interview advice for temporary Banking Operations and Middle Office jobs

At Randstad Financial & Professional, we’ve helped hundreds of candidates secure their ideal banking jobs thanks to our market knowledge and recruitment expertise.

This specialist interview advice, specifically for our candidates within the banking operations space, is designed to help you prepare for the tougher interview processes in the current market.

On the back of your CV application, your interviewer will quiz you to assess if you have the right knowledge, skills and experience needed for the position.  Your interviewer will also want to make sure that you’re the right personality and cultural fit for the company and team, while determining if you’ll be a valued and productive addition.  Therefore, you need to sell yourself according to the requirements of your potential employer – and meet what they’re looking for in a successful applicant. Concentrate your answers towards their needs, rather than focusing on your own.

Don’t worry if you’re nervous, this shows that you really want the job.  Just try to remain calm and confident – remember your CV was shortlisted for the interview so you have a very good chance of being offered.  In the days before the interview familiarise yourself with the job spec and read over your CV a few times, as your interviewer will centre their questions around this.

Show your interviewer that you’re better than the other applicants interviewing for the position - that you can bring more and give more to the role, team/department and company than your competition.  Focus on the interview, don’t worry about any external factors that are out of your control (e.g. the number of applicants being interviewed). 

Typically, as the interview closes, you’ll be asked a few questions on the company and the position in question.  Research the company and be prepared, the more you know about the company, the greater your interest and enthusiasm for working there will seem. Be aware of their products, services, reputation, business principles, mission statement, competitors, culture and history.  Look up the countries that they operate in, divisions and news on deals they’ve recently closed. 

your interviewer
Depending on who’s interviewing you, the type of questions asked may differ.
HR – If you interview with HR, your interviewer will want to assess you, your personality and qualities.  They will be more likely to ask you competency-based questions rather than technical ones.  They will also ask you behavioural questions to test how you think and how you would react in certain situations - like how you would work under pressure, to meet deadlines and to overcome and resolve issues and problems.  They will also want to make sure that you’re not likely to display negative behaviours.

Questions that you may be asked include –
• Why have you chosen to apply for this position?
Especially in an interview for a temporary banking position, such as change and interim jobs, interviewers will be keen to find out a candidate’s career aspirations.  Use discussions with the recruitment consultant as a platform for answering this question.  The candidate’s response can be used to demonstrate a positive approach to a chosen career path.

• What characteristics do you possess that will help you build a career in operations?
Use the wording of a question to shape an answer based on things practised before the interview.  In this question, the skills related to operations are to be highlighted.  Most likely, some guidance on what is involved can be found in the job description.

• Why did you leave your last job?
Be positive about the previous employer in answering questions like this.  Focus on a positive attitude to development and change, for example, and show how relevant skills have grown.

• Can you explain the gap/career break in your CV?
Ideally, a CV should not contain any unexplained gaps.  In the case of a career break, focus on positive developmental actions that were undertaken in the intervening period, such as volunteer work or travel.

• How do you prioritise your workload each day?
Before the interview, it is a good idea to visualise how work in the new position might be.  Use this to focus the response, while demonstrating skills in time management.

• What are your strengths?
In discussions with a recruitment consultant beforehand, there should be an opportunity to discuss issues such as this.  In the interview, highlight those positive aspects that seem most appropriate to the job description in question.

• What are your weaknesses? 
While it may be tempting to be negative in questions such as this, it is important to remain positive. Answer a question such as this by highlighting a potentially hidden strength, such as resilience or coping skills in the face of difficulties.

• How do you define success?
While retaining integrity and truthfulness, respond to this question with a practical application to the banking sector.

• How do you keep yourself motivated?
Use a question such as this to sell positive personal characteristics.  Show how achievements in the past have resulted from sources of motivation.

• What are you most/least proud of in your career?
Stay positive when answering a double-edged question that contains both good and bad sides.  Emphasise a notable achievement and then, for example, show development in the face of adversity.

• Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?
Use this sort of question to outline a positive career trajectory within the banking industry, building on the job at hand.

• How important is responsibility to you?
The interviewer is probing the candidate’s level of management skills in a question such as this.  Take examples of leadership positions from a career or personal history.

• How important is recognition to you?
It is possible to refocus a question such as this on what form of recognition the candidate has received in the past.

• Why should we hire you over other applicants who’ve applied for this position?
Using the job description as a mental template, the candidate can emphasise how his or her personal qualities match the characteristics that the employer is looking for.

• The salary/rate of day in this position is significantly less than in your previous roles – will this prove to be a problem?
Remain positive with a question like this, highlighting aspirations other than salary.  The recruitment consultant should be able to help beforehand when discussing likely remuneration.

• Have you ever challenged a decision made by a superior?
Use a question like this to demonstrate positive communication and persuasion skills.  Be positive about previous employers and superiors.

• Have you ever publicly disagreed with your line manager?
Truthful answers are important, but if there has been a public disagreement in the past, frame this in a respectful and positive manner.

• Have you ever challenged a deadline?  What were your reasons for this?
Use this question to discuss time management and project management successes from career history.

• Tell me about a time that you’ve failed.  Why did you fail?  How did you overcome this?
While the topic of the question is a failure, the trajectory of the answer should be either eventual success in overcoming difficulties or taking positive learning points from past experiences.

