Why and How to Recruit a CFO for Your Company

hire a cfo

Seeking a candidate for top leadership and executive positions may seem overwhelming to many business owners. However, the process is relatively simple when you know what you want and have a road map. Working with an executive firm can take the pressure off, allowing you to delegate the entire recruitment process to an experienced search professional. 

A CFO is a senior leader who plays a critical role in securing the future of all types and sizes of an organization. The CFO role goes beyond basic accounting and is intertwined with all departments in a business. They interact with the financial and non-financial parts of a company to set the growth and financial strategy of the business. Here is all you need to know about their role, importance, and how to get the right one for your company.

What is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?

Who Is A CFO?

 A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a financial expert pivotal in guiding a company’s future financial direction. They analyze current operations relative to overarching goals, crafting strategies tailored to a company’s unique needs, distinguishing their role from that of accountants who focus on past financial transactions. 

Collaborating closely with management, CFOs set long-term objectives and play a crucial role in major business decisions, such as mergers or acquisitions, financing decisions and strategic partnerships by assessing their financial implications. Their forward-looking perspective is vital for businesses of all sizes to ensure growth and profitability. 

The CFO also performs:

1. Financial Strategy and Planning

A CFO is not just a numbers cruncher; they are key contributors to your company’s strategic direction. They develop financial strategies aligned with business goals, ensuring long-term sustainability and growth.

2. Risk Management

CFOs are adept at identifying and mitigating financial risks. Their expertise helps safeguard the company against economic uncertainties, regulatory changes, and market fluctuations.

3. Financial Reporting and Compliance

In an era of complex financial regulations, having a CFO ensures that your company remains compliant. They oversee accurate and timely financial reporting, maintaining transparency for stakeholders and regulatory bodies.

4. Cost Optimization

A CFO brings a keen eye for cost optimization. They analyze expenditures, streamline financial processes, and identify areas for efficiency improvements, ultimately maximizing profitability.

 5. Investor Relations

For businesses seeking external funding, a CFO is crucial in managing investor relations. They communicate financial performance and growth potential, instilling confidence in current and potential investors.

Qualities of A Good CFO

Now that you know what the CFO does, it’s time to understand the CFO qualities you need to look out for when planning how to hire a CFO. 

Here are some bare minimum qualifications:

  1. Strong history in finance, economics, business, or accounting.
  2. Solid understanding of your industry (eg) financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, etc.
  3. Previous experience leading and building a strong finance, accounting, financial reporting and regulatory compliance team.
  4. They must possess technical competence in forecasting economic trends, the changing tax laws, and accounting principles. 
  5. Their soft skills should include a mastery of strategy, communication, and leadership.

In addition to these must-have, fundamental skills, you may consider some preferable skills in CFO hiring that are likely to make the preferred candidate more effective in their role. They include:

  1. An undergraduate degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business.
  2. Ideal to advanced qualifications such as MBA or CPA.
  3. Understand how to raise capital for a firm in your industry, that is, how to boost investments that help your business expand its operations.
  4. Preferable soft skills like effective negotiation, conflict management, relationship building, and an ability to change fast and influence others to change.

Why You Need to Hire a CFO

A primary reason for CFO recruitment is to secure your business’ functional future. An effective CFO is knowledgeable of the trends in your industry and can inform you on which changes to make to remain relevant and keep the money flowing. They support other leaders through data driven insights to make informed choices that protect shareholders’ investments.

In addition, they are often at the forefront of seeking out ways to increase investments for your operations. They know the internal and external opportunities that can make your business grow. For instance, they may recommend partnerships with specific brands, personalities, or companies to increase revenue flow.  

The CFO can manage and project cash flow issues before a serious problem exists. They can develop alternative funding strategies to keep the business moving even during hard financial times. Most importantly, they ensure the business gets the necessary funding to ensure continued operations of the business.

