Thinking out loud

Key Areas and Possible Questions in a Graduate Finance Job Interview

So, you’ve got to the interview? Congratulations – you’re one step closer to grabbing that dream position you’ve been looking for! But, steady on a second, this is going to be the biggest test yet. The interview is one of the trickiest parts of the recruitment process to nail – but here at AllAboutFinanceCareers, we’re here to help you get across the finish line. As such,  we’ve located some key areas, researched some common questions, and thought about how you should be looking to answer them. So, without further ado:

Teamwork – Every company wants people who are useful both as a leader and as a team player, so a combination of these two questions is something you need to get used to, quick sharp.

When have you led a team? Almost any job in the financial sector is going to require leadership at certain points. Not only does your leadership ability show that you have the potential to manage people someday, but it displays your comfort with responsibility. Here, you should use a relatively recent example that displays your complete skill set – narrate your story in an interesting and concise way, whilst making sure you clearly lay out your objectives in the task and how you completed them.

Tell us about a time where you worked as part of a team. What role did you play? It’s also crucial to be able to work as part of a team, and therefore not try and muscle in and tell others what to do all the time. You’ll be working as a cog in a huge machine, so your ability to function alongside others is key. You don’t need to prove your leadership abilities in this question, just your interpersonal skills – so show you can listen, absorb information and then fulfil instructions independently for the sake of any given project, by talking about how your role helped a wider effort to succeed.

Industry. Employers will want you to have a real interest in the industry you’re applying for, and that you’ve done your homework on their particular firm. Obviously then, this is all about getting the groundwork in – do your research, think about it properly, and this will be a breeze.

Why are you interested in our company in particular? This is one simply to assess your motivation.  Any given firm are going to be looking for people who actively want to work for them, rather than just any old company in an industry. If you can demonstrate your research to the employer, you’ll be on the up here, so talk about anything you’ve found in your trawls through the internet, including the company’s competitors and culture. If you know about projects they’re undertaking, that’s a gold star for you.

What do you think caused the financial crisis? As you might imagine, this is a fairly new one to the interview canon, but it’s an interesting question nonetheless. What the interviewer is trying to glean from you is your knowledge of the industry, and whether you have a long-standing interest or just one because you’re trying to get a job. Show some depth, talk about things impartially and sensibly, and this one will be just fine. Be careful though, and remember the industry you’re applying for – try to not blame the people you want to employ you!

Competency – Interviews are mainly about selling yourself, so getting this part right is a huge factor in succeeding. Competency questions are full of hazards that are easy to trip over, but they’re also a brilliant platform to display how fantastic you are, so don’t be afraid to showcase your abilities.

What do you feel are your key strengths and weaknesses? The employer is going to want to see the skill set that you can bring to the table, if they’re asking this question. It’s important to ensure that  your strengths are backed up by concise, relevant examples, and it goes without saying that you should spend more time talking about what you’re good at. When it is time to talk about your ‘human failings’, show that you have learned from making mistakes previously and that you have plan to be able to sidestep any issues that come at you in the future.

Tell us a little bit about yourself? This is the scourge of the potential employee, the eternally tricky interview question. Many people struggle with this one, so relax, you’re not weird or stupid. We’d really suggest that you get this one learnt before you go into the interview room, and that way you’ll be all prepped should it arrive without warning.  Think about your personal traits that are relevant to the job and then work them into an answer that fully demonstrates your experiences. Don’t, however, get too personal and start talking about your family dynamics or a great night out you had with your mates – simply put, you should be talking about your employability and skills in a friendly dialogue. Problem solved.

Written by Jay Collins – Editor at


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