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CFOs’ Job-Candidate Interview Questions Trend Toward the Personal

When it comes to hiring decisions, chief financial officers are looking beyond the cookie-cutter candidate.

To find that ideal employee, CFOs are asking more stylized questions during the interview process that homes in on a candidate’s personal characteristics rather than technical qualifications.

In a recent survey, 1,000 CFOs were asked their favorite question to ask when interviewing job candidates. While many stuck to the tried and true “Tell me about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” others posed queries designed to learn more about the person behind the résumé.

They were: “Tell me five attributes that best describe you.” “Describe something in your life that makes you happy.” “What games did you play as a teenager?” and “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?”

Accountemps, the largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, found that 42% of the surveyed CFOs used questions to learn more about the applicant’s work style and personal attributes.

In addition, 34% of hiring managers asked questions addressing the candidate’s qualifications, while 24%  opted to go with job or company-specific questions. The national study was conducted by an independent research firm and was based on 1,000 telephone interviews.

“During the interview, employers are interested in learning what a résumé won’t tell them – if the applicant’s personality and work style are right for the job,” says Max Messmer, Accountemps chairman and author of Job Hunting for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

The survey found that CFOs are focused on hiring people who have solid personal values and ethics. Some favorite questions asked were: “What does the word ‘integrity’ mean to you?” “Which is more important, family or work?” and “Have you ever had to right a wrong, and how did you go about it?”

When preparing for interviews, Messmer says, “job seekers should perfect a brief summary of their qualifications, achievements and professional goals, but also be ready to have a more open dialogue about their personal strengths.”

Some of the executive’s favorite go-to questions require potential employees to think outside the box for responses to “Tell me something funny that happened to you in the last six months.” Other questions included, “Who is your favorite fictional character and why?” and “If you could interview any three people, living or dead, who would they be?”

“Job seekers should rehearse responses to common interview questions, but also be able to think quickly on their feet so they can best answer whatever a hiring manager may ask,” the company chairman says.

Accountemps offers online job-search services and has more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information, visit


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