In the hot seat-top interview tips

The situations you may encounter in a finance sector interview and how to respond.

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On the day of the interview dress smartly and sharply; don’t take unnecessary risks when it comes to your clothing. Bring freshly printed copies of your CV on plain white paper; they will already have received them, but always have some spare copies just in case. Don’t be late. In fact be early, at least 10–15 minutes. This will give you some time to be received for the interview and to sit down and compose your thoughts. If you’re unfamiliar with the interview location, don’t wait until the day of the interview to find it; do a ‘dry-run’ the day before and allow time for traffic and delays. If you’re going for a face-to-face interview with a financial organisation, such as a retail bank, actuarial consultancy or an insurance company, you will likely already have successfully navigated a first-round telephone interview.

These initial interviews aim to gauge your:

  • Interest in the financial sector
  • Your understanding of what the job involves
  • Your skills and abilities, both in terms of analytical skills and business awareness
  • Your knowledge of the company and the job and whether you would be a good fit?

Interviewers will be interested in what you say about yourself and how you have applied your skills to your experiences. They will also be interested in hearing about how you dealt with ‘real world’ situations.

One very common question is the dreaded:

Tell us about yourself?

Although this might seem cryptic, it’s the broad nature of this question that actually makes it an opportunity for the candidate to set the tone of the interview. The ‘tell us about yourself’ question is in many ways an invitation for you to emphasise why you want the job. It’s not an invitation for a detailed personal history, or a summary of your hobbies, likes and dislikes. Instead, answer clearly, concisely and enthusiastically. Tell the recruiter why you are the right person for the job. But don’t rehearse your answer too much. Remember, it’s important that the employer likes you, and it won’t help if your answer comes across as pre-rehearsed or forced.

Other questions will likely touch on your work experience and how it is relevant to the role. Recruiters will also question you on your strengths and weaknesses and may ask how you would be described by other people? They may also ask where you would see yourself in five years or ask experience based questions such as: ‘Tell us about a time when you had to lead a team?’ For questions like this, remember the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Actions, Results).

When you are asked opinion based questions about the sector you will obviously need to have done research on the company and the sector, but whatever your level of information, don’t try and pretend you know more than you do, as you’ll be swiftly found out. Also, don’t say what you think the recruiter wants to hear. If they ask opinion based questions, be prepared to give opinions for answers and be prepared to explain how you formed your opinions.

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