Questions to prepare for your interview

Remember that when being interviewed, it’s an opportunity for you to interview the hirer, the company, the values and the culture.

Splitting these up into sub-sections can be helpful in identifying what you want to learn, how to structure the questions and what it is you want to know in relation to various aspects of the job and the company.

Some of the sub-sections you make want to consider are:

Role responsibilities and Expectations

Questions about the Company

Company Culture

Interview Performance

  1. Role Responsibilities and Expectations

If the correspondence surrounding responsibilities or expectations have been vague or you want to learn more, these questions can help you make a furthered informed decision on workplace responsibilities.

What are the responsibilities and daily tasks expected within this role?

Asking in person can help give a detailed explanation past the job spec of what the day will really be filled with.

Are there any specific challenges within this role?

This can help give you a better understanding of the major parts of the role and challenging tasks that come with it.

What qualities do you think are important for success within this role?

A good way to understand if those are qualities you have and if you can align yourself with what is expected.

What is the typical career path/is there an opportunity for career growth?

What are your personal goals? Finding out if the company offer avenues in which you can grow and progress your career is worth knowing if that’s what you want to do.

What is expected from the successful candidate within the first 3 months?

This will further show what tasks from the role and in what time constraints you’ll be required to work. 

How will you measure success in this role?

If the job doesn’t have obvious success measures, knowing what to focus on, if progression is your goal, is worth knowing.

2. Questions about the Company

These questions can help bridge any gaps in knowledge you’ve previously researched and a chance to find out company knowledge from an employee who is likely to know more than what is presented online.

What are the company goals within the next 5 years?

If one of your goals is to stay with a company for a prolonged period, then understanding the business plans for growth can help you decide whether they align with your vision of professional development.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities/weakness’ facing the department/company?

A currently topical question considering continual uncertain political environments. This kind of question will offer insight on department/company focus. 

Consider if there are any uncertainties or missing links in your own company research, anything you would want to know more about and ask in the interview.

3. Company Culture

Company culture and values have become a key factor in the decision-making process in recent years. With employees valuing the importance of a positive culture, values, morals and practices.

Could you describe the company culture?

A way to understand the culture as viewed by an employee/director to help you assess whether you would fit in.

How would you describe the working company culture?

Differing slightly from the overall culture. A company may have a very social aspect but when working, a very conservative attitude. Some offices are very flexible and open whereas some are very structured and traditional. It’s good to know whether the culture aligns with your personal working style.

Does the company organise or plan social events/is the team social?

If the social aspect is important, ask at the interview. Is this an aspect the company organises or encourages? It can be a useful question in understanding the type of social and working relationships. 

4. Interview Performance

What are the next stages and timeline of the interviewing process?

This will not only show your eagerness but also give you an idea of what to expect if your successful.

If you’re interviewing for a sales position, we recommend asking:

From what you’ve seen today is their anything you’re unsure about?

This shows a straightforward attitude, your interest in the role and personal feedback. It also allows an opportunity to overturn any objections the interviewer may have suggested.

Is there anything else you would like me to clarify about my qualifications or experience?

This offers the hirer a chance to remove potential confusion or go over anything they may have forgotten.

Choose questions that are appropriate for your role, the company and what is relevant.

Remember that it is usually considered inappropriate to ask about salary and benefits until the final stage. Doing so can show that your primary motivation is money and not the job, even if it is, it’s best to wait to finalise this.

Prepare a range of questions, that way if some are answered through your interview you have a back-up. Aim to avoid obvious questions with simple answers, it can make you appear that you perhaps weren’t paying attention or are unable to work out simplicities.

Finally, ensure your questions are concise and clear and avoid answering or over-explaining the question. You don’t want to appear as if your waffling or uncertain. Also, Good Luck!

Competency-Based Interview Questions – A Guide

Competency based questions are frequently used within financial services, they show the hirer how you tackle various challenges at work and can help to gauge whether you will be an appropriate fit for the role and the team.

