7 Key Interview Questions To Ask For Operations And Finance Roles

Interview Questions for XPs and Ops

If you‘ve been doing your taxes for many years, then (hopefully) you know first-hand that they become more complicated the more assets you have. I’m sure we’d all welcome more of that kind of complication in our lives - or maybe that’s just me! But eventually, you reach a point where you can’t file your taxes on your own and you have to seek professional help.

Maybe your church or ministry is at a similar place; your finances or daily operations have become too complicated – praise God! – for you to operate without a professional to oversee them, and it’s time to hire a new role on your team – a Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, an Executive Pastor, etc.

If you’re not familiar with finances, accounting, systems, or operations and don’t have someone on your staff or in your church who can review resumes and skillfully interview candidates, here are a few key questions that you should ask potential CFO or COOs for your ministry.

1. What key strategic initiatives have you led in your current or a previous position?

The candidate’s answer to this question will reveal whether he or she has a strategic perspective on problem-solving and his or her ability to then implement initiatives to achieve strategic goals.

2. How have you simplified a process in the past?

Efficiency and effectiveness are important in every area of your ministry, but especially so in finance and operations. You want a CFO, COO, and/or Executive Pastor who can create organized, streamlined processes for your departments to prevent avoidable problems due to an unnecessarily complicated system.

3. What areas of financial and/or operational management are you most and least comfortable with?

What you’re looking for when a candidate answers this question is whether he or she has the right kinds of experience for your church’s or nonprofit’s needs. You’ll be able to match candidates’ responses against a checklist or assessment of what you need your CFO or COO to manage and accomplish.

4. What has your relationship with leadership been like at your past jobs?

In other words, what kind of leader have you worked well with and what kind of leader have you struggled under? What is your ideal decision-making environment? This set of questions is designed to help you better assess whether a candidate will be a good fit with your church or ministry’s staff culture. Would he or she thrive under the leadership of his or her supervisor, or would there be an inevitable personality conflict if you hired him or her? Would personal characteristics hinder his or her ability to do the job well? Would he or she feel excluded from the decision-making process?

5. What’s your management style?

How do you build relationships with people you overseeLike the previous questions, these will help you figure out if a candidate would work well with his or her subordinates and also offers insight into how relational a candidate is. 

6. Do you have experience overseeing a small staff?

Many highly qualified CFO and COO candidates will be coming from businesses where they oversee a large support staff, but chances are that your church team and/or your finance department is much smaller. The new CFO or COO will need to be able to work in this environment and be willing to do more hands-on work than he or she has done in previous roles.

7. Why do you want to work here and what do you anticipate will be different about working in a church or non-profit from working in a for-profit business?

These are crucial questions to ask. Many candidates have not thought through the impact that working in a church or ministry will have on their professional and personal lives or how it may affect their families.

What other questions should you ask in interviews for finance/operations roles?