It is very common that during some stage of the selection process of a position within the finance and banking sectors, you are invited to a competency based interview. As we already discussed, a competency interview aims to reveal patterns in your behavior to be used as a primary indicator of future actions.
You would need to prepare and 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. A typical framework to do that would follow what is known as a SAR structure:
1. Situation – be ready to briefly describe the scene. Examples that are relevant to your potential future employer are highly recommended.
2. Action – describe what you did to overcome/remedy the situation or perform at your best. Focus on yourself, not on the group effort or anyone else in your team.
3. Result – what happened as a result? How did you positively affect the situation.
As different finance and banking jobs have a different set of desired competencies, which further vary among institutions, prepare an “example bank” with a few for each competency that you suspect you might need. Make sure all your examples demonstrate your abilities so that you persuade the recruiter that you are the perfect candidate. Here are some general competencies that most firms will look for when hiring in the finance or banking sectors:
– Numerical abilities
– Problem solving skills
– Planning and organization
– General ledger and computer skills
– Attention to detail
– Ability to respect deadlines
If you are aiming at a higher position you might want to add examples to your “SAR bank” which demonstrate your competency in:
– Strategic and Operational management
– Relationship building
– Motivation and team development
– Negotiations and communication
– Results oriented
As for more concrete career paths, the required competencies would heavily depend on the company and their business intentions in the near to middle future. Thus, do not underestimate the need to research any potential employer to find out what you expect when you go to meet face to face.
For example, if you would like to work in corporate finance, apart from demonstrating the key skills outlined above, you would also need to prepare examples on your analytical abilities and your ease at making conclusions from results of various financial strategy changes while working on a high variety of tasks simultaneously.
If you would like to go into investment banking, make sure, through examples you can demonstrate your strong quantitative and financial skills, your ability to work in a team while handling multiple tasks and chain of responsibility. Further, focus on your:
• Ability to analyze diverse information and make recommendations quickly
• Ability to summarize large amounts of data into small manageable chunks and then distributing this summarized info both written and verbally
• Disposition to take risks, deal with uncertainty and accept occasional failure
• Capacity to be productive under strong pressure
• Acceptance of criticism
• Strong motivation, ambition and positive aggressiveness