They are usually structured based on the job specifications and requirements and can be a random selection of open-ended questions. Making a note of skills and attitudes from the job spec, you can practice structured questions that are likely to be asked and prepare and learn these before your interview.

One of the most recommended means of answering these questions is to use the STAR method, which is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This technique is helpful in breaking down the question, creating a coherent response and ensuring your reply is brief, concise and relative.  

Using specific examples of previous situations will help you recall the information and highlight your capabilities to the hirer. (See our Infographic below)

SITUATION – What was the event that happened?

TASK – Explain your role in the situation, was there a problem or challenge that you needed to solve?

ACTION – Explain what action you used to overcome the situation or challenge?

RESULTS – What were the results? Use this factor to show your reflection and development and how your actions helped the company and those involved.

In the interview:

Think before answering the question, take your time to be concise and consider your answer. Calming your nerves and clearly understanding what is being asked of you should hopefully ease any jitters and avoid unnecessary rambling that misses the point.

We’ve listed below common behavioural interview questions relative to financial services;

  • Tell us about a time when you had to work as part of a team?
  • Tell us about a time you had to lead a team/take on a leadership role?
  • Tell us about a situation when you had to deal with an uncooperative member of a team?
  • Tell us about a time when you led a team efficiently?
  • Tell us about a time when you used logic to solve a problem?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to work under pressure and how you managed it?
  • Describe a time when you had to convince other staff and senior members of a new idea?
  • Describe a time that you’ve gone above and beyond your duty and how you did so?
  • Describe a time that you had to change your work schedule and how you effectively prioritised tasks?
  • How do you handle disagreements with colleagues?
  • Tell us about a time you’ve handled a difficult situation with a supervisor or senior staff?
  • Have you ever had to handle a difficult or challenging situation with a client or stakeholder?
  • Have you ever had a disagreement with your boss? How did you handle it?

Finally, be positive, let the answer flow and aim to avoid a mechanic reply, show you’re engaged and not reciting word for word and Good Luck!

If you do require extra information or help, contacting your recruitment consultant can be helpful in providing you with specific information!

How do I prepare for interview questions?

 ‘Winging’ an interview is never usually a good idea and its obvious to any recruiter or hirer when you arrive unprepared and lacking information. Considering the internet has a constant influx of information on interview questions, there really is no excuse not to brush up and put yourself that step ahead!

Some of the main questions appear simple, but practising them will help your confidence, show your preparation and highlight your knowledge.

Firstly, and often one of the most difficult questions, is ‘Tell me a bit about yourself?’  

This is NOT a question about your life story.

It relates to your professional development. Ensure that your key points align with job spec and requirements. Focus on key relevant points and competitive strengths and then turn this into a story.

Breaking down the question into key points will make it easier to recite and recall in an interview environment.

A great example can be found here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140707201224-6220028-how-to-answer-the-tell-me-about-yourself-interview-question/ , this article has a template to work from to help you build a strong and informative narrative.

‘What do you know about the company?’

This is your chance to show that you’ve researched the company.

Use the company website to find any information, such as structure, all areas of work, company history and any key points.

Googling the company is also useful to find if the company has undergone any mergers, change of staff and the effects this could have had.

 Finally, utilising LinkedIn, create an all-round knowledge of employees, roles and company information to show that you’ve explored various avenues of information.

‘Why do you want this role?’

Use this opportunity to study the job spec and apply your own experience to key responsibilities and skills or requirements listed.

Mention the company, use your previous research and apply it to an aspect of why it makes you want to work there; what does the company do?, what are their values?, do they have areas of expertise you want to learn?

Linking the two, will show that you’ve considered yourself working there, what you could bring and why the company works for you.

Align the role spec with your experience, pick a few key points and elaborate with an explanation as to why these tasks appeal to you and how you could confidently complete them. Keep this relatively short, as there will be an opportunity to delve into this further throughout the interview.

