Demand is strong for the best talent, though it remains an extremely competitive market for senior financial executives because some companies are upgrading the roles of CFOs and other senior finance positions. Companies need exceptional leaders to help navigate the firm into the future. And they know the importance of hiring "smart" and what can happen when the fit isn't right. A market full of quality candidates makes the job of finding the right financial executive more complicated.
Many companies are spending a great deal of time inquiring into the details of the functions of the candidate's previous tenures. It is no longer assumed that having a specific title brings with it all the abilities and skills the new position—with the same title—requires. Every candidate being interviewed for the position you are seeking is extremely smart and incredibly hard working. You need to bring more than just that. Each company is different and each is looking for something specific. Finding out what they want is something you will likely have to finesse throughout the interview process.
Today, both a technical and cultural fit are important. Matching the executive to the organization's needs and existing staff is critical. Often this is the purpose for the question "Are there certain tasks or types of people you prefer, or don't like, to work with?" You need to be honest with your answer, but do tread carefully. It may be that the company is seeking a change agent to shift processes and reinvent systems, or instead may require a hands-on performer who can implement and produce. A successful fit depends on both sides recognizing this potential dichotomy. This may be their way of trying to judge who you are and what you are comfortable doing.
Manage your career
So how can you avoid finding yourself in a bad fit? First, study the job description closely. Be sure that you and the job sync up extremely well; never pursue a job for the sake of a job. Forcing a fit for the sake of getting a job is never a good decision. Remember to consider how this position, and how your record there would help—or potentially hurt—your next search. Next, be absolutely sure you meet the staff. You'll want to be sure you understand the strength of the team, their work styles and their personalities to sense how you might fit together.
Of course, there is rarely an entirely perfect fit, and the fault does not rest solely with the job seeker. Unfortunately, companies are not always skilled at being able to clearly communicate their needs in their job descriptions or even in early interviews. You'll need to be perceptive, read between the lines and ready some probing questions to be sure that the position you are carving out for yourself is one that will not only fit, but be comfortable, too.