How to impress at a finance interview

May 22, 2019
by Melissa Porter
Closeup of thoughtful finance entrepreneur with clasped hands. Business man wearing suit and sitting at table with tea cup. Contemplation or waiting concept.

You’ve been keeping your fingers crossed and refreshing your inbox every five minutes, but now you’ve finally received the email you’ve been waiting for – the interview invitation. Congratulations!

From very early on in our careers we are all told the same things: first impressions are everything, arrive early, give firm handshakes, dress smart… it’s all great advice, but a firm handshake and an early arrival alone are not enough to land yourself that finance role you’ve had your eye on for so long.

So, what are hiring managers going to be looking for?

 

Demonstrate your skills

You can pretty much guarantee that you are going to be asked questions relating to your skills and core competency questions during your interview, in which you will need to be able to demonstrate your expertise.

To ensure you keep your answers clear and concise, we recommend following the STAR method when it comes to answering competency questions, typically the ones that begin with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Demonstrate how you would…”.

STAR stands for:

  • Situation: Set the scene and describe the scenario by asking yourself questions such as who, what, where, and when.
  • Task: What was your task or goal that you were working towards?
  • Action: What actions did you put in place or what steps did you take to ensure you could complete your task or achieve your goal? (It’s important to focus on your own actions and refrain from using “we”, as interviewers will want to learn about your own actions and not those of a team.)
  • Result: What was the outcome of your actions? How did it benefit the business/add value?

 

Where you can add value.

Talking about your previous roles and responsibilities is great, but during a finance interview, something your interviewers will be looking to learn about is how you were able to add value to the business and be able to demonstrate some examples.

Adding value to a business doesn’t necessarily have to be from a monetary perspective in the form of increasing profit. Other examples could include:

  • Improve the reporting process to drive the quality of financial information.
  • Cost saving (the STAR method is a good way to demonstrate this point).
  • Influencing decisions – maybe you found a financially better way to take a product to market.
  • Systems implementation – perhaps you’ve been involved in a system upgrade/implementation that has saved the business time? After all, as Benjamin Franklin once said, time is money.

Remember to always be positive about your achievements. Selling yourself and promoting your abilities and contributions to the business will not only make you a valuable candidate but will also demonstrate where you can add value to the business.

 

Talk about finance interacting with the business

One factor that employers are increasingly keen to see are ways to integrate the finance department into the rest of the business.

As recruiters, we often hear from candidates who work within finance teams that are referred to as “back office” or sit in silo.

The good news is that an increasing number of employers are now looking to modernise this way of thinking and are keen to get Finance out into the business, working across different divisions. Try to think of examples of where you have worked with other departments within a business and how you can support the business in making finance more external.

 

Stay up to date

The finance world frequently changes, which is why it’s essential that you’re able to demonstrate that you have kept up to date.

If you’re applying for a new role in finance, we recommend researching which regulations/guidelines would affect your role and ensure you can demonstrate your awareness. Whether it’s FRS102, US GAAP, SOX or IFRS, it’s always worth being prepared for a technical question!

 

Show a genuine interest

During the interview, your interviewer will give you the chance to ask some questions. Remember, an interview is a two-way process that is as much about the employer finding the right candidate as it is for you to find the right position.

Asking questions during an interview will not only help you to ascertain if it’s the right opportunity for you but will also help you to come across as having a genuine interest in the position and the company.

Reading the news section on the employer’s website will give you access to information rarely published anywhere else, which will demonstrate to the employer that you’ve done your homework and have a genuine interest in the business.

 

At NXTGEN, we take interview prep seriously and ensure all of our candidates are briefed and prepared ahead of their interviews. If you’re currently looking for your next finance role, or to see how we can help with your business, speak to our specialist team today on 01603 273489.

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