One of the most important qualities of strong financial leaders is the ability to think several steps ahead. That trait has probably served you well as you’ve advanced through your career. However, when it comes to interviewing for a new leadership role, even the most forward-thinkers tend to put off critical interview prep. If you are ready to advance into a CFO role, preparation is your best friend.
“To understand the culture, ask for an organizational chart and be sure to meet the other players! When you are working on your strategy of integrating your skill set with the company your interviewing with, then consider making sure you clearly understand their industry, common challenges in their industry, and then a real understanding of their short-term problems and long term vision! Ask questions surrounding cash flow, debt tolerance, forecasting, budgeting, expense control, and your decision-making authority over hiring and firing of clients and internal employees. Bring your personality and take risks during the process to make sure this is the next right step for you.” Says Sharon Tsao, CAO & EVP Sales, Marketing and Accounting.
Three CFO Interview Steps You Should Never Skip
Now, more than ever before, it is critical for leaders to be culturally aligned with an organization. As soon as you schedule your interview, begin studying up on the culture of the organization. This is important even if you’re interviewing with your current employer. Get a solid handle on the culture and mission of the company and their leadership needs. If you worked with a recruiter to land the interview, he or she can be your most valuable resource, providing information you couldn’t necessarily find in your own research.
Next, you must work on strategies to bring the skills and qualifications of your resume to life in your interview. You must be able to draw from real-world examples to illustrate how you achieved goals and overcame obstacles, and you must practice citing those examples using specific, quantifiable details while remaining concise. Again, your recruiter can be an invaluable resource. Schedule time to sit down together to develop a list of anecdotes and talking points, and if possible, go through an entire mock interview so you can gather feedback and make adjustments in your strategy. Practice until you can answer without thinking, so that your passion and personality shine through.
Finally, sit down and prepare a list of thoughtful questions. Coming armed with great questions serves two purposes. First, it shows the interviewers that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity. Second, it gives you the insight you need to make an informed choice if you’re offered the position. The more information you gather now, the better off you’ll be on your first day.
Getting In The Right Mindset
Successful athletes have rituals and strategies to pump themselves up mentally for competition. Follow their lead and get yourself mentally prepared:
- In the week leading up to the interview, build your confidence. Buy a new outfit, engage in a sport or activity where you excel, do whatever it takes to get yourself in a confident place.
- The night before your interview, do a final brush-up on the research you’ve collected, run through your talking points a few times and get a good night’s sleep.
- The day of your interview, get up early enough to have a healthy breakfast. Spend time visualizing success.
- As you travel to the interview, play inspirational music or listen to a motivating speech, whatever works to get you in the right frame of mind.
- While you wait to be called, don’t be afraid to engage in some deep breathing exercise to center yourself and calm your nerves. Use positive self-talk if you start to feel your nerves pop up.
When the interview closes, do not forget to ask about next steps and reiterate your interest in the position. People often skip this step, especially if they are feeling confident and are “riding high.” Failing to close can derail even the most successful interview.