How to be hired as a first-time CFO outside your current company

A new article released by Sheryl Estrada with Fortune addresses an interesting topic of the skills today’s first-time CFOs should possess in order to be selected for the top finance role. As Finance continues to move from a back-office operation of merely tabulating what has already taken place to a seat at the table to lead the business forward, the skills required of a CFO continue to evolve.

Sheryl describes the evolving role of finance:

“As the role of the CFO continues to evolve, aptitude in finance is still integral. But modern finance chiefs no longer have a spot in the back office. They’re front and center.”

This article explores another interesting trend in first-time CFOs being hired by organizations outside of where they currently work. 

Why are companies more and more looking to hire a first-time CFO from outside their organization? 

The article attributes this to supply and demand. For one, many CFOs are not moving on to other roles, and this creates a backlog of CFO-ready talent within those organizations. This provides an opening for outside organizations to consider these candidates as their own CFO. 

What are the main qualities required of a first-time CFO? Sheryl describes these themes below: 

“Regarding qualities in demand, it always depends on the organization and what’s underway, Bodine says. But there are some common themes. “Strong leadership skills, a strategic bent, and a strong operational orientation, especially as we start to go into a recession,” are in demand, she says. “Bringing on board a finance executive who is very operational is something that we see time and time again in terms of what companies are looking for, and oftentimes can find it in a ‘ready now’ candidate.”

Sheryl provides more insight on the soft skills companies are looking for when considering a new CFO today: 

“Are soft skills part of the demand? “Absolutely,” Bodine says. The ability to serve as a strong business partner to the president or CEO, marketing and sales, manufacturing and supply chain, and “think through challenges to help come up with solutions” is important, she says. 

Sheryl highlights the importance of a new CFO being a people person:

And being a “people person” is increasingly considered a must. “In many instances, CFOs are viewed as kind of a deputy CEO,” Bodine says. “The ability to lead a diverse set of individuals, both finance and non-finance, across the organization takes people skills. So, there’s definitely a heightened demand on that skill set when it comes to the finance population.”

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