Common finance interview questions and sample answers

By Robert Half on 25 May 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

If you’re considering a career in the finance sector, what can be expected is a dynamic work environment and an attractive salary. A critical function in any organisation, finance roles see one of the highest demands in Hong Kong, providing some 276,200 jobs.

Essential to the smooth running of the organisation’s financial aspects, a junior finance role provides financial and administrative support to business management teams, clients and more. Looking to climb the corporate finance ladder? Got the CFO position in your sights? Then nailing common interview questions is a good place to start.

Related: See all the recent trends in finance and accounting in the Robert Half Salary Guide.

How can you land a role in finance?

In order to land your dream finance job, the first step is to ace the interview. Start with researching the company and, if it is publicly listed, going through their financials. If you’re interviewing at a smaller company, search for general media coverage, industry news, and recent events. These insights could then help you answer, and ask, questions about the company.

Next, get a better understanding of the role you are interviewing for. While the job description covers the basic requirements and responsibilities, examine what the company is looking for in terms of soft skills, knowledge, and abilities. This helps you to position yourself as a value add when being interviewed.

With all this information, you’d be able to work in examples of what you know into your answers. Put yourself to the test with our top five common and frequently asked finance interview questions and answers.

5 common finance interview questions and answers

While there isn’t a right or wrong, some practice and a detailed look at some finance interview questions and answers can help you prepare a better, more informed response.

1. Tell us more about yourself

A standard opening question posed to candidates, kickstarts things and helps the manager get a quick idea of who you are and your career to date. The first question is also a good opportunity for you to stand out as a candidate and leave a positive impression.

Example response:

The last 3 years have seen me working as a finance executive at X. Before that, I was a junior accountant in a large team at X.

During my time with X, the type of work I enjoyed most was bringing clients through the budgets I co-created, which can be quite complex. I also get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my efforts contribute to the company’s growth.

At this point, I feel I am ready for a more challenging job. I am interested in expanding my budgeting and risk assessment skills, which is why I am keen to work here.

Related: Need a hand with your introduction? See how to best introduce yourself in a job interview

2. Your job will require you to work with financial statements, what can you tell about them?

A technical question to help managers gauge a candidate’s knowledge of the field. The answer should contain a brief introduction, the purpose of the three financial statements, and prior experience in the three.

Example response:

Knowing this is an integral part of my role as a X, the three financial statements are the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. A balance sheet shows what the company’s assets are, its liabilities, and its shareholder’s equity. The income sheet presents the company’s revenue, expenses, and net income. And lastly, the cash flow statement details the company’s cash inflows and outflows in areas of operations, investment, and financing activities. During my time at X, I have worked with all three of these financial statements along with my team to analyse the organisation’s financial health.

3. What would your ideal budgeting process look like?

This question tests your knowledge of budgeting procedures. While answers can be subjective, the common elements remain: a buy-in for all departments, has been risk-adjusted, and tied to the company’s strategic plans.

Example response:

When I am budgeting for the company, I would first get a grasp on the company’s financial needs and the strategic plans for the present and the future. This gives a clear picture and allows for full control of the expenses. During this process, I will take into consideration all the departments’ needs to make the budget as inclusive and comprehensive as possible. My yearly iterations would then build on this first budget while adjusting for new factors.

4. How would you come up with a good financial model?

Here you get to show your practical understanding and knowledge and focus the answer on features of a good financial model: flexibility, based on the company's historical information, and a streamlined design.

Example response:

When coming up with a financial model, the first thing I would do is conduct thorough research of the company’s financial history, look into its past performance and come up with future projections. The model will be flexible to account for cash flow projections, inventory level, rate of inflation, and more. Finally, I would ensure that the model is well-designed and organised to give readers a clear understanding of the output and the results.

5. If you were hired, how would you improve operational efficiency?

With this question, managers want to gauge a candidate's ability to adapt to new surroundings, as well as their understanding of operational processes. A good answer would include ideas on improving efficiency, knowledge of the role, and any prior experience in the role.

Example response:

For me, the first step would be to understand the current level of operations and the processes in place. Then, I would discuss with the team, and get an idea of the operational bottlenecks in the current system and how we can improve them. I would then try to automate any manual processes that would help in streamlining the overall workflow.

Hiring managers look for candidates who are well-researched and have a firm grasp on what is expected from them in their role. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the common finance interview questions and answers above, you’d be better prepared to ace the interview for your dream role.

Ready to kickstart your finance career? Or already hunting for your next career opportunity? Apply for a job or submit your resume today and one of our specialised finance consultants will work with you to find the right role for your career.

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