Best Practices on How to Hire A CFO

Outline what your company needs the CFO to do so that you are clear on the job description and goals. Knowing what you want will simplify the search and help you narrow down to candidates with that specific experience- perhaps you need a CFO to make your business more profitable and accountable or to mitigate financial risk and manage spending.

Create a detailed CFO job description. Now that you know what you want, it is crucial to ensure the candidate knows the same. The job description must feature where your company is and where you desire to be. This way, candidates who apply can examine whether they have the expertise for this kind of work. Leave nothing to chance during CFO recruiting; clearly outline your preferred talents, skills, and qualifications.

If you’re replacing an existing CFO, then begin the search early. It takes months to replace them because they hold a sensitive position in which they know so much confidential information about your business. Hiring a CFO could take up to six months to get a new one, and you may shorten the duration by turning to a value-added partner like a professional search firm.

How to Hire the Best CFO for Your Company:

Use an Executive Search Firm

An executive search firm focuses on getting highly qualified candidates matched with executive, senior-level positions in private and public companies and non-governmental organizations. An executive search recruitment firm manages the complete recruitment process. A strategic approach with a recruitment firm saves your company time and resources. 

It eliminates potential recruitment errors, enabling you to secure a CFO that can drive financial stability and growth. During the final stages, they will work with your top leadership to complete the recruiting and onboarding process.

Check Qualifications

Interviewing applicants is the most cumbersome task of the recruitment process, but you can simplify it by using the skills list described earlier in this article. Use your list of non-negotiable skills to eliminate as many candidates as needed. Your internal HR department can help you with this task.

Afterward, highlight the top candidates who possess the minimum qualifications, the advanced skills and have experience dealing with the issues you described in your job description. At this point, you can let the top leadership join the interviews to finalize the most suitable candidates to hire a CFO.

CFOs need to understand how their finance function interacts with the other departments in the company. They can discover this correlation by building relationships with other stakeholders, managers, and employees. 

By understanding the pressures and needs other stakeholders face, the CFO can better interpret how complex financial data relates to other business aspects with no financial background. These interactions also uncover new opportunities that allow the finance function to improve its standing in the business and solve communal problems. 

Best Practices When Hiring A CFO

Look Beyond Their Financial Acumen

Once you have confirmed your CFO candidate has the financial skills needed for the job, probe more about their soft skills. These include interpersonal skills, work ethic, time management, and more. They must also be able to influence and negotiate with other staff for a harmonious working atmosphere. Also, look out for their commitment to learning, growth orientation, and social skills.

Tailor the Interview Process To Your Business Needs

Consider the CFO’s role in your company and ensure the interview process is tailored to identify if they will successfully meet these needs. If you’re working with an executive hiring firm, ensure they understand your goals to pick suitable candidates for the final round of assessment.

Ascertain Their Cultural Fit

Investigate whether their worldviews, values, work styles and interpersonal skills fit your company culture. You can get this information by drafting questions about different conflict situations and then checking whether the answers they give align with what your company stands for. Host the interview with a panel of people who have worked in your organization long enough to understand what it stands for.

Vet For Leadership Skills

Ask questions about how they have led small and big teams. Focus on understanding their decision-making, integrity, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, creativity, and more. A CFO should inspire their team and empower the members to simplify the delegation of tasks.

You can understand more about their leadership skills by asking open-ended questions and conflict situations. Ask about how they motivate their staff, monitor their team’s performance, and their preferred management style. Also, probe more information on their work-life balance, how they achieve it, and what they do when it is temporarily unachievable.


A CFO is an integral leader in companies of all sizes and types. Hiring one requires a clear understanding of what the company wants in the future and who can get it there. When trying to find a CFO, it would be best if you looked out for someone who has the skills and qualifications to solve your current problem and secure prospects. They must possess the ability for financial planning and work closely with the rest of the top leadership in goal setting. Their skills go beyond financial planning, incorporating collaboration with other C-Suite executives to drive overall company success. They must also possess the ability to balance financial stewardship with strategic vision. These skills make them a cornerstone in the company’s leadership.