Are you ready to face the finance interview?

Do you know what movement of the yen/dollar rate has been in the last year? What is happening with the financial situation in Portugal? Who the CEOs of the Big 4 in Finance consulting are? Why would you work in an investment bank rather than in an insurance company? Would you invest in a 5 star restaurant in the center of Rome or in several smaller ones around Italy?

Getting invited to an interview in the finance and banking sectors is the easy part of finding a job. What follows is one of the toughest interviews you can imagine. These are some of the basic questions which might fail you if you are looking for a job in the finance and banking sectors:

• Why do you want to work in this sector?
– The recruiter is looking for information on your predisposition and evidence that you would fit in this competitive and dynamic environment. To give a strong answer you would have to provide significant details of how you have demonstrated interest or competence. It is not enough to simply say you are a “hard-working, team-oriented responsible person”. You would need to give clear and specific examples within your answer which defines you as a person and as a professional suitable for the job.

• Who are our competitors and what makes our company different? – Any recruiter would be expecting that you have done your research and you have a clear knowledge both about the company and about your fit within the corporate culture. Make sure you are ready to compare at least with 1-2 competitors. Some key differences might come from their annual reports, values, mission statements, employee policies, sectors and markets, etc.

• What important developments do you see in the future in this industry? – The recruiter is inviting you to think and shine with knowledge and analytical skills. You would need to be familiar with the economic situation, recent legislation, new tendencies, etc.

On the other hand, some questions can get very specific. They tend to test your constant commitment and interests in the field. Some top finance and banking institutions are known for asking:

• Where did the DOW close yesterday? – It might happen that you do not know the exact number, but make sure you are within a range of trade within the last 3 days. If you know you are going to a finance/banking interview there is no excuse to miss on reading the financial press. If you really want to impress the interviewer, you should know where the S&P 500, NASDAQ, Russell 1000, FTSE, Nikkei, Hang Seng and Dax closed as well.

• Which is your favorite stock and why? – You cannot afford to be general and qualitative at your answer. Know your numbers and make sure you apply some fundamental financial / technical analysis. At least talk about the P/E ratio and where it stands relative to its peer group. It would also help if you think about price/growth, EBITDA/enterprise value, leverage ratios, etc.

• Describe a specific fundamental concept in the field – Recruiters can ask you about valuation, trading a security, executing a sell-side transaction, etc. It is vital that you present a response that demonstrates your firm understanding about the concept, its importance and its application. Make sure you discuss: 1. the definition; 2. the definition of the additional terms of the definition; 3. the application of the concept in a global context.

At large at some stage of the recruitment process, there will be a competency based interview and a behavioral interview. Make sure you are ready to demonstrate what skills, knowledge, motivation and personal characteristics make you effective at work and give specific and unique examples of how you have performed in the past. This is the only way you can stand out from the crowd. In the following articles we will talk about the most required competences.

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