Preparing for any job interview can be stressful but interviews in the finance sector can seem particularly daunting. Whether you’ve applied for a job at the ‘big four’ or you’re finding your way as an investment banker, working in the City is known to be extremely competitive and the fight for new roles is fierce. With so many high quality candidates available for interview, companies can afford to be picky, which means preparation will be fundamental to success.
From challenging technical questions to analysing case studies, interviews in the finance sector can be slightly unorthodox as employers prefer to test applicants on their technical knowledge and commitment to their field. However, by doing your research, and with a decent dose of confidence, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t create a lasting impression.
Be prepared for case studies and stress questions in a finance sector interview
Getting ready for your interview means doing all those usual things: knowing your CV inside out, being prepared to answer questions about your experience and qualifications and being able to illustrate why you want the job.
However, when it comes to the finance sector, you’ll need to go above and beyond if you really want to nail it. You may well find you are asked to elaborate and comment on case studies in your interviews and how you perform can make the difference between getting a job offer or being shown the door.
Case studies can range from topic-to-topic, but usually they will involve a presentation of a problem, brainteaser or situation which you will have to analyse and solve on the spot. Remember that you won’t be expected to know the precise solution, but be prepared to explain how you reached your conclusions with a reasoned and logical response. Case studies are a great way for employers to analyse a candidate’s analytical, creative and problem-solving skills, so try practicing a few beforehand so you can test your responses and explanations.
Conducting thorough research on the company is essential
It sounds obvious but far too many people forget to follow this basic step and most will underestimate the time it takes to prepare. Remember, if you really want to make a lasting impression, don’t just put aside a weekend for your prep, start researching weeks or even months before the interview date.
A company won’t expect you to know the ins and outs of their history, but they will expect you to have done some homework. Make use of company websites and social media platforms, and always look out for press releases or blogs as these will contain the most noteworthy industry updates. It’s also important to look for recent annual or quarterly reports, and to try and find out whether the company is listed on the stock exchange. Keep abreast of news and developments in the sector too, as this is likely to provide you with some useful and topical material to reference when you’re asked about why you want to work in a particular field.
A word of warning though, don’t simply memorise as much information as possible. There is so much information available now that it is more about deciding what is pertinent and what isn’t, as well as, being able to analyse it critically.
The technical aspect of the interview process is growing
Whether you’re applying for a finance director role or a graduate trainee position, you should be prepared for probing technical questions. The highly competitive nature of the City means companies are increasingly asking tough questions to gauge your level of competence.
If you’re applying for a job in stock analysis, they’ll likely want to know what you think the trends are, what stocks you favour and why, and predictions for the future. They may also throw some unexpected questions at you to see how you would react in crisis situations.
In addition, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of financial modelling, on both a macro and micro scale, and how it’s applicable to their business. You may not be expected to give all the right answers on the spot but you will certainly be expected to know how modelling work and why they are beneficial to the company.