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How to prepare for finance interview questions

Whether you’ve got years of experience or are just starting out, interviews can be an intimidating prospect. If you’re looking to land your next finance role, our expert tips could help…

Despite uncertainty rippling through the global financial services sector — fuelled, in part, by growing concerns over Brexit and other geopolitical pressures — the finance sector remains a competitive industry for workers.

This competitiveness is never more evident than when you’re trying to land a new role. But to help you out, we’ve asked some of our financial industry experts for their insight on how you can land your new financial job.

Get to the point

“A good CV should be clear, concise, and easy to read,” explains Andy Hickey, a specialist in finance recruitment at Robert Walters. “When describing your previous jobs, you should break each role into two key areas: responsibilities and achievements.” Hiring managers won’t want to sift through paragraphs of information, he says, so keep things relatively succinct and get straight to the point.

It’s also useful to mention some information about the companies you’ve worked for. Don’t forget to include a few lines about company size and turnover, location, number of staff, and the type of work the company does.

As Andy explains, this provides context to your experience and is particularly useful if you’ve worked for smaller or less well-known businesses.

Know your finances

The most important bit of research a finance candidate can do is to look into the financial health of the company they’re applying for, advises Phill Westcott, commerce director in Robert Walters’ London office. “Analyse the company’s accounts over a three to five year period and let this form some of the questions you ask in the interview, such as ‘what has contributed to 10% growth year-on-year over the last three years?’ or ‘why did revenue drop last year?’ This will highlight your knowledge of the company.

If you’re applying for a more senior role or a position at a smaller company, you might need to carry out more in-depth research, adds Andy. “Every company is different in terms of size and the amount of information available, but you still need to make sure you read everything that’s out there and prepare for all eventualities when it comes to the interview.” 

Make yourself the added value

“Hiring managers don’t want you to recite your CV in an interview, they have it in front of them,” warns Phill. “Instead, focus on the nuances of your own achievements and how they’ve had an impact in previous companies.” Make yourself the added value, he adds, particularly when it comes to showing off what soft skills you could bring to a role.

“When it comes to the finance industry, roles have moved on from simply reporting on the past and managing the present,” explains Andy. “These days it’s all about creating the future, and that’s why hiring managers look for candidates with a skillset that demonstrates a 50:50 split between hard and soft skills.” To really add value to an organisation you need to be a strong communicator with excellent stakeholder engagement skills, he continues, particularly with the rising popularity of business partnering models. 

Talk confidently about the industry

“Strong candidates should be able to talk purposefully about finance as a whole, and how it’s evolved into a function that now drives business results,” argues Andy. “The idea of accountants who sit in the corner churning through reports is very dated, and these days companies need individuals who can think bigger picture and are more commercially minded in their approach.”

One thing to mention is the increasing role of technology in the finance industry, Andy says. “Automation is no longer a source of competitive advantage — it’s now a competitive necessity for a lot of businesses. Technology is adapting at a rapid rate and driving forward new, efficient ways of doing business, so it’s imperative that companies stay ahead of the curve.” 

Engage with the interviewer

As well as highlighting your experience and skills, Phill reminds his candidates how important it is to connect with the hiring manager on a human level. “Try not to approach an interview as simply a ‘process’. Instead, try and engage with the interviewer on a personal level, involving yourself in small talk and giving them a chance to see the ‘real you’”.

“At an appropriate time, ask the interviewer about themselves, about their own interests and background in the financial field,” he suggests. “This will not only encourage them to naturally warm up and engage with you, but could also stimulate some healthy discussion about finance in general, which could give you the opportunity to show off some of your skills, views and knowledge of the sector.” 

Keep learning

There’s a fine line between presenting your experience and appearing over-confident, warns Phill, so make sure you show the hiring manager you have a willingness to keep learning and developing your skills in a new role. “Just remember to present your existing skills competently, and elaborate using clear, concise examples.”

“Don’t forget,” adds Andy, “that an interview is the best opportunity for a candidate to learn more about a business so make sure the questions you choose to ask allow you to do that.” Andy suggests asking questions about how the interviewer sees the role, and how they expect the role to evolve over time. “This is a great way to ‘get behind’ the job description and learn what the role is really about.” 

 

Find out more

For more interview tips, download our free interview guide. Want to continue your finance job search? Have a look at our latest vacancies.

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