Questions to ask and avoid at finance interviews

Questions to ask and avoid at finance interviews

Interview preparation usually consists of candidates learning their CV front to back and formulating answers to commonly asked questions. Far too often applicants make the mistake of neglecting one of the most important parts of interview prep: devising insightful questions to ask the interviewer.

While the interviewer’s purpose is to find out more about your experience and asses your overall suitability for the team and for the role, it’s important for you to remember that interviews are not supposed to be one-sided conversations. They provide you with the opportunity to learn more about the team and the business, as well as the challenges and expectations associated with the role.

The job ad or a quick internet search will likely resolve some of your more basic queries, but insightful questions about the company culture or internal processes that will determine whether this really is the right job for you can only be answered at interview.

  • Questions to ask at interview

    To kickstart your interview preparation, we have compiled some of the best questions to ask at interviews – as well as some that you would be wise to avoid.

    Can you describe a typical day in this position?

    While you should already understand the broad responsibilities of the role, this question gives you the opportunity to learn more about specific day-to-day duties. Not only does this give you a better idea of whether the role is for you, but also allows you to reiterate your relevant experience carrying out similar tasks.

    What is the relationship like between finance and the rest of the business?

    An understanding of how finance is perceived by the broader business can signpost the kinds of challenges you can expect to face, especially if you are coming in at a senior level. This question also has potential to start a conversation about wider politics within the organisation.

    What do you anticipate being the biggest challenges coming into this role?

    Discussing the positive aspects of the role is always much easier for the interviewer than talking about potentially negative attributes. Asking about the challenges should permit a more balanced and complete picture.

    What do you expect the successful candidate to achieve over the first 3/6/12 months in position?

    Understanding the employer’s short and mid-term expectations of their new hire is key in deciding whether this is the role for you. Additionally, this line of questioning can open a dialogue about the business’ wider plans and your potential progression prospects.

    What are the qualities you are looking for in a successful candidate?

    While you should already have a good idea of what the employer is looking for, this question allows you to address any reservations the interviewer may have about your suitability and confirm anything that may have been missed out or misunderstood.

    When can I expect to hear from you? or What is the next stage of the interview process?

    Demonstrate your enthusiasm and eagerness by enquiring about the next stage of the recruitment process or when the company expect to make a decision. This also allows you to start preparing for any next steps.

  • Questions to avoid at interview

    Broadly speaking, the questions you ask at interview should be about the job, the company and the value that you can add – not about how the job will benefit your life. When it’s your turn to ask questions, steer clear of topics like:

    • Salary
    • Holiday allowance
    • Benefits
    • Working hours and breaks
    • Flexible working or remote working

    Ideally, conversations about salary, benefits and working arrangements should be had with your recruitment consultant or after a job offer has been made.

  • Final tips

    • One of the biggest errors you can make is asking questions that could easily be answered by the company website or job description. It will be glaringly obvious that you have not done your research and the interviewer will have good reason to believe that you are not seriously interested in the role.
    • Ensure the questions you are asking are open-ended so that the interviewer can provide you with detailed responses and a real two-way conversation is achieved.
    • Try not sound like you are reciting a script. If one of the interviewer’s answers begs another question that you had not previously considered, don’t be afraid to ask it.
    • If your question is lengthy and complex, break it down into parts and ask one at a time.

    Feigning interest in a company or job is easy – but it’s also easily spotted by an interviewer. By asking considered, insightful questions you will be showing that you have done your research and you are taking this process seriously, ultimately marking yourself as a frontrunner.

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