Five things to do before every finance interview
Interviews can be intimidating, but selling your skills within the financial sector is an entirely different challenge. Whether you’re trying to break into the Big Four, impress in a fast-paced City firm or make a difference in the public sector, hiring practices for entry-level, part-qualified and newly-qualified finance and accountancy roles go beyond the usual talk-me-through-your-resume routine.
On top of traditional competency-based scenarios, you’re likely to be faced with probing numerical reasoning tests, questions that test your technical and theoretical knowledge and left-field, figures-based brainteasers to stretch your analytical skills.
So your preparation needs to cover the core, the commercial and the conceptual.
Get your story straight
Learn your application and CV inside and out – and become an expert in presenting them in the context of the particular role on offer. Examine the finer details of the job description and required competencies, which are likely to include excellent analytical and numerical knowledge, a deadline-driven approach, accuracy, solid communication skills and a talent for problem solving. Walk in armed with concrete examples of how you’ve brought these qualities to life during your studies or in past positions. Prepare and practise confident, compelling responses to expected interview questions – even those that challenge your weaker points – so you’re ready to speak fluently about your training and qualifications, career history, study plans and achievements.
- Describe a time when your data analysis skills added value to your employer.
- How do you prioritise your workload when faced with a number of pressing deadlines?
Brush up on the bigger picture
Hiring managers want to see passion for the role, their business and the industry as a whole, so targeted pre-interview prep could give you the edge over less conscientious candidates. Visit the company’s LinkedIn page and social feeds to stay current with company updates, and check out their website’s values, mission and ‘About Us’ sections for valuable insight into strategy, culture and organisational goals. Equally, get to grips with current market conditions, financial trends, interest rates and industry news. Be ready to explain what excites and motivates you about the field of finance.
- What’s the biggest challenge facing finance professionals in the current market?
- What do you know about our business and what makes you want to work here?
Sharpen your sales pitch
In addition to showing ample business acumen, you’ll be asked to demonstrate your nuts and bolts finance knowledge. And while you might prepare reports like a pro back at your desk, the challenge at interview is articulating why your particular brand of balance sheet reconciliation – and unique mix of skills, experience and mindset – makes you the ideal candidate for this role. So get set to speak authoritatively on everything from accounting packages to journal entry posts while convincing them you’re cut out for the daily demands of the job.
- How do you currently contribute to your company’s month-end accounting process?
- How do you stay up to date with current accounting rules?
Prepare to turn the tables
An interview is a two-way street. So while the hiring manager assesses whether you’re the most qualified applicant, take the opportunity to make sure this is the right company, role and fit for you. Employers want to see you’re genuinely interested in their business, so come prepared with an arsenal of insightful, relevant questions that show an understanding of their products, services and strategy. Eagerness and engagement show initiative and forward planning – key skills that help you stand out from the crowd of other candidates.
- What do you like about this company’s culture and management style?
- What would be the next step for someone succeeding in this role?
Plan your follow up
Don’t underestimate the power of good manners. A short, sincere email thanking the interviewer for their time reiterates your interest in the position – and shows appreciation for their interest in you. It’s a simple (but often neglected) part of the process, but that final, courteous flourish may well clinch it for you, especially in the competitive world of finance.
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