competitive offer. This may seem like common sense, but over the years I have seen an incredibly high number of companies make incredibly low offers to exceptionally well-qualified CFOs.  The situation routinely happens when the company has an overly inflated opinion of themselves and they don’t realize the caliber of talent that they are dealing with.  Average candidates don’t like to take pay cuts and good ones don’t make lateral moves.  A great CFO will be looking for a increase in compensation.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an A+ CFO at the top of their game, is going to come to work at your firm just because it’s a great place to work. There are thousands of fantastic companies out there and opportunities are ripe for highly-qualified CFOs. Companies that understand the benefits of hiring an extraordinary CFO will invest heavily in order to hire the right one!
  6. Listen to your recruiter. A good, reputable and experienced recruiter has your best interest in mind.  They want to help you hire the right CFO for your company.  They are also a tremendous asset to you in helping you gain information, negotiate the offer and close the deal.  You are paying for their help – listen to them!  Knowing details about the CFO you are trying to hire is essential. Knowing their expectations regarding compensation is critical, but even the smallest details regarding other factors can be important as well.  For instance, something as simple as changing the title of the position from VP Finance to CFO can make a big difference.  If vacation time is an important factor to the candidate, then simply adding an extra week of vacation could help to move things in the right direction.  Different things are important to different candidates and information is key when hiring a CFO.  A good executive recruiter will be able to provide you with plenty of important details.
  7. Don’t use assessments. While assessment tests may provide some type of value at the staff level, they really don’t work very well for executive level roles and they often weed out the best candidates for the job.  From my experience and from what I’ve seen in the industry is that once a company purchases any type of assessment test, they feel like they need to utilize it on each and every position for which they are hiring.  Do you want the CFO who scores the best on the assessment test or do you want the best CFO for the position?  I’ve seen Fortune 500 CFOs score “poorly” on assessments.  They just don’t work well for hiring a CFO or this level of finance executive position.
  8. Don’t bypass your recruiter. All communication between a company and the potential CFO candidate should go through the executive recruiting firm.  Bypassing your recruiter in order to speak directly with the candidate is a very bad business decision.  When you do this, you are not only being unprofessional and disrespectful to the recruiting firm; you are signaling to the candidate that you don’t value the executive recruiter and you are actually damaging the rapport that the recruiter has built with the candidate.  In the end, when you need their assistance gaining information, scheduling final interviews, doing reference checks or negotiating the offer and sealing the deal, the executive recruiter will have much less influence with the finance executive candidate because you have bypassed them in the process and basically insinuated that their input, opinion or assistance was not of value to you.
  9. Hire the strongest CFO possible. Don’t just hire someone who can do the job.  Hiring a CFO that can do the job is important, but hiring a CFO that can do the job exceptionally well will pay off in the long run.  I had someone once tell me to buy the most expensive house that I could possibly afford to buy.  I’m not sure it was the best financial advice for buying a home, but it is the best advice for hiring a CFO if you want your business to grow and prosper.  Think of it as an investment that will pay off over time.  You want to hire a CFO who has been where the company is heading – not where it is now.  If you anticipate revenues increasing to $200 million over the next 5 years, but your only at $100 million now, find a CFO who has already been the CFO of a $200 million company.  More firepower is never a bad thing, but less fire power than necessary will get you killed!
  10. Be ethical.  When hiring a CFO, always handle things in a professional, ethical and business-like manner.  I know this sounds intuitive, but trust me it needs to be said.   If you’re going to do reference checks, get permission from the candidate and only call the references that the candidate provides.  Calling your buddy Bob who worked with the candidate 10 years ago without letting them know about it is a terrible idea.  It is unprofessional, it is unethical and it really reflects poorly on your company if the candidate finds out.  Everything you do as an HR professional or hiring manager is a reflection of your company.  Make sure that your decisions and actions reflect those of a best in class, top-tier, professional organization.

Not sure when to hire a CFO or how to even start the recruiting process?  We can help!  Give us a call at 1-888-417-1113.

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