Hiring advice

What does a CPA designation mean?

The CPA designation stands for Certified Public Accountant; however, the designation does not have a universal meaning because of different requirements for licensure and certification. A licensed CPA has to meet more stringent requirements to maintain their CPA designation. A registered CPA is currently available only to individuals who wish to use the “CPA” title but do not perform any attest services for the public. Registered CPAs have no CPE requirement. The registered category will cease as of July 1, 2012 with those registered prior to July 1, 2012 grandfathered. An inactive CPA category of license will be effective as of July 1, 2012 for any Licensed CPA who does not engage in “accountancy activities” and wishes to be exempt from the 120 hours CPE requirement. The individual must place “(inactive)” adjacent to their CPA credential.

For more information refer to the

Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, or the 
Illinois CPA Society 

What does a CPFO designation mean?

The CPFO designation stands for Certified Public Finance Officer. This professional designation is offered by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). To earn this distinction, government finance professionals must pass five exams in (1) Governmental Accounting, Auditing and Financial Reporting, (2) Cash Management and Investments, (3) Debt Management, (4) Operating and Capital Budgeting, and (5) Pensions and Benefits, Risk Management, and Procurement. The following chart explains the criteria. 

Criteria CPFO
Education College Degree
Experience Currently employed in government
Employed in government 3 out of last 10 years

Pass 5 exams related to government finance

in 7 year time period


$295 for first test and

$145 for subsequent tests

CPE 30 CPE per year

What questions might I ask in an interview?

Below are some sample questions to help you think about what to ask when interviewing a local government finance professional. This list is not intended to be comprehensive or indicative of required knowledge/skills. Forward your suggested interview questions to IGFOA today!

What steps would you recommend the government take to implement GASB (insert latest, relevant GASB pronouncement)?

Look for familiarity with newest GASB statements. Also listen for whether the candidate would suggest evaluating whether or not the government should implement GASB # . Follow-up questions might include “How would you explain the steps and changes involved to the government?” “What budgetary impacts would you expect”?

Tell us about the last major capital financing you were involved in – what was the project? What was the financing tool? What was your role and responsibilities?

Tell us how you motivate and supervise staff to meet deadlines? Tell us about a time when someone reporting to you did not meet a critical deadline – what did you do?

What procedures and controls do you follow in investment transactions – what procedures would you recommend the government follow?

Looking for checks and balances between purchase, approval, and accounting for each transaction and hands-on investing experience. If government is a smaller government, look also for recognition that some of the checks and balances may involve including the administrator or assistant in transactions and reporting.

What financial policies would you recommend for the government and why?

Especially looking for recognition of the service demands and the need to match ongoing revenue with ongoing service expenditures. Follow up question might include what level of fund balance would candidate recommend the government maintain.

Tell us about the last time you secured banking services for a government. What critical components did you look for? What was the outcome?

Has the candidate ever led a competitive search for banking services with a written RFP? Ditto for audit services.

The government has been very conservative in its investments – what changes, if any, would you recommend?

For the interview process, the historical investment approach is not critical – it is important to note whether the candidate will take the time to understand the government ’s, especially the Board’s, goals and risk tolerance.

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