A Controller must be a rare combination of top drawer communication skills and exceptional strategic analysis. They’ll need to help hire and retain your finance team, be a strong leader, and in some cases, the bridge between the vision of the organization and its execution. Here are some interview questions to help you hire a contract Controller.
What is your method for evaluating an organization’s period end close process?
This question allows you to see how your candidate will operate from day one. It will give you a sense of their thought processes, how they evaluate team roles and whether they have vision or not. Strong candidates will reference past experience and offer examples of process improvements they spearheaded.
What would be your priorities in week one?
If the role is open because of growth, then your hire will need to be highly organized to excel in a fast-paced, changing environment. Look for candidates who speak to connecting with key stakeholders to source input. What steps do they take to organize themselves?
How do you quickly establish credibility with a team you have to lead?
To succeed as a Controller your hire will need to be a strong leader. In a large company, for example, this will mean a need to delegate. How do they evaluate their team’s strengths and weaknesses? How do they gain buy-in? How do they build trust quickly? A great leader is someone who is highly responsive to their team and environment.
Read: “The Must Have Qualities of an Effective Finance Leader” to learn how to be a leader that people would follow even if you didn’t have a title.
Since you've been in a management role, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
A leader can admit to a mistake and learn from it. After all, while technical fit is a priority, so too is your hire’s ability to grow in the role. How candid and forthright is your candidate? How did they bounce back from a misstep with their team? This question is not about assessing a technical mistake, but rather a soft skill error.
Read “4 Reasons Why Great Leaders Admit Their Mistakes” to understand how admitting to a poor decision can lead to greater respect and buy-in from management and colleagues.
Give an example of when you had to receive constructive feedback? What was it? How did you handle it?
According to Leadership IQ, the number one reason a new hire fails is a lack of coachability. How does your candidate handle constructive feedback? Do they listen and then implement change? Do they acknowledge career limiting behaviors and seek to correct them? Watch their body language carefully as they recount the story. Does it remain open?
Read “How to Accept Feedback in Your Accounting Job” for tips on how to accept constructive feedback and grow from it.
To hire a contract Controller that will be a difference maker for your organization evaluate their soft skills as much as technical proficiency. Determine if they’re a true leader who will get the most out of their team. Assess their ability to identify process improvement areas and create efficiency. Make sure that they are the kind of person who can grow in the role, handle constructive feedback and learn from their mistakes. You’ll need someone who can ramp up quickly, and an individual with vision, technical acumen and strong interpersonal skills can be just the person the company needs.
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