There are several different types of interviews you may face in the recruitment process. Here we highlight the main types you can expect and how to prepare for each one.
The telephone interview forms the first part of many recruitment processes, such as that of Deloitte. Lasting anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes they are normally with a member of HR and are increasingly used by employers to cut costs and screen applicants. Questions tend to focus on your career motivation, reasons for applying to the company, and your competencies. Often you will also be asked to talk about a commercial issue that has caught your attention – so do your preparation by reading up on recent cases or deals. As much as your answers are important, phone interviews are also a good test of your communication and professionalism. Speak slowly and clearly and make sure you are in a quiet spot. As informal as your interviewer may be, keep the small-talk to an appropriate level.
For the vast majority of companies at least one interview will be devoted to assessing your competencies. Questions will probably be along the lines of “Tell us a time when you did x” with x likely to be something along the lines of teamwork/leadership/resilience/initiative and so on. Often these first questions will lead into more probing questions, so really think about the various challenges you faced and how you overcame them in each situation. Answers to likely competency questions should be something you think about in advance as it can be surprisingly hard to pluck one example out of your wide range of experience on the spot. Make sure you articulate the situation clearly, stating exactly what it was you did. It goes without saying that your answer to a competency question should paint you in a positive light.
Partner – or senior management – interviews have the tendency to intimidate candidates but reports suggest they can actually be among the more enjoyable. Usually coming in to play at the latter stages of the recruitment process – Travers Smith is one example of a firm who are an exception – you’ll normally only face senior staff when you’ve jumped through several hoops already.
Partner interviews can be hard to prepare for as the style and nature of questions will depend on the interviewer in question (as opposed to an HR style set list of competency or ‘why x’ questions). However, you’ll do well to know your CV and what makes you an interesting and relevant candidate, and to be up to date with current affairs. By the time you have reached this stage you’ll likely have already demonstrated that you fit the criteria of the firm so the focus is on building a rapport. Appearing engaged, articulate and interested will get you a long way, as will asking thoughtful questions. This is your chance to talk to someone high up in the organisation you want to work for, and convince them that you’d be a good fit.
Technical interviews are more common in finance than other sectors so will likely revolve around technical questions about financial markets or certain calculations. Candidates will likely be set a mathematical problem such as market sizing. Employers will be looking for you to ask appropriate, probing questions and demonstrate an ability to do simple mental arithmetic. Make sure you’re hot on those time tables!
While the majority of interviews are conducted on a one to one or two to one basis, a few including BNP Paribas and the Civil Service Fast Stream opt for a panel format. Somewhat predictably this involves sitting before a number of interviewers, the purpose being to get as many opinions on your performance as they can. The downside of this format is that you need to build a rapport with, and win over, a larger number of people. Watch out for your body language and make sure you don’t just focus on one or two members of the panel.