CFOs and the importance of 'soft' skills.

Position:Chief financial officers - Interview

Kurt Amundson, CFO, GoPro, and Anup Singh, CFO, Nimble Storage, share their views on the value of soft skills for financial executives

What is your best advice to CFOs on how they can properly assess candidates' soft skills in the interview process?

AMUNDSON Spend your time in the interview getting to know the candidate as a person, not a worker. By the time the candidate gets to me I know he or she can do the job. At this point, I want to know who this person is.


I want to know about the candidate's passions. Talking about hobbies and interests outside of work can reveal a lot about someone and also make him or her feel more relaxed and open in the interview. If someone has no personal life or interests outside of work, that's a red flag to me--it means he doesn't have natural curiosity.

I ask every candidate this question: "Tell me about some tough situations from your last job. How did you feel about them?" Note that I'm not asking about how issues were handled, but how the person felt about them.

This gives me insight into personal character. Does he have empathy? Does she make sure others are able to keep their dignity through difficult circumstances? The most important skill anyone can possess is the ability to care about others, and if that doesn't come through in the interview that person won't be a fit for our culture.

SINGH Focus on behavioral questions--ask the "why" questions; get candidates to explain their thought process and why they made the choices they made. A candidate who bad-mouths a previous employer does NOT have high EQ [emotional intelligence quotient].


Listen for cues regarding teamwork and credit for achievements--e.g., does the candidate say "I" throughout the interview rather than "we."

Ask the old "strength and weaknesses" questions and listen carefully--a candidate who cannot think of two or more weaknesses is not self-aware.

Soft skills and emotional intelligence enable people to connect with others. Observe body language. Is the candidate making eye contact or being shifty? Would you trust this person?

Gauge the depth and quality of the candidates' questions. Are they focused on the job title/compensation, when the liquidity event is going to occur rather than the long-term vision and opportunity within the company?

Talk about how soft skills contributed to your personal career development and ascent to the top finance role in your company/field.


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