Dare to be Different: Stand Out from Other Finance Leaders at Interview

The reason most people dislike interviews is because they feel outside of their comfort zone. Even for the lucky ones of us that don’t mind the format of an interview, the formulaic nature of the ‘best way’ to answer quite tedious behavioural questions can feel unnatural. Mainly, it’s because you have to talk about things in a way you wouldn’t normally. In a typical interview, you are asked to talk through examples from your experience in a way you wouldn’t in your day to day job – usually by framing them to demonstrate certain prescribed behaviours or competencies, rather than just stating the facts of it like you might in a meeting.

This process can go too far, and doesn’t always get the results either party intends. As an interviewee it’s easy to lose ‘yourself’ in this process, and likewise, when you’re on the other side of the table, after hearing perfectly framed competency answers one after the other, things (and people) can start to blur into one. So how can you stand out?

Think forward, not backwards: prepare your own induction plan

One of the biggest oversights people make in an interview is only preparing to talk about their past. Sure, answers rooted in experience may demonstrate a level of competency, but what’s to say that the way that you did something a number of years ago will work now? Additionally, by knowing exactly what is being asked of you, by thinking through the detail of a 30 60 90-day plan, you will be able to better ‘match’ your previous examples to the present challenges of the company you’re interviewing with.

What are the business’ challenges and opportunities?

We all know it’s not enough as a financial professional – at any level – to remain separate to the ‘business’, so if you want to make an impact and be seen as a leader you have to show your strategic and commercial potential. Scope out how your role interacts with the business, and how the plan of the business and the market it operates in might interact with your role. What challenges and opportunities might you face, and how might you overcome or leverage them?

Be consultative: act how you would in a business meeting

It’s easy to be reactive in an interview, but it won’t secure you the role. Of course, you must answer the questions that are asked of you, but make sure you make the most of every single opportunity to engage and ask questions. Take the same approach to an interview that you would in a business meeting – with a stakeholder, customer or supplier – the more you know about their business issues and challenges, the bigger impact you can make by talking about the right aspects of your offering.

Analyse your own skills gaps and professional development path

It’s critical to understand your weaknesses, and how to counter them in interview. Actually demonstrating the ability to analyse your weaknesses and suggest a path to correcting them not only shows integrity it also shows good self awareness, and solid leadership skills. Just make sure whatever you say is fixable – where you can, use practical skills or knowledge based flaws as it will be easier for you to prove how you can overcome them, either through learning, research or training. Steer well away from soft skills or character based weaknesses as they are highly subjective, and they might just cost you the interview.

Ask what the next steps are and agree an action plan

Finally, if you really want to stand out, take control and close your own deal. Most people don’t make this final step and leave the end of an interview quite open in terms of ‘waiting’ for feedback. Ask what the next steps are and confirm an action plan. If you can, exchange business cards, as it provides an informal opportunity to contact you with any concerns, last minute questions, or requests for further information, which might just be all you need to turn a great impression into a fantastic job offer.

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