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Financial services interviews: how to avoid the traps

Every interview question in the financial services industry has an agenda

Here we look at 12 common questions and how to answer them without falling into any traps.

1. Tell us about your experience to date

If your CV contains phases or jobs that are somewhat unusual, you will need a convincing story to persuade the panel that your life experiences have been leading up to this interview; for example, the year spent gold prospecting in Australia with your friend needs to be presented as a hands-on introduction to the supply chain in commodities markets that has given you unparalleled insights you can use in your new role.

2. What attracted you to this post?

Don’t say “The salary”. If you are being interviewed by a large firm, talk about market presence and global leadership; if the firm is small, use words such as ‘niche’ and ‘specialised’.

3. Why do you feel the need to move job now?

You feel that you are ready for a new challenge; however, your current firm can’t offer the same opportunities because it is too small (if applying to a large company) or not specialised enough (if applying to a small one).

4. How do you approach teamwork and its difficulties?

A good approach is to say that group dynamics influence teams; therefore, you are always aware of the different roles in a team and who is adopting them.

5. How would you approach doing business with a foreign company, such as one in India?

Don’t refer to your recent holiday in Srinagar; instead, say that you would research best practice and build personal relationships.

6. How would you describe the current financial market conditions?

If you can’t answer this question, the finance industry is probably not for you. If your mind has gone blank, saying it is ‘fascinating’ may give you time to think.

7. How do you think our business will develop in the next few years?

A look at the company’s financial report will tell you about its strategic plans; therefore, you should have no trouble with this.

8. Why are you interested in this role?

Be age-appropriate. If you are 55, don’t talk about long-term career prospects or the company will imagine you still there in your dotage; instead, concentrate on the chance to use your wide experience in finance. If you are 25, don’t talk about your wide experience in finance; instead, talk about the opportunities for development with a market-leading/cutting-edge/niche company.

9. What are your greatest plus points?

Over to you. Always be prepared to back up your claims with examples.

10. And what are your weaknesses?

Name areas where you feel you could develop further. Actual weaknesses such as insane optimism or a tendency to panic are best left unsaid.

11. Do you have any questions you would like to ask?

This is a chance for a general chat about what is happening within the company, not an opportunity to ask about minor details such as parking.

12. How much notice would you need to give?

Give your notice period plus two weeks so that you can have a holiday. After this interview, you will probably need one!

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