How to answer common interview questions for finance jobs
Jobs in finance are highly coveted, which isn’t surprising considering careers in finance offer the opportunity for great compensation, flexible hours, and the freedom to build your client base with an entrepreneur’s enthusiasm.
Getting a finance job not only requires a great resume, though, you also need to ace the interview. Don’t panic, help is here!
We asked Shawn Olson, Freedom 55 Financial Director of Regional Recruiting for Western Canada, how applicants should answer some of the most common interview questions for finance jobs.
Do you have finance experience?
If your answer to this question is yes, then you shouldn’t have a problem talking about your experience in an interview. But if you don’t, you probably just took a nervous gulp.
Don’t worry, although companies like Freedom 55 Financial™ appreciate candidates with extensive industry experience, the majority look for motivated people with varied skills and experience.
If your finance experience is lacking, focus on transferable skills and discuss your experience with team management, budgeting, and communication. Conveying your career development over time shows you can learn and be trained.
“When someone doesn’t have the credentials or experience in finance, I try to dig deeper into who they are as a person to find out what skills and traits they bring to the table, and if they’re coachable,” Olson said. “If so, they might have the chops to be formed into a really good financial planner.”
What motivates you?
Even though you’re looking for a job in finance, “the money” alone isn’t an appropriate answer to this question.
Yes, a career as a financial security advisor could likely lead to lucrative compensation, but more importantly it’s a career based around helping people meet their financial, retirement, and life goals. This needs to be part of your answer.
“Quite often people get into finance for money, and while it’s an important piece of the overall ambition and motivation level, we’re looking for people who want to do good work, make a difference, and provide quality financial advice,” Olson explained.
“We want to make sure people are in it for the right reasons. We believe in fiduciary responsibility. We want people who are altruistic on some level.”
What are your work-life balance goals?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, Olson adds, but the response can be instructive on whether a candidate would be a good fit.
In this case, a good fit would be someone who’s aware that work-life balance is something that will come in time. Like any entrepreneurial position, jobs in finance often involve a phase of building up your business during which you might work longer hours. The work-life balance, however, will shift in the long term once your client base is established.
“The idea is that the early work is going to pay off over the long run, when the work-life balance quite often becomes the reason people stay in the career,” Olson said.
“The answer to that question gives us some insight into what their understanding of the career is, but it also gives us an understanding of their willingness to have some delayed gratification.”
What are your income expectations?
Now, here’s a hard one. How should you strike the right balance between seeming ambitious, but not unrealistic or greedy?
The best response, Olson says, is an informed one. Do your homework on salary ranges for common financial job titles, and understand that companies like Freedom 55 Financial™ often tie pay to production. “You can tell right away by the response if someone understands that in its truest form,” he said.
Someone who sets their compensation expectations too low likely won’t seem motivated enough, while a job seeker hoping to make seven figures in their first year will seem out to lunch.
For example, a candidate who expects to make about $50,000 in their first year, and to triple that amount by year five, would seem far more realistic. “That’s someone who has an understanding of what’s attainable, and it would lead to another discussion of what it would take to get there,” Olson said.
What’s a professional challenge you’ve faced in the past and how did you handle it?
Olson’s best advice is to not sugar-coat your response. When he asks candidates questions about their behaviour or development, he’s looking for a willingness to own up to past mistakes, rather than someone who seems to resist accepting responsibility.
“I always like people who are willing to acknowledge that there have been challenges in the past and they haven’t always had the perfect solution,” he said. “Humility and the willingness to think you’re not infallible create a great scenario in our environment because we surround people with so many resources. I like to hear some gritty answers, it tells me this is a real human being who is willing to learn from mistakes.”
What do you bring to the table that makes you think you’ll be successful?
Here it is: one last golden opportunity to sell yourself.
Ultimately, financial professionals are in the business of people. You’ll need to master the ability to connect with clients quickly, so it’s important to show that same ability to connect during your interview. What is your strong suit? What can you really bring to the table?
“My biggest advice is to do your research and be yourself,” Olson said. “Be proud of who you are and then communicate that. If this is going to be a long-term relationship, it has to start with honesty.”