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CFO Interview

Hi I am interviewing for a CFO position with a private medical practice. Is it appropriate ask questions about annual revenue.

Answers

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

It is never inappropriate for the top finance person to ask that question. Clearly a company with $2 million in revenues would need to worry about one set of risks; which most likely are different than a company with $24 million in revenues. All they can do is to say no. But there are very good reasons as to why you would want to know.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

How was this interview obtained? Reference, Direct Contact, Recruiter? Here's a twist on Regis's approach:

Depending on where you might be able to ascertain some of that info independently and then bring up the issue as:

"I understand your revenues are in the 5-8 range, and if that is correct then these are issues that are current and as revenues increase I see these as the next set."

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

I would be leery of any private entity employer that was uncomfortable with you asking that question. I learned a long time ago that if they were, they likely had something to hide or the position they were offering wasn't what it appeared to be.

To wit: On engineering firm I interviewed with to be CFO told me that they couldn't share any financial information with me because they were privately held. I pointed out that they had my resume in front of them and knew a lot more about me than I knew about them and it only seemed reasonable that they should be willing to share some of the details of what I'd be working with should I choose to accept the position.

They labeled me "arrogant" (I heard from and inside referral later) and quickly terminated the interview. Six months later, they went out of business. ;-)

Topic Expert
Joseph Ori
Title: CEO
Company: Paramount Capital Corporation
(CEO, Paramount Capital Corporation) |

I would not only ask about revenue, but request a copy of the audited financial statements before accepting the position. If the company won't give them to you as a potential CFO, then I would decline the position.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I'd broaden this to speaking with the CPA Firm (many firms still don't do audits or reviews) and if the fails, ask to see the last 12 months of bank statements (now at least you'll see cash flow)'; on second thought, ask to see them period.

If they say no, my answer is that they send them to AMEX for a Corporate Card...and you want me to be the CFO....

Refusals tell you a lot about the company...

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

I'm glad everyone that commented is in sync that there is nothing inappropriate about asking relevant questions for the position being interviewed for. Credible companies expect senior level interviews to be conversational/two-way discussions.

Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |

Is it appropriate to ask? Yes, as part of trying to understand the company you are considering and being considered for.

Sometimes business owners may be sensitive to sharing private information. It is important to respect this request for privacy, while getting the information you need to assess whether you could be the best person to help the company achieve its goals.

So, yes, it is appropriate to ask.

If the interviewer does not want to answer the question, it is important that they explain their reasons why.

When they say no and give you a reason why, explain why you want to need to know the information, that you respect their reasons for not sharing the information at this time, and that if you are considered as a serious candidate, you will need to know the important and private details about the company to make sure that you are the best CFO for their needs.

I am not disagreeing with anyone who says the information should be provided. What I am saying though is that hiring is a process, and the 'opening of the kimono' part of the process can take place closer to the end if the parties are more comfortable with that.

Jim Holloway
Title: CFO
Company: Contract Lumber, Inc.
(CFO, Contract Lumber, Inc.) |

I would agree with most of the comments above; if a company is looking to hire a CFO they should be prepared to provide relevant financial information. It would concern me if the person being interviewed did not ask questions related to the finances of the company. The purpose of the interview is to see if there is a fit between the two parties and a significant mismatch can occur if this information is not shared. Both parties must be clear on their expectations of the other and this is one step.

You asked if it was appropriate to ask about annual revenue, but as others suggest you need to see the full financials, you cannot tell much without seeing the balance sheet. That will give better insight into the financial strength of the company and provide a basis for questions. For example you may see a lack of assets but discover through questions raised that there the land and buildings are held in an LLC of the owners which provides support for the credit availability of the company.

All that being said, I agree with Samuel that this detailed information can wait until the process moves along as a privately held company is unlikely to provide it until they feel the candidate has potential with their company.

Nick Visco
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: SEAL Consulting
(Chief Financial Officer, SEAL Consulting) |

I fully agree with all of the answers I have seen on this topic, but will add one thought.. while it would be important to ask to see financials and etc., it may not be the best question at a first interview. Unless the stars align immediately upon meeting you, I would doubt that anyone is hiring a CFO on the basis of one interview. At the first interview I have always tried to get a broad sense of my fit with the culture, management style, industry positioning, business model, etc. Depending upon how I came to be introduced, I may already know their general size (revenue, employees, geographic coverage) so I might back-burner the financial specifics until I was satisfied that there weren't other deal breaker issues to consider.

Having said that, I would never move toward offer negotiation without understanding their financial situation, so at some point these questions need to be asked. If the first meeting presents a good opportunity - especially if they open the door at all - naturally you walk in. Lastly, I would mention that I happen to love a challenging environment, so just the fact that their balance sheet was weak or they were losing market share might not make me run, as long as I see where the potential lies and can envision being part of the future strategy to succeed.

Robert Ewalt
Title: Exam Development Manager
Company: Institute of Certified Management Accoun..
(Exam Development Manager, Institute of Certified Management Accountants) |

I agree with the other posters - it is appropriate to ask to see financials. Financial executives are hired for their expertise in this area.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I would think it would be expected.

Sharon Desser
Title: Director of Finance
Company: sharondesser
(Director of Finance, sharondesser) |

It's definitely appropriate, just as if in a pre-revenue or start up company to ask for current financials on cash burn, cash balances, equity.

Albert Alvarez
Title: CFO
Company: Cigar City Brewing, LLC
(CFO, Cigar City Brewing, LLC) |

You can always offer to sign an NDA when asking. This might ease any worries on the company's end.

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