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Interview Preparation

The most important thing for any financial professional to do before a job interview is: prepare, prepare, prepare. A prospective employer has a brief opportunity to determine whether you're qualified for the position, motivated to do the job, and the right fit for the company. Your preparation (or lack thereof) can make all the difference!

Do your homework

Learn as much as you can about the company before your interview. Some good sources of information are your recruiter, the company’s website or a Google search. Having a solid understanding of the company, its structure and services, shows a high level of interest.

Communicate effectively

Employers often seek finance, accounting and banking professionals who can present complex concepts to executives or clients who may not have financial backgrounds. By effectively delivering information during the interview, you prove you possess the communication skills required. Brush up on your delivery by reviewing your resume and rehearsing key accomplishments you want to convey during the interview.

Dress the part

When interview day arrives, be sure to dress the part. Even if the company’s dress code is business casual, go a step above. Being overdressed is preferable to being underdressed. The standard for interview attire is a dark, solid colored suit.

Now, you are prepared to walk in the door with confidence, but that is only the beginning. What will you say once the interview begins? Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer as well as some you should ask.

Behavioral questions: Just the facts

More and more interviewers are using “behavioral questions,” designed to help the employer make predictions about your success based on actual past behaviors, instead of responses to hypothetical questions. Here are some examples of popular behavioral questions:

  • Give an example of a time when you had to be quick in making a decision.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to explain complex financial data to a person with limited financial knowledge and how you handled the situation.
  • Tell me about a systematic or repeated error you encountered, whether a report, analysis, or forecast, and how you were able to resolve the problem.
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  • Give me an example of when you had to show good leadership.

To respond to behavioral questions, describe the situation or task you needed to complete. Then talk about the action you took. Close with the outcome, or results.

Remember to be specific, not general or vague. The employer is looking for real-life examples. Don't describe how you would behave, describe how you did behave.

Questions you can ask

The interview is a two-way street and you are expected to ask some intelligent questions of your own. Here are a few examples to serve as food for thought. Only ask those that are truly relevant to you in determining if the position and company are right for you.

  • What are the skills, or strengths vital to this position?
  • What characteristics do the high achievers in this company seem to share?
  • How is an employee evaluated and promoted?
  • What is the retention rate of people in this position?
  • Do you have training programs?
  • What are the challenging aspects of this job?
  • What’s the work environment like at your company?
  • What is the structure of the department that this position is in?

As important as the questions you ask, are those that you don’t ask. These include inquiries about vacation time, salary, benefits, or your office space. Save these questions for the second interview, when you are certain the employer is interested in hiring you.

Being prepared and adhering to these tips will help ensure a successful interview, an invitation back for a second interview, and quite possibly a job offer.