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10 questions to be ready for when interviewing in Finance

As a graduate today, completing your course means entering a highly competitive job market with sometimes less qualifications and experience than others who are looking for similar roles.

An average of over ten thousand students graduate from university in Australia each year in finance and banking alone, this and the competitive nature of the job market means preparation and standing out from the crowd are more and more important.

Having a good resume is a great start and will (hopefully!) get you in the door, but preparation and research for your interview are what will get you the role.

From personal questions, to the more technical questions about banking, here’s 10 of the most common 'difficult' banking interview questions and suggestions on how you should answer them.

Why do you want this role?

Pretty obvious question and will always come up in an interview, particularly for Grads. Don't be fooled, this is a great place to shine if you have done thorough research on the company and the role.

Topics to research include - the culture of the company, the people at the top who are regularly in the media, the people you are likely to be working with, wins that they have had, their growth trajectory, anything else that you are able to find and research that sets them apart from other firms in the same sector. 

"I'm a grad and I need a job, that's why I applied" won't cut it here - stand out by showing interest and showing why you should be their hire.

Why are you suitable?

As with the above, this kind of question is always going to come up and is where the interviewer gives you a real opportunity to show off who you are, what you know and what kind of an asset you are likely to be to them and the team. Before the interview, and while you think on the 'why' of working for this firm, also consider good examples to use in the interview of the qualities that you bring and that will help them to get the most out of the role.

Sometimes you'll be asked this question last (or close to) - this makes it a perfect opportunity to really show off your qualities and leave a lasting impression - why employ you?

Answer this one well and walk out of the interview knowing that you've left a strong impression.

Tell me the most important thing you’ve read/seen recently in...

Interviewers in finance often want to know that you are on top of news that will have effects on the economy and on the industry in general - it's not only important to stay across this sort of thing anyway in a finance role, but noting really important issues in politics and the economy both locally and internationally can set you up well to answer this kind of question.

Take me through your resume

This is likely to be one of the first questions asked in an interview and is one that you can either shine or kill an interview on.

If you're a grad, it can be a daunting question as you may not have a huge amount of professional experience (although ideally you have other things in your resume to show - memberships, additional learning, etc).

When discussing your resume, it's important to tell it like a story - remember that while the interviewer has (hopefully!) read it thoroughly, you can add depth, colour and vibrancy to what you say here, not only leaving a good impression but showing energy and, importantly, being interesting. What you did is one thing, how you did it and why is much more important.

And - the biggest weakness question...

Yep, this one is going to happen. It's a pretty stock-standard question in the HR toolbox and as above can really show how well you have prepped.

Hint - you definitely have weaknesses, everybody does, whether you are a grad or have been in the workforce for years and years. People tend not to like to talk about their weaknesses as well, which is why this one remains a staple!

The key point here is to acknowledge a weakness and then talk through how you are solving or have solved it.

Some weaknesses are a problem ("I can't get up in the morning and am always late" probably isn't the best one to call out here!) but ultimately the interviewer really wants to know (a) that you have considered the point and acknowledged an area you need to work on and (b) what are you doing about it?

What's a concern you have about working in finance?

As with the above, this kind of question should be answered with some thought. What would worry you in the role, what things might be a problem and how might you deal with them.

Answers around issues in the news, work/life balance and other issues like this can be great ways to show that you are informed and considering the implications of the choices that you are making.

Tell me what motivates you

Guess what? 'Making money' or 'being happy' are not the answer that the interviewer is looking for here, both because you need to show some more thought here and also because these are things that likely motivate most people. How are you going to set yourself apart here?

Instead of going the easy route, use this question to show off your personality and your work ethic - are you motivated by challenge, by working hard in a team to get results, by goals that you set for yourself etc...

As with the other questions laid out here, your answer will always be stronger with a good example, so have one ready to go here too.

Show me where you’ve successfully used analytical or problem solving skills

Finance and banking can be highly analytical and data-focused industries, and interviewers will want to know that you have the right mindset.

As with the other questions outlined above, take the time to come up with a couple of good examples of where you have used data and an analytical mindset to make what you felt were the right choices.

Tell me about a time when you’ve worked successfully in a team

If you're a graduate this one can be a hard one if you haven't had a lot of work history, but remember teams can be sport, family, debating and a million other examples of where you had to work with a group of people to get a shared result.

Talk to how you worked with the people around you, show aspects of the way that you used your skills and personality to help get the team to where it needed to be. Life has a huge number of examples of teamwork if you think about them.

Where do you see yourself professionally in five/ten years?

The biggest error that candidates can make in answering this kind of question is in answering in such a way that they leave the interviewer with the impression that their company is just a stepping stone to something larger. Let's face it, a lot of the time it is when you are talking in terms of this kind of time horizon, but you don't have to rub their face in it!

Research again is key here - knowing a good deal about what the company does, it's structure, advancement opportunities etc allows for an answer that shows that you have considered how you might grow within the company as well as outside it.

The interviewer ultimately wants to know that you are looking at a long-term career in finance as well as that you are likely to be a good investment for them - because remember in hiring you that is what they are doing.