5 questions to ask before applying for a C-suite job

The way you interview for a job today is likely different from how it was ten or even five years ago. Skype and other video tools have changed the landscape; LinkedIn is among several social-networking sites that make it possible to establish connections and demonstrate expertise across continents.

Also different: the steps taken to obtain a high-level position compared with the path of the entry-level job-seeker.

Companies looking to hire their next CFO or CEO won’t use the same process they used to hire a staff accountant; those seeking the office with a view need to tailor their search accordingly.

Robert Half Management Resources offered these 5 questions specifically for executive candidates embarking on a job search:

  1. How visible are you? These days, establishing yourself as an expert is easier, with online platforms for articles and blog posts. Consider taking a board position with a professional association or not-for-profit.
  2. How solid is your network? Most leadership hires don’t come about without at least a warm introduction from a shared connection. Consider adding a recruiter to your network and making sure you are connected to people across industries and responsibility levels. In other words: diversify.
  3. What are your geographical boundaries? Candidates need to be honest with themselves about where, or whether, they’d consider moving for a job.
  4. What’s your leadership and communication style? As the role of the finance professional expands, executives must demonstrate the ability to communicate with numerous internal and external stakeholders. Candidates should address any weaknesses in these skills before embarking on a search.
  5. What’s your timeline? Leadership roles are not filled quickly. Be prepared for a longer process. One reason the process takes time is addressed in a CGMA report that shows how the skills valued by CEOs, CFOs, and HR directors often are quite different. Plus, for an executive job, you’re likely to interview with many more people within the company.

“At the executive level, there are fewer job opportunities and there’s more at stake for the companies doing the hiring,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said in a news release. “Networking isn’t just a supplemental job-hunting tactic at this point – it’s the primary tactic. It’s all about reputation and who you know.”

McDonald said that having a mentor can be vital to a job search. “Mentors are not just for people new to the workforce – they are instrumental to senior professionals as they consider their next move,” he said.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Study Shows Ambitious Finance Execs Need to Network, Broaden Skillset”: Large public companies continue to eliminate the COO position—and CFOs stand to benefit with increased duties and responsibilities. But that change means ambitious finance execs need to broaden their skillset.

Why CFOs Are Better When They Are Career-Minded”: CFOs who fail to invest in personal and team development are selling themselves and their organisations short, according to executive search director Samuel Dergel. He says CFOs are capable of focusing on career, staff, and employer at the same time, for the mutual benefit of all.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.