Finance Interview Questions: Your Fundamental Guide

Written by: Anne Sadler
Published on: 8 Jan 2024

Finance Interview Tips

Securing an interview in the competitive finance and accountancy jobs market is cause for quiet celebration. You’ve outperformed any number of qualified applicants and are one step closer to landing your next career move. Now’s your chance to prove you’re the candidate of choice.

Whether you’re a Newly Qualified Accountant or a Finance Director with decades of experience, interviews can be high-stress situations. The key is to walk in confident (or impress on screen), with well-crafted responses to typical finance interview questions, a firm grasp of best practice video interview advice, and a solid grounding in the sector’s most common assessment tools.

This article sets you up for success, sharing top questions for a finance interview, guidance on competency-based hiring techniques, and tips on numerical reasoning tests.

  • Predict and prepare for common finance interview questions

    Finance and accountancy interview questions will probe your high-level knowledge and specific role-related competencies – so aim to talk comfortably about both.

     • Start with the job description, pinpointing the position’s core competencies – from financial analysis to reporting, regulatory compliance, and risk management.
     • Review your CV in detail and rehearse speaking fluently about your training and qualifications, career history, and achievements in the context of the role on offer.
     • Identify possible weaknesses, positioning them honestly and positively. Be ready to describe steps you’ve taken to address skills gaps and commit to continuous improvement.

  • Research the firm – and find what you love

    Hiring managers want to see passion for the position, their business, and the industry as a whole. Articulating what excites and motivates you about the field of finance – and this particular firm – could deliver an edge over other candidates.

     • Follow the company’s LinkedIn page and social feeds to stay current with news and updates.
     • Visit their website to understand their values, mission, strategy, culture, and organisational goals. Know what appeals to you about the business and why you’d fit in.
     • Keep pace with current market conditions, financial trends, interest rates, and industry news. Prepare to field questions about sector challenges and how you’d solve them.
     • Remember, finance interviews are two-way conversations. While researching your prospective employer, jot down some follow-up questions to assess if it’s the ideal environment for you.

  • Boost your numerical reasoning knowledge

    Psychometric assessments are standard practice when recruiting for finance and accounting jobs. If you’re searching for lower-level accounts assistant or finance assistant positions, numerical reasoning tests are likely to feature in your interview process.

    Numerical reasoning tests examine your ability to work with numbers and analyse data. These timed assessments are usually done online and feature a combination of word problems and graph/table questions.

    Word problems

    Word problems appear in text format, without graphs or charts. Here’s a sample:

    Helen buys four cartons of milk at £2.50 each. David buys a loaf of bread for twice as much as one of Sally’s cartons. How much did they spend together?

    When tackling word problems, ensure you:

     • Understand the information you’re being asked to provide.
     • Decide how you’ll arrive at the answer. For example, will you set up an equation?
     • Find the numbers you'll need to use.

    Word problems can be deliberately tricky, so read the text several times before beginning any calculations.

    Graph/table questions

    Scoring well on numerical reasoning tests demands a firm knowledge of the various test formats – and plenty of practice. JobTestPrep's practice numerical reasoning tests offer a valuable head start, with comprehensive tips and test strategy guides.

    JobTestPrep is the only test preparation company with practice packs tailored to specific employers and positions, keeping the run-up to interview day as effective, time-efficient, and targeted as possible.

  • Know your finance interview FAQs

    No two interviews are the same – if you’re applying for accounts assistant jobs, the interview questions will differ from finance assistant interview questions. Financial Controller interview questions and answers will be different still. But helpfully, most career-defining discussions share a similar pattern.

    Here’s a preview of popular talking points – and strategies to effectively sell your finance and accountancy skills.

    What knowledge do you have of accounting standards?

    First, explain which accounting standards and frameworks you’re familiar with. Then detail your depth of knowledge and how you intend to apply your understanding of accounting standards to the role.

    Which accounting platforms and programmes have you worked with?

    On top of advanced Excel proficiency, companies will look for experience of specialist accounting platforms or enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. Provide names and versions, detailing how you’ve used specific packages to deliver results for previous employers. It’s also a good idea to share your willingness to learn new systems.

    How do you detect fraud in ledgers or journals?

    Highlight your understanding of the importance of fraud detection and prevention, plus any resources, tools, or techniques you use to spot potentially fraudulent activity. Recount an example where you noticed possible fraud, how you identified it, and the actions you took to resolve the issue.

    How do you ensure accuracy and minimise errors in your work?

    Outline how you uphold standards of excellence, explaining the methods you use to locate errors and correct them. Don’t be afraid to share past mistakes as this can spotlight how you deal with inaccuracies and demonstrate your capacity to learn.

    In which kind of working environment are you most productive?

    This finance interview question gauges if you’re a good fit for the role and business. For example, an SME accounting job may require you to work independently, while accountancy practice jobs could demand broader collaboration skills. Research the company thoroughly to convey why its culture will bring out the best in you.

  • Take a structured approach to competency-based questions

    Competency-based interview questions measure your skills by asking how you approached past situations and challenges. Your examples show how well you’d respond to the demands of the finance jobs you’re applying to.

    Refer back to the ad or job description to determine the job’s key competencies – for instance, influencing others, managing conflict, or displaying strategic thinking. Then pinpoint times when you’ve demonstrated those abilities in your career. Here’s an example:

    Tell me about a time you led the implementation of a new or improved process.

    This finance interview question explores key competencies including process improvement, analytical skills, proactivity, collaboration, and project management. Consider when you’ve elevated or streamlined processes and describe how you implemented the change, underscoring your ability to address financial risks before they take root.

    When talking through your real-life example, use the STAR method to give your response structure and clarity:

     • Situation – What challenge were you facing?
     • Task – What did you need to accomplish?
     • Action – What steps did you take to achieve your goal?
     • ResultWhat were the outcomes of your actions?

    You’ll often be asked what you’d do differently next time, so be prepared for a few follow-up questions.