charlie-roseMost professionals (and many recruiters!) are never really trained in How to interview a CFO candidate. They learn from trial and error how to hire a CFO, or perhaps they learn anecdotally. Unless you find yourself in a huge corporation, there may not even be a resource to help you get better at interviewing. I have hired and trained many recruiters over the last 22 years as well as interviewed hundreds of CFOs. As VP of Operations in a national recruitment practice, I co-developed a very detailed process for conducting effective interviews. Here I’ll share some insights I’ve gained on how to hire a CFO.

My Muse: Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose is the most impressive interviewer in the public domain today. He has conducted thousands of interviews with the most highly placed figures in all walks of life including heads of state, politicians, rock stars, movie stars, and business heavyweights. I don’t know how many CFOs he has interviewed (probably a few), but I do know that his style is one that ALL interviewers should learn from. Part of what makes him unique is his ability to truly listen.

The old adage in sales is to listen twice as much as you speak. This holds doubly true with interviews. If the interviewer is doing all the talking, how can he/she learn about the interviewee? Charlie is a master of this. His follow-on questions are sublime. He has a script of questions at the onset of every interview, but depending on the answer, he is quick to change gears and ask an appropriate follow-on question. He can only do this by keenly listening. He is also a master of getting people to answer the question. Many of his guests are good at not giving a direct answer, but Charlie won’t let them off the hook. Watch his interviews with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for inspiration, such as:

My Read: “The Corner Office”

The New York Times has a twice-weekly column, “The Corner Office.” Each article is an interview with a CEO. Excellent information is exchanged, and in most cases the CEO is asked about his interviewing style. I am fascinated by the lack of consistency in how CEOs interview (which supports my point that people aren’t trained to interview), and the excellent questions CEOs ask candidates. This column is no substitute for interviewing training, but can help you formulate probing questions.

For more guidance on how to interview a CFO candidate, please contact me, Dave Arnold at 408-205-7373 or You can also avoid mistakes in the hiring process with some tips from my post How to Hire a CFO: Avoid this Common Pitfall.