• Describe a time that you’ve had to ask for help.  What did you struggle with?  What did you learn from this?
It is better to seek help than to fail.  Show a positive attitude by describing how the topic chosen for discussion is now one that has been mastered.

• Tell me about a team project that you’ve worked on that was met with problems or conflict.  How were these issues resolved?
This is an opportunity to demonstrate teamwork skills and conflict resolution skills using a project listed on the CV as an example.

• Tell me about a time when you’ve recently missed a deadline.  How was this problem resolved?
Use a question such as this to discuss the successful outcome of a challenging project, for example.

Line manager – If you interview with a line manager, the focus of the interview will shift slightly to concentrate more on what you can do.  Your potential employer will want to find out if you’re technically competent and able to perform within the position, how you’ll be of benefit to them and the team.  Most of these questions will revolve around the job spec and your experience as you’ve described it on your CV, focusing on products, processes and systems that you’ve used and your level of experience with that particular software. The line manager will also want to see if you’re likeable and a good personality fit.

Other questions that you may be asked include –
• Have you ever improved a process or implemented a new process in any of your previous positions?  Does the company still use this process now?
• Tell me about a decision that you’ve made that has affected processes and your colleagues?  What was the benefit to your colleagues and your company?
• Have you ever used your initiative to improve or change a process?
• What financial products have you worked with?
• What is our core business?
• What concerns do you have about this role and/or the company?
• What do you think will be your biggest challenge in this role?
• What are your thoughts on the current market situation?
• Describe how the working methods and processes in your previous company may differ to ours
• What can you do for this company that other applicants can’t?

tips on answering questions:
Always make sure that you understand the question that you’re being asked.  If not, there’s nothing wrong with asking your interviewer to clarify what they’re asking you. Don’t rush to reply.  Take a few moments to think over the question and formulate your answer.

When responding, always use examples.  Examples will answer your interviewer’s questions, while also proving that you can do the job and have the skills, knowledge and experience to do so, highlighting your suitability for the position.  When using an example to highlight your answer, explain the situation and what needed to be done.  Let your interviewer know what actions you took and conclude with the end result and what was achieved. 

Use specific work-related examples that are relevant to the question being asked.  Think of times when you’ve gone the extra mile or done anything out of the ordinary to really stand out from the crowd.  Have at least 5 or 6 examples ready to use and pick these examples from a variety of jobs that you’ve worked in.  Try to keep your examples as recent as possible and talk about them from your point of view – what your involvement was and what you did. 

When using your examples, don’t forget to tell your interviewer what the end result was.  Use situations where the result was measurable – explain how this affected you/your team/the company.  Try to remember rough dates and stats to back these up.

Tailor every answer to the job that you’re interviewing for.  Take, for example, the question “Tell me about yourself” – your answer should relate back to the role – your experience, responsibilities held and projects that you’ve worked on that will qualify you for this position.  Finish off by briefly talking about your goals.

If you’re asked a negative question, always try to answer with a positive response.  For example, if your contract was terminated in your last position, say that this has given you the opportunity to look for a new and challenging role, with the prospect of expanding your experience while learning different skills and meeting new people.  If the question is concerning any weaknesses that you might have, respond with a weakness that you’ve overcome and explain how you did this.
Sometimes an interview can become quite conversational.  Always try to stay on track, still relating everything you say back to the position that you’re interviewing for.  An interview is never just a general chat, you’re always being assessed.  Never discuss controversial subjects like politics or religion, if you feel the conversation could be heading down this route, try to steer it back on course.

While it’s tempting, don’t talk about pay.  Save these conversations to have with your recruitment consultant.  Your consultant will work hard on your behalf to negotiate the most competitive rate possible.
Towards the end of the interview, you’ll usually have the option to ask your interviewer a question.  You can use this opportunity to address any concerns that the interviewer might have about your suitability for the position.  “Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?”.  This will give you the chance to tackle their concerns and sell your skills and experience more.  Here you could also mention any achievements that you wanted to mention during the interview but didn’t have the chance too.

other questions that you could ask your interviewer include:
• Why does this vacancy exist?
• How is success measured? On an individual or team/department basis.
• If I was successful and was offered the job, what would be my main objective?
• What are the short/long term goals for this position/department?
• What are the team like?
• What would be the biggest challenge facing someone coming into this role?
• What is a typical day?
• What do you enjoy about working for this company?

after your interview
Make sure to ring your consultant as soon as possible to let them know how you found the interview, if you’re interested in the position and if you’d like to work at the company.  Let your consultant know how this role ranks against others that you’ve interviewed for, if there was anything about this job that you wouldn’t want to do and if there was anything that you wanted to ask your interviewer, but didn’t get the chance to.  Your interviewer will often call your recruitment consultant after the interview to find out your feedback.  With your feedback, your consultant will be able to reinforce your interest in the position and keenness to start.  Your consultant will also be able to answer any queries that your interviewer might have that were possibly not addressed fully during the interview.

Try to tell your consultant your feedback as soon as possible – any delay might be looked upon negatively by your potential employer.
Finally, don’t forget to take a copy of your CV with you.  Good luck!