Making the leap as an interim CFO

Interim CFOs often face challenges finding their next gig—but there are ways to make the search easier.
article cover

Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

Great, you landed an interim CFO role. Now comes the hard part: finding your next gig.

It’s always been difficult to land another role after an interim post. After all, it’s a job with a very clear end date. But now, with demand for interim CFOs up 103% since last year, there’s also growing competitiveness within the interim market, making it trickier to nail down your next gig by the time you have to leave your current one.

“One of the challenges [interim CFOs] often face is the generation of their next opportunity,” Sandra Pinnavaia, chief innovation and knowledge officer at Business Talent Group, told CFO Brew. Pinnavaia’s org arranges interim CFO placements, and she notes that a particular personality type is often drawn to the role.

“There’s a form of adrenaline that comes from wanting to jump in and help,” she said. “People are generally very enthusiastic about their decision to pursue interim [CFO work] as a career path.”

And that can unexpectedly turn into a roadblock when it comes to finding new work. Mitch Cohen, a financial executive who’s held a variety of interim CFO roles since 2012, said that a fierce sense of loyalty makes it hard to even think about applying for other positions while holding an interim post.

“I find myself turning down probably pretty good opportunities because I feel this loyalty. I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at an interim CFO being loyal,” he said. But because interim CFOs are often working with struggling companies, Cohen feels like it can be jarring for anyone to learn the interim is job shopping.

With some interim CFOs reluctant to even look for jobs, getting your next position can feel like it’s left up to fate—but there is a way to cultivate job-generating opportunities, according to Jessica Kates, a finance professional with a wealth of private equity experience, who told Retail Brew she hasn’t had to apply to a job since starting on her interim journey. Kates recommends that other CFOs approach the interim role with a piggyback mentality.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.

“I’ve been really lucky…since all of my roles have involved a good degree of fundraising, getting to know the investors and getting to know the board,” Kates said. “That’s just translated into getting referrals.”

In the past, investors have recruited her to work with another one of their portfolio companies, while board members have made crucial introductions. Even if you’re not at a private equity-backed org like Kates, she points out that nearly every private company has some kind of owner and board of directors that you’d get exposed to as an interim CFO.

“Develop those relationships, and create that network. Literally just ask people for introductions,” she said. In Kates’s roles, that aspect has been baked into the position itself, but “if that happens to not be a direct part of what your job is, as the interim CFO, I would just try to create that role for yourself.”

There’s an added upside to that approach: The best interim CFOs “really go outside of the bubble that is just the CFO job description,” Kates said.

That’ll also help with networking and future referrals, she notes, since you can show you’re “capable of more than managing monthly financial statements or putting together board communication, and that you become known for being really, really helpful and really strategic.”

Some interim CFOs “don’t necessarily think outside the box because maybe they think they don’t have to, or they’re not getting paid to, or it doesn’t matter because they’re not a long-term employee,” she added. “But I do think you still have to act like you’re [a long term employee], and maybe that sets certain people apart from others.”

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.