3 Simple Tips to Beat Tough Finance Interviews (2024)

When looking for an entry-level job in finance, one big hurdle to clear is the interview. Finance is fast-paced and stress-inducing. An interviewer may want to test whether you can handle the heat. Knowing how to respond to different questions can be a huge advantage.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" and "What's your biggest weakness?" are obvious questions that arise in any job interview and have been covered in-depth elsewhere. In this article, we will focus on tips for answering the toughfinance-specific questions that an entry-level job candidate can expect to face.

Be Prepared to Discuss Current Events in the Markets

One challenge your interviewer faces is getting a read on which applicants have a true passion for the finance industry. Your resume is little help in this regard. An entry-level candidate isn't likely to possess a track record that demonstrates a commitment to finance. One way to gauge a candidate's level of passion is to ask questions about financial market conditions, big company news, current interest rates and so on.

The best way to be prepared is to regularly read financial news such as The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, or watch daily markets coverage from CNBC, Bloomberg and Cheddar. An interviewer may ask what financial news you follow and ask you to discuss a recent news story that interests you.

Know what's topical ingeneral financial news and specifically the area for which you are interviewing. Be prepared to discuss current interest rates on the benchmark treasuries, the federal funds target rate and what the Federal Reserve did at its last policymeeting, not to mention the current levels of the major stock market indexes, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Also, be prepared for the more theoretical questions that relate to your desired position. If you are interviewing for a job in fixed-income investing, an interviewer might ask you to explain the concepts behind duration, or how inflation will impact bond and stock prices. Make sure you know the major concepts and models in finance and that you can explain them coherently and intelligently.

Find the Answer to Brain Teasers by Simplifying the Terms

Another type of question posed by finance interviewers is the brain teaser. These questions may catch you off-guard, asthey have nothing to do with finance. However, finance is an extremely analytical profession, and the brain teaser is a good test of analytical ability. There are many questions you could be asked, so don't study answers for brain teasers. Instead, learning how to approach them is the real key. Let's look at a couple of examples:

An interviewer might say:

"Look at the clock. If the time were 3:15, what would the angle be between the minute hand and the hour hand?"

The brain teaser needs to be considered carefully. Take your time. Don't feel you need to give an answer in one second. The first instinct of many is to answer "zero" because it seems that both the hour and minute hand would be on the three. This is incorrect. The hour hand moves one-quarter of the way from 3to 4, as the minute hand moves one-quarter of the way around the clock from 12 to 3.

All it takes is a few simple calculations to arrive at the correct answer. There are 360 degrees on the face of the clock, and 12 numbers, so there are 30 degrees between any two numbers on the clock. Since the minute hand is on the three, the hour hand has moved 1/4 x 30 degrees away, which is 7.5 degrees.

Another possibility is a challenging math question. An interviewer could ask something like:

"What is 99 squared?"

A question like this may seem difficult, even usinga pen and pad to work through. But if you get a question like this, try to put it in simpler terms. Trying to calculate 99 squared in your head is somewhat difficult and might take a while.

However, an easier way to calculate it is to alter the question a bit. 99 x 99 is the same as (100 x 99) – 99. 100 multiplied by 99 is 9,900; take away 99, and you arrive at the answer: 9,801. With this method, 99 squared becomes a question you can do in your head in a few seconds. You can apply a method like this to many math questions. Just think things through, and put the question in simpler terms.

For 'Guesstimate' Questions, Focus on the Method

Guesstimates are another style of question that interviewers ask to try to unnerve you and test your analytical abilities. These questions are complete oddballs. As with brain teasers, the possibilities for different types of questions are endless, so being able to approach them correctly is the main hurdle. Let's look at an example:

An interviewer could ask:

"How many refrigerators are in the United States?"

The key to questions like these is to understand you are not expected to give a correct answer, but instead display the way you analyze situations. And the worst answer you could give is to spit back "200 million" immediately as a complete guess, since these questions are testing how your mind works.

Start with the fact that there are roughly 300 million people in the United States. From there, make assumptions about the average size of a family and how many refrigerators an average family might have (maybe 1.5, since some families have more than one).

You may also want to assume the number of people living alone that will likely have just one fridge. Ask if the interviewer includes commercial refrigerators for businesses, and if so, incorporate this into your assumptions.

Use numbers that will be round and easy to calculate. The assumptions will be crude and inaccurate but will demonstrate you can take many factors into account when performing analysis.

Take your time. Write down your assumptions and calculations to come up with an answer. Remember: the answer is not nearly as important as the method you use to arrive at the answer. Being able to work through questions like these with a pen and pad while outlining your steps to the interviewer will be impressive and get you one step closer to the job.

The Bottom Line

Some interviewers may attempt to stress you out during the interview process, but try to go into the discussion calmly and with a clear head. Remember to prepare well, be up to date on financial news, and know the cornerstones of finance. Show off your analytical skills—a rapid-fire response probably will not cut it. Take time to consider your answers, and give the interviewer a chance to observe how you think. Highlighting your analytical skills and ability to think things through can help set you apart in the interview, which will improve your chances of getting the job.

