What Not to Say in a Finance Interview

You’re all dressed up in your best clothes.  You enter the interview room, offer a firm handshake and your best professional smile. You are, in other words, off to a fantastic start in your finance interview.

There’s only one problem.  You haven’t done a lot of company research.  After answering the first question, the feeling in the room becomes, well, awkward.

To avoid future missteps, here are some other phrases you might want to avoid saying.

Awkward Moment #1 – “Let Me Tell You About My Last Company…”
We’ve all had jobs where position wasn’t a fit for our current or future professional goals.  In an interview, avoid speaking badly about your former role. Focus, instead, on what you learned.  This will position you as a forward looking person who can grow from experience – something every company values.  And remember try and leave a role (if you can) with grace and class.

Awkward Moment #2 – “I Didn’t Get Along With…”
Complaining specifically about someone you worked with is not a good idea. Even if your previous manager could win “worst leader of the year” award, keep it to yourself.  You could make the person interviewing you wonder if you’re the difficult person to work with.

Awkward Moment #3 – “I Don’t Have the Experience You’re Looking For…”
A statement like, “I don’t have the experience you’re looking for,” puts a negative spin on the situation. Focus instead on talking about your transferrable skills.  Draw parallels with past projects or leadership opportunities. You need your future boss to be able to see you in the role.  Even if you’re a new grad, talk about your strengths and passion for the job. Stay positive above all else.

Awkward Moment #4 – “I Don’t Have a Weakness…”
The interview question, “Tell me about your weaknesses” can have us quietly panicking in our seats.  To then tell your future manager that you don’t have a weakness positions you as unaware, or worse, ego-driven – two red flags for a hiring manager.

It can also be tempting to talk about your perfectionism, or the fact that you’re an overachiever – two options that have been used too many times.  The reason you’re being asked this question is to see if you can learn from your mistakes.  The person interviewing you knows that you’re not perfect, so focus on what you’ve learned from a misstep and how it made you better at your job.

Awkward Moment #5 – “On My 4th Journey to the Jungles of Bourneo…”
There’s no doubt that stories can build rapport. But unless you’re interviewing for a travel site that focuses on jungle living, the story isn’t relevant.  Any story you tell must connect to the company’s needs and your ability to meet them.

Awkward Moment #6 – “Do You Promote Employees Quickly…?”
There’s nothing wrong with displaying an interest in advancing, but communicate it in such a way that you do not come across as impatient or entitled. For example, “I like to grow with companies. What do the career paths within the organization typically look like?”

And while asking how much vacation time you get, or peppering your answers with “like” or “um” will also not win the day, the six awkward moments above are definitely to be avoided.  So research the company, prepare your answers in advance and then dress to kill.  With the right approach you can be the candidate that signs on the dotted line.

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