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6 expert tips for your next finance interview

Despite uncertainty rippling through the global financial services sector — fuelled, in part, by the upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic — the finance sector remains a competitive industry for workers.

This competitiveness is never more evident than when you’re trying to land a new role. But to help you out, we’ve asked some of our financial industry experts for their insight on how you can land your new financial job.

Get to the point

“List out your past projects and achievements, but always keep your CV concise and easy to read,” advises Aureen Na, senior consultant at Robert Walters’ commerce finance division in Indonesia. “Qualifications such as the CFA or CPA will also set you apart, so be sure to include those.” Hiring managers may consider many candidates, so keep your CV succinct and refrain from including too many bullet points.

“It’s also essential to tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for, so you make a better case for why you’re a good fit for the company.” To cap it off, Aureen shares that you should always proofread your CV before sending it out. Aside from checking for grammar and formatting, consider making a round of checks so that information is conveyed with brevity. 

Know your finances

The most important bit of research a finance candidate can do is to look into the financial health of the company they’re applying for, advises Phill Westcott, commerce director in Robert Walters’ London office. “Analyse the company’s accounts over a three- to five-year period and let this form some of the questions you ask in the interview, such as ‘what has contributed to 10% growth year-on-year over the last three years?’ or ‘why did revenue drop last year?’ This will highlight your knowledge of the company.”

The expectations for senior-level roles are more rigorous, adds Aureen. “You’ll need to be able to talk about the business itself, so definitely conduct deep research into the company you’re interviewing for. For roles at the CFO level, be prepared to share what you’ve done for your current or previous companies to demonstrate you’re up to the job.”

Make yourself the added value

“Hiring managers don’t want you to recite your CV in an interview, they have it in front of them,” warns Phill. “Instead, focus on the nuances of your own achievements and how they’ve had an impact in previous companies.” Make yourself the added value, he adds, particularly when it comes to showing off what soft skills you could bring to a role.

“The finance function is evolving and business partnering skills are increasingly in demand,” explains Aureen. “Particularly in commercial finance or if you’re a finance business partner, companies are looking for candidates with a good balance of technical and personal skills.” More than ever before, you can stand out as a valuable candidate by having strong communication and stakeholder engagement skills.

Talk confidently about the industry

“In Indonesia, smaller companies are also beginning to shift towards a business partnering model that many FMCGs and pharmaceutical companies have adopted. This is one of many industry trends that candidates should be aware of and speak about,” Aureen suggests. “Try to understand where the company you’re interviewing at fits into the larger context of the industry and if the role matches your desired growth trajectory.” 

The key is to come across as informed about the industry beyond the day-to-day work, Aureen says. “For instance, with COVID-19, companies are working out new ways of doing work online. This has quickened the pace of technology adoption and automation.”

Engage with the interviewer

As well as highlighting your experience and skills, Phill reminds his candidates how important it is to connect with the hiring manager on a human level. “Try not to approach an interview as simply a ‘process’. Instead, try and engage with the interviewer on a personal level, involving yourself in small talk and giving them a chance to see the ‘real you’”.

“At an appropriate time, ask the interviewer about themselves, about their own interests and background in the financial field,” he suggests. “This will not only encourage them to naturally warm up and engage with you, but could also stimulate some healthy discussion about finance in general, which could give you the opportunity to show off some of your skills, views and knowledge of the sector.”

Keep learning

There’s a fine line between presenting your experience and appearing over-confident, warns Phill, so make sure you show the hiring manager you have a willingness to keep learning and developing your skills in a new role. “Just remember to present your existing skills competently, and elaborate using clear, concise examples.”

The interview is an opportunity for the candidate to assess the business and the role, so don’t be shy about asking questions that help you to do that. Aureen recommends asking the interviewer questions about expectations of the role, and the potential career trajectories for the candidate in the role. “This is a good way to show that you’re thinking long-term and really seeking to learn what the role is about beyond the job description.”

Lastly, candidates can also benefit by being adaptable to industry changes. “A lot of businesses have begun streamlining their operational finance work to overseas markets,” Aureen notes. “Be open-minded heading into your interviews, and don’t be afraid to take up global, shared services roles. They can provide you with great exposure to new experiences!” 

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