Finance - how to answer common interview questions

Finance - how to answer common interview questions

When you find out you have landed an accountancy or finance job interview, naturally you will want to prepare as much as possible so you can answer questions smoothly and in the most credible way. While it’s impossible to know exactly what questions an interviewer will be asking you, as experienced recruiters, we can give you a good indication of what some of them might be.

There is no doubt that in an interview for a finance role you will be asked some technical questions designed to test your knowledge and confidence, but for the most part, the questions will primarily centre around what are known as behavioural fit questions. These are designed to help the interviewer get to know you and how you think.

You can be well prepared for these types of questions in advance by choosing a handful of specific situations that you can use as examples. In the world of finance, you will have encountered a number of interesting, complicated or testing situations that demonstrate leadership, teamwork, struggles, hard work and problem-solving.

Introducing yourself effectively

Q. Tell me a bit about yourself?

This question will almost always get asked. It’s a great opportunity to talk about your professional skills and experience with enthusiasm. Pick out key terminology from the detailed job description and use similar vocabulary to focus on the details that are particularly relevant for a job in this industry - make it immediately clear why you’re a perfect choice but be sure to let your personality shine through.

Illustrating your resourcefulness

Q. Can you give me a recent example of when you have experienced a setback?

Professional roles across all industries will require you to meet a problem head-on and find a way to resolve it and finance roles are no exception. The interviewer may appear to be asking for a specific example but this question is just as much about lessons learned as it is about all about problem-solving. Choose an example in which an issue or problem was created then successfully resolved by you, but take the time to expand into what you learned.

Proving your determination

Q. Tell me about a time when you’ve had to keep yourself motivated during a difficult situation?

The key thing here is to remain positive and use work or study-based examples. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your tenacity so tell them about your determination to stay focused on a project or how you remained committed to achieving a deadline despite challenges or obstacles.

Demonstrating your ability to identify improvements

Q. Give me an example of when you improved existing systems/procedures at work? How was this received by your colleagues/manager?

Finance roles centre around systems, functions and procedures, so think of a time when you worked on something that made a genuine impact. Explain what you were trying to achieve and why, then briefly how it progressed to completion. Then discuss how it was received, pointing out any specific ways in which it helped your colleagues.

Showing your honesty

Q. Tell me about one of your major weaknesses?

Even though it’s tempting to suggest that you’re flawless, your interviewer wants you to be honest. Personal development is a hot topic and this question is really about your ability to show that you understand which aspects of your skills or experience could benefit from development. There is always something to learn, so pick something non-essential to the role but good to have and state how and why you’re keen to improve it.

Looking to the future

Q. Why are you looking for a new job?

Don’t be tempted to be negative about your previous employer. Be positive; every experience provides a lesson in one form or another. Do you see this as an opportunity to advance your career, develop or apply your professional skills or perhaps there’s something specific about this company that excites you? Whatever your reason is, frame it optimistically and enthusiastically.

The key to answering accountancy and finance interview questions is to focus on quality and depth of answers more than delivery perfection. Treat each question as an opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what you can do and why you are the ideal candidate for the position.

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