more-arw search

Q&A Forum

How can I set myself apart from my CFO competition?

My company is getting acquired and the acquirers don't need another CFO. How can I set myself apart from my CFO competition when i get back into the job hunt? I have great experience, but I know dozens of smart CFOs who, although different than me, also have great experience. What can I do to set myself apart and differentiate?


Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Let me preface my comments by saying that it is very difficult for a finance executive who has not held a CFO title to easily move into that job title. Without a strong network, it is even more difficult.

I think there are three key things to creating market differentiation ...

--Know your MVP and be well-branded

What is your marketable value proposition (MVP)? What do you bring to the table that a company would be willing to pay, and pay well, to get? Differentiation is never about your skill sets or education or responsibilities or credentials. It’s about offering enough expertise (value) that is worth more than the salary it will cost to bring you on board.

Branding is the gift wrapping on an MVP. It is the instant connection with your audience and the understanding of how you would fit within its culture. When you are the branded top 3 candidate, you enter the interview with the “fit for corporate culture” question already answered.

--Identify your target audience

Don’t fall into the spaghetti strategy of trying to be all things to all people. Play from your strengths to “the” audience who needs the value you bring to the company.

--Be visible

It’s not enough to just identify your target audience since if they don’t know anything about you, you’re invisible to them. You can network, most strategically, when you understand who your targets are, and create a solid digital footprint that will allow you to be discovered by the recruiters and companies looking for top talent.

Internally, you want to create that same visibility among the senior leadership team and/or board members who want to identify and develop top talent to move within their ranks.

And one final thought for you specifically since you are not yet unemployed - get started NOW! An employed (passive) candidate has the most power and is more desirable than his unemployed counterpart ... even with the wealth of talent falling into that latter category today.

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP Operations and Finance
Company: VP / CFO - Private Company
(VP Operations and Finance, VP / CFO - Private Company) |

To add to Cindy's comments.

KNOW THY EXPERIENCE - THAT'S RELEVANT: To extend on Cindy's comments on skills, people don't say "I want someone with 15 years of experience in a lean manufacturing environment with SOX...", they say "I really want someone who can help manage profitability in our overseas operations". If you have that experience, then that's what they are buying - especially if it's something that cannot be easily trained 'on the job'.

Put another way: People Google Questions (company needs), Not Answers (skills). If you present the 'needs you've solved', then you're talking their language.

KNOW THYSELF: After meeting with 250 of our CFO colleagues, I find that most have 3-4 key skills that underpin their successes. Whether it's communication, technical analysis, M&A, project management, etc., these skills are what rely upon day-to-day.

These skills are also a differentiator - as they say quite a bit about how you approach your work and style.

It's almost a given that someone will have similar experiences. But same experiences and key skills - not likely.

My philosophy is that people look for what they need (technical/experience), but hire what they want (cultural fit, style) - so those skills/style can be the tipping point when you and another candidate match on technical/experience.

All the best,


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

There are three words or pieces of advise I can give (which have been state previously), but I will make them crystal clear:


It's not so much of what you know (although that is important) it's WHO you know.

Good luck!

Matt Dukes
Title: Controller
Company: Viscom International, Inc.
(Controller, Viscom International, Inc.) |

Become a "STAR" by focusing on "RATS". Speak to the results you have accomplished from the actions you took from a situation or task that you were presented. Speak specifically how you can help them solve the problems they have and also how you can bring better efficiencies to the table. Speak in terms of adding value to the company and how you have done that in your past.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

I don't think it is about who you know today, it's much more about who knows you!

Have a clear and compelling value proposition with great visibility among your targeted audience.


Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email [email protected] to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.