An interview for a job in Financial Services can be challenging, whether it's your first or fiftieth interview. Due to the importance of the tasks, an interviewer will test your abilities to ensure you’re the right person for the job.
The skills needed will change as you build your career within the industry, you’ll shape and strengthen them as you go along. Even if this is your first interview you’ll need to show that you have the foundations to develop core skills.
Having good interpersonal skills, technical abilities and determination to succeed will all be tested during the interview.
It can seem difficult to successfully portray these skills but it is possible, by preparing. We have some of the potential question-types you may be asked in your interview:
“Tell me about yourself.”
Usually, the icebreaker question. The response has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the interview (so no pressure…). You don’t need to panic though because ultimately you know you and you can practice what you’re going to say too. It’s probably not a secret that what the interviewer really wants to know is how your experience is relevant to the job you're interviewing for.
Give a brief overview of where you went to school, what you studied and how these, coupled with your past experiences, are related to the job. So, remember that whilst talking about your past experiences and who you are to mention how they are related to the job you want.
You can prepare a script to guide you (although don’t take it into the interview with you!)
I have been in retail for 2 years whilst completing my university degree in Financial Services. My experience has taught me to be adaptable in the way I engage with different people. I really enjoy the challenges I have experienced when communicating with different people.
One of my strengths is that I’m very determined, which has really helped me with these challenges. I pride myself on being able to commit to reaching my goals.
I’m now looking for a company that will push me to achieve my potential and shares my values of how financial institutions can transform the world around them.
It’s a good way of keeping on track of what you want to say and you’ll feel more confident about what you want to say too. Don’t memorize it word for word though, it’ll sound scripted – plus you might feel flustered if you get interrupted or forget what you are meant to say.
It’s a good interview answer to have stored in your repertoire, even if it doesn’t get asked, as it’ll keep you focused on what you can give to the position and company.
“Strength and Weakness?”
This one is quite common and is easy to say the wrong thing. The temptation is to subvert it by naming a weakness that is a strength:
“I am just too organised”
“I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist!”
This can be very transparent, especially to a seasoned interviewer. Instead, give a genuine weakness but explain how you’re trying to rectify it.
“I can get bogged down with details but make a conscious effort to work on it”
Similarly, with strengths, you have to be careful how you word your answer so it can only be interpreted the way you mean it.
“I work equally well with or without supervision” is better than “I work well without supervision” as the latter could be understood as “I don’t need management.”
Technical questions are designed to test the skills you’ve said you have. The interviewer may ask you to define terms, ask how you would respond to certain scenarios or get you to perform a calculation or task.
For example, an Underwriting role will test your ability to think quickly and apply mental maths to a situation.
You’ll need to think logically about how you’ll answer these questions, we have some examples here.
“Explain the Initial Public Offering (IPO) Model”
This type of question simply tests your knowledge of important industry terms. Depending on the level you are at, the detailed knowledge you have will vary and your ability to explain it to different stakeholders will differ, also. Still, it’s good to know the terminology so you can answer with confidence.
You’ll be asked about how you have handled certain situations, this is so our potential employer can see whether your responses are helpful to the role. You’ll usually have variation in the questions to build up a better understanding of your character and also more industry-related questions. They might test how well you handle: stress, objections and leadership.
“How have you managed to overcome a difficult task? “
Show your interviewer how you can stay cool under pressure by following these 3 steps:
It’s good to create a 3-step simple story: summarise the situation where you were under pressure, explain how you approached the situation and successfully solved it, the end your story with the lessons you learned. This is important because it highlights how you gained a skill in dealing with stressful situations.
“Would you pick a high-risk or low-risk stock and why?”
Questions may be more focused around the industry and are aimed at advising the interviewer a better understanding. Questions like this can help assess your ability to evaluate and manage risk, as well as your knowledge of the current stock market – skills that are especially important for careers in the Insurance or Investment Banking areas of this industry.
It's important to be honest about your opinions and knowledge. If you don’t know it’s better to ask for further explanation than try and wing it. Your answers aren’t always “right or wrong” the interviewer wants to watch how you explain and support your opinion.
Preparation is crucial to a successful interview: knowing the company, what they do and why you want the job will help you feel more confident when answering questions.