‘What would you bring to the company/ Why should we hire you?’

Tackle this question by splitting it in to two parts. What’s in it for the company and what’s in it for you?

Use examples to show that you will be the right candidate; dedicated, motivated and ready to learn.

Yet also show that aspects of the job will encourage your motivation and your professional and personal development.

When interviewing alongside other candidates, use aspects of the company’s purpose and values to show how you align with them and how they will aid your personal investment.

 This will help ensure you cover all factors that highlight your interest and enthusiasm for the company and how both you and the hirer will benefit.

‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’

Choose three of each (you may be asked to describe less, but it’s better to be over-prepared), no-one is interested in an exhaustive descriptive list. Three answers with an example for justification, will keep the answer relative, short and interesting.

If there is an opportunity to relate your strengths and weaknesses to the job requirements/or skills that would be beneficial to the role, then use this as another example to highlight your competency.

When answering weaknesses, follow the same structure. When giving an example show your reflection on the weakness and how you’re working to overcome it/what steps have you taken to improve in these areas.

‘How do you deal with Situation XYZ?’

In this question, the hirer is trying to get a feel for the way you deal and manage in varying situations. This could range from a time you helped to introduce new ideas, overcame difficultly or confusion with co-workers or even how you managed a conversation with senior team members.

One of the techniques we recommend for this question is the STAR method; SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT.

SITUATION: Use a situation from experience, with specific details.

TASK: What was your responsibility, how were you to perform in the situation?

ACTION: When describing how you overcome the obstacle or challenge, focus on your role and aid you had in the situation that brought about a change.

RESULT: Finally, what was the outcome? Emphasise your accomplishments or even what you learned from the situation and how it could be applied next time.

Should I use a recruitment agency?

Changing jobs or starting out on the job ladder can be a very impending and daunting step. The internet is flooded with job board sites, alongside LinkedIn, Google jobs and Facebook jobs. Reading through the necessities of each job spec, all demanding 2-3 years’ experience, certain degrees and certificates is a disheartening process. Where can a recruitment agency help?

We’ve collated feedback from a large selection of candidates and created a list of the advantages of using a recruitment agency based on their experience. So, if you’re unsure whether to contact a recruitment consultant or go it alone, perhaps some of these points below will help you decide!

Firstly, specialist recruitment consultants working within a niche sector can offer extensive and quality advice related to a vast range of various job roles. They can offer advice on key players and companies within the sector and any relevant news and information relating to the niche markets. Removing the search and trawl through industry news and job boards for suitable roles!

Consultants having strong and developed relationships with contacts in various blue chip and recognised companies allows them to better sell candidates into roles perhaps they wouldn’t have found or considered before. In various cases clients work solely with recruitment agencies, so working with them to find a new job can mean that registered candidates can be the first to hear about it and be the first to be put forward for interview if they match the credentials.

Writing your CV, as covered throughout our last posts, can be a difficult task when trying to include and summarise a life time of work and achievements. Recruitment consultants when presenting you for a role, contact you to help extract any extra information they feel would be relevant and combine this with your CV to re-write you a ‘candidate profile’.  Sharing only the information that employers want to see to help get you to the next stage!

Applying for roles and waiting to hear back and often not hearing back at all can be incredibly discouraging. Feedback has shown that one of the main benefits of using a consultancy is the communication throughout the process. Consistent updates through email or phone ensures candidates aren’t left in the dark.

Tests. A dreaded, yet common stage of interviewing within financial services, often in the form of competency, numerical and occasionally role play. A recruitment consultant working with a client knows what to expect. They know what kind of test to anticipate and the best ways to tackle it, all information that can help secure that coveted job role.

Finally, a benefit noticed by both clients and candidates is the recruiter’s ability to spot characteristics and abilities that would make a candidate a clear fit for a role. Attributes that can’t be found through reading a CV or can be easily missed.