3 Simple Tips to Beat Tough Finance Interviews (2024)


What are 3 interview tips that will make your interview process a success? ›

During the Interview
  • Plan to arrive early. ...
  • Be prepared to summarize your experience in about 30 seconds and describe what you bring to the position.
  • Listen carefully to each question asked. ...
  • Remain positive and avoid negative comments about past employers.
  • Be aware of your body language and tone of voice.

Can you think of 3 key tips for a successful interview? ›

Review these strategies for the interview:
  • Be honest and think quickly.
  • Speak clearly and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Explain what you can do for the employer and why you want the job.
  • Remember to use good examples to illustrate your point and your skills.
  • Express yourself in a positive manner.

What is the best answer to why finance in an interview? ›

Here's an example of how to highlight your educational background in your answer:"I chose to study finance because I realized I was passionate about investing and excellent at investment strategies. I took capital markets, financial accounting, corporate finance, financial modelling, and portfolio management courses.

How to ace finance interview? ›

Six expert tips for your next finance interview
  1. Get to the point. ...
  2. Know your finances. ...
  3. Make yourself the added value. ...
  4. Talk confidently about the industry. ...
  5. Engage with the interviewer. ...
  6. Keep learning.

What are the 5 C's of interviewing? ›

These 5 Cs stand for Competency, Character, Communication Skills, Culture Fit and Career Direction. 1. Competency - having the requisite technical skill in performing the task is the key. Detective Tip: giving technical assessment during interview.

How to impress the interviewer? ›

How To Impress In An Interview?
  1. Perform adequate research on the company and the role. ...
  2. Dress appropriately. ...
  3. Arrive early and settle in. ...
  4. Greet the interviewers. ...
  5. Promote yourself. ...
  6. Ask engaging questions. ...
  7. Practice your responses to potential questions. ...
  8. Carry multiple printed copies of your application materials.
Jul 11, 2023

How to wow an interview? ›

How can I impress the interviewer with my answers?
  1. Be passionate. Have a positive attitude and be enthusiastic when talking about yourself and your career. ...
  2. Sell yourself. ...
  3. Tell stories. ...
  4. Ask questions. ...
  5. Ask for the job.
Jun 9, 2023

How to stand out in interviews? ›

7 ways to stand out from the crowd
  1. Add a personal touch. ...
  2. Do your research. ...
  3. Start doing the job already. ...
  4. Make use of your other skills and experience. ...
  5. Show your creativity. ...
  6. Show some grit and resilience. ...
  7. Demonstrate a growth mindset.

How to nail the interview? ›

How to nail an interview
  1. Do your research.
  2. Prepare an elevator pitch.
  3. Study your resume.
  4. Study the job description.
  5. Use the STAR method .
  6. Create a strong first impression.
  7. Be prepared for small talk.
  8. Body language.
Jun 9, 2023

What is a weakness for a finance interview? ›

1. Lack of self-confidence. A lack of self-confidence can make you hesitate to make important decisions. If you lack confidence, explain how you are working to overcome this, such as setting achievable goals, constantly training yourself and surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people.

What to say in a finance interview? ›

Explain what you enjoy most about finance to demonstrate your drive for this type of work and your motivation for doing it well. Example: "I chose to work in finance because I enjoy numerical puzzles. I enjoy how financial equations may have a single answer, but there are many ways to approach it.

How do you nail a finance manager interview? ›

Familiarize yourself with key financial concepts and terminologies. Collaborate with your finance department to understand the specific needs and challenges of the role. Additionally, prepare scenario-based questions to assess problem-solving and decision-making skills.

What is the most important financial statement interview question? ›

If I could use only one statement to review the overall health of a company, which statement would I use, and why? Cash is king. The statement of cash flows gives a true picture of how much cash the company is generating.

How do you nail a financial analyst interview? ›

How to prepare for a financial analyst interview
  1. Review the job description. ...
  2. Research the company. ...
  3. Review key concepts. ...
  4. Prepare for challenging interview questions. ...
  5. Consider your response to simple interview questions. ...
  6. Make a list of questions to ask.
Jan 26, 2023

What are the three 3 main parts of an interview? ›

An interview is structured into three parts:
  • Opening the interview and welcoming the candidate, outlining the purpose and structure of the interview.
  • The body of the interview. The fact finding part, ask questions and allow the candidate to answer.
  • Closing the interview.

What are the rules of 3 interview? ›

If you want to appear knowledgeable or otherwise prepared in a job interview and not embarrass yourself, try to know at least three different facts about anything that you claim to have knowledge of—whether you are the one being interviewed or doing the interviewing.

What are the three parts of an interview answer? ›

A simple formula to answering this question is to structure your response into three parts: present, past, and future. Present: speak a bit about who you are now, what is it that you do in terms of work or study, and perhaps share a recent accomplishment.

What are the three ways to answer interview questions? ›

Muse writer and MIT career counselor Lily Zhang recommends using a present, past, future formula. Talk a little bit about your current role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and experience you have that's relevant.

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