Finance is a broad term that covers employment positions in banking – both investment and retail, corporate finance and other financial services. Finance interview questions will vary based on the industry and type of position for which you are applying. Typical interview questions will fall in one of two formats – business cases or word problems.
Business cases were made famous by Harvard University when they incorporated them into their teaching curriculum. Information about a company is presented and then discussion ensues based on what the company has done right or wrong and what the company should due in the future based on the information given. During your interview you will be given the financial picture of a company and then several questions will be asked based on the information you are given.
If you are given a business case question, you should immediately start taking notes so you can remember the financial details that are presented. You can make quick calculations on your sheet to help prepare yourself for the answers to questions. Talk out loud as you make your calculations so your interviewer can get hear your reasoning process. Letting your interviewer understand how you arrive at an answer is sometimes more valuable than the knowledge that you got the question correct. You can be expected to answer multiple questions from a single business case that you are given. Business cases are designed to look your financial and technical knowledge.
Word problems are similar to business cases but the information is usually given in one or two sentences. You will be asked only one question from the word problem. If necessary write down the information to derive your answer. Sometimes word problems can be tricky so be sure to listen to the question and never assume anything in formatting your answer. Word problems are designed to see how well you can think about your feet and quickly respond to a situation that might arise in the position. Companies are interested in employees that are able to quickly grasp a problem and solve it.
Now that you know the format of the general questions you will be asked during your interview, you need to prepare for them. The only way to prepare for a business case is to review financial formulas and how to calculate them. If your university does not use business cases in their curriculum, purchase sample business cases and go through them to prepare you for this format. Once you have worked the answers to the business case, check them with the answers. Spend time focusing on areas that you are missing in the business cases
Most book stores will sell word teaser books that you can read. The main goal of asking a word problem is to see how you will react to the question that either is difficult to answer or impossible for you to know the answer. When you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, do not panic. Instead try to think through the answer using logical scenarios. How you attempt to solve the problem is more important than either or not you know the true answer.
Finance interview questions fall into one of two categories. Being prepared for these two types of questions will help you master your finance interview.