How to write a Mortgage CV; Hints Tips and Common Mistakes

Firstly, your name and personal details should be some of the smallest writing on the CV. The recruiter isn’t interested in your contact details they’re interested in your skills and experience. Yes, you need to put your details on, but it shouldn’t look like your advertising a blockbuster movie. However, … Your skills and experience relevant to the role you are applying for are!

Add a punchy, relevant profile at the top of the CV highlighting what you do and how well you do it. It’s the first thing recruiters, look for. It determines how far into your cv is read.

Check for grammar and spellings. BASIC!! But all too often forgotten. It doesn’t matter what role you are applying for. Bad spelling and grammar are inexcusable while using a PC.

Avoid long lengthy paragraphs. Break text up.

Describe your duties and your achievements of your most recent role. To simply say you were a Mortgage Broker between these dates for this company says nothing.

Did you ‘complete a fact find’ or did you ‘effectively ask open and closed questions to ascertain the clients personal and financial situation to enable me to make a suitable and affordable recommendation to cover their wants and needs’.

State what levels of business did you write in the last 12-month period? Don’t know? Then find out. Your recruiter wants to know and so will your prospective employer. If your figures aren’t that great, then explain why… What’s your penetration rate, conversion rate, your average LTV, your average fee per case… all this is excellent sales information to a new employer, and it highlights to the recruiter who is actually writing business and who’s just after a new job.

What have been your career achievements? No matter how big or small, your CV is your chance to shine. Keep older job descriptions smaller.

Get yourself on LinkedIn. It’s your social media CV and should match exactly.

What not to do…

Add a picture

Use a silly email address

Use crazy colours

Use a skills graph

List your job with the oldest one at the start. It needs to be chronological (current job first) and make sure job gaps are explained

Use an unclear font. This is not acceptable…

Apply for a job that you clearly have no skill set, experience or desire for just because it’s a higher salary or closer to home!

How to Write a CV for a Pensions Administrator Role

Applying for a Pensions/Senior Pensions Administrator Role? We’ve identified some key points to include in your CV to help your application stand out from the crowd.

  1. It’s important to always remember to include the type of scheme that you work on in your CV, whether it’s, Defined Benefit, Defined Contribution, CARE, Hybrid, GPP, SIPP or SSAS. That way, when searching for your new role, a recruiter can quickly identify which role you would be best suited to.
  2. An extension of this is to include the size of scheme that you work on; is it small, medium or large? Is it your own portfolio or is it shared within the team? How many schemes do you look after? This information helps to establish your abilities and the level your working at and where your progression is heading.
  3. Whe writing your CV, it’s key to remember to include your primary responsibilities; Do you work on new joiners, leavers, deaths, retirals, transfers?  Including this shows the recruiter the range of administration tasks that you are competent with.
  4. Do you do any additional project work? If you do, add this to your CV! Any additional work is a great way to quickly show your competency in managing extra projects. Do you work on GMP Reconciliation, renewals, pension increases? Or do you help with staff training and management duties? Although these details may seem minor or lesser in comparison to other responsibilities, it shows prospective employers you are willing to take on extra tasks outside the norm and can manage an increased workload.
  5. Who are your main client points of contact? If you talk with IFA’s, employers, trustees or scheme members, include this information. It highlights your ability to communicate with a range of different third parties and create and maintain important relationships.
  6. Finally, what systems do you use? Profound, Altair, Aquila, Excel? Your understanding of how to use the systems can show prospective employers what you can currently utilise and what you may need to be trained on. Not all pension firms use the same systems, so it’s useful to know.

Finally, we’ve identified some common mistakes often found in CV’s when applying for pension administrator roles, all of which are easy to fix and improve before submitting your application!

  1. You forget to include enough detail regarding the size and types of schemes in the CV/you forget to include it at all.
  2. Your detail describing daily tasks is limited and could be expanded.
  3. The systems (such as Profound, Altair, Aquila) you’re familiar with isn’t listed on your CV.
  4. And a final common mistake is general untidiness and no start and end dates with past employers!