Tips to hire an executive CFO

  • 30-09-21
  • Geoff Balmer

We are frequently asked to recruit Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and have compiled a short guide on how to approach your next hire at this level. CFOs can typically have a wide range of skills that vary significantly depending on the size of the business. I.e. a $10m turnover business would require a very different skill set from their CFO to that of a $10bn business.

Having the right CFO is very important for any organisation at whatever stage of its journey. The following high-level guide is an indication of the process more specifically for companies up to c.$100m. Typically the methodology for hiring a CFO will be tailored depending on several factors, including (not limited to) the complexity of the business and the role, growth plans, team size, industry, other areas of oversight, etc.

The role of a Chief Financial Officer

Employing a good CFO can be the difference between the success or failure of the company as they oversee all the financial affairs of an organisation. They will often manage a team, and be part of the leadership group, helping drive the performance of the business. In many cases, CFOs are tasked with duties and oversight of areas beyond pure finance.

How to hire a CFO

When you are hiring anyone for your organisation, it's most important that you have a written job specification that has been agreed upon by all stakeholders. Secondly, you will have designed a rigorous interview process to ensure you hire the right person for your business.

Assessing resumes

When assessing CFOs' resumes there are a few pointers you need to know. To start with, the majority of Chief Financial Officers will have started their career within either an Accounting Practice (think audit or tax firm) or will have worked their way up through the ranks in an accounting team in various commercial organisations. Most candidates will have a degree and then will have pursued an accounting qualification such as CA, CPA, CIMA, or ACCA.

Following this, they will then have built up their experience in different roles, different industries, and different markets. Applicants will invariably have varying strengths and skills to offer. When reviewing resumes, it is important to cross-check their experience with the job specification before deciding on who you will interview.


Some key areas that you may want to focus on when designing your interview questions for your prospective CFOs include:

Leadership skills – A CFO needs to be a leader in the organisation as well as a leader in the finance function. Ask interview questions about their leadership style, and how they harness ideas and lead best practices across an organisation.

Communication – Both written and verbal skills are necessary in order to effectively manage relationships with internal and external stakeholders, articulate ideas, and present those ideas to all levels.

Technical Accounting Skills – A CFO needs to have a broad skill set with exposure ranging from taxation to strategic planning. They don’t necessarily have to be a tax expert but you do need someone who can talk to tax experts and achieve the best outcome for the company.

Commercial/Business Acumen – Many CFOs are at the heart of all commercial decision making and they are often referred to as the ‘glue’ in the organisation. Providing support to Sales and Marketing to ensure you have healthy margins, providing cost control to Operations, providing financial advice in developing a new product or initiative – the list is endless and you want a CFO that can provide rigour and this sort of commercial acumen to your decision making.

Technology Skills – In finance functions, technology is playing a bigger role these days than it ever has done, similarly to the rest of business. So your next CFO must have a curious interest in how to get the best out of your systems and understand what technology will make a real difference to your business and why.

Finance Skills – Some companies will require a CFO who is skilled at funding growth plans with exposure to raising funds, be that working with Banks, investors, or an overseas parent. Having the ability to talk their language, prepare a business case for the new investment, or involvement in restructuring the business can all fall into the lap of a CFO. 

Work with the right partner

The CFO role is especially critical as it is in charge of the company’s financial situation so finding the right person is key.

For the recruitment of any role, it is important to partner with professionals who take the time to understand your business and what you are after. One of our clients did just that and here is what she said about the experience:

"The key to any business is to find the right talent for the right seats. And if you do that, you're unstoppable. We've hired two roles with Richard Lloyd, a Finance and Operations Manager, and our CFO. The initial step was to get clear on what it was that we wanted from the talent and that they did a very good job of trying to understand who we were as people, what the culture of the business was, and what we needed in terms of that seat. The genuine interest in trying to find that puzzle piece that was the exact fit to what we needed was just something unique."

-  Anneke Van den Broek, Owner and Founder of Rufus & Coco and the Fur Salon

If you are in the process of looking for a new CFO, Richard Lloyd can help. Our recruitment experts know exactly what to look for in a CFO, and we are committed to making sure we find the right fit for your organisation. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.