Something you can always count on during a finance job interview is that the interviewer will at some point turn the tables and ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”
If you’ve come prepared you should have a few questions up your sleeve – but are they the right ones?
Why ask questions?
You may think the interview is already won or lost by this point, but there’s much to be gained for you and your potential employer by asking insightful questions.
It’s your opportunity to keep the power dynamic on equal footing, and to find out some inside info on the company, its staff, and the workings of their finance department. But most importantly, it’s the best chance you have to stand out from the pack and show your interviewer that you know finance, you understand the role, and you know what you’re doing.
The Four Questions You Should Ask
Don’t waste time with questions that are of little value and are just being asked for the sake of asking something. Use your chance to impress and gain valuable insight by asking the following four power questions.
1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first three months? Six months? Twelve months?
By asking this question, you show that you intend to add value to the finance department, right from the get go. When you know what’s expected in the short and longer term, you’re more prepared and have a better understanding of the role and what you need to do to contribute positively to the finance team.
Most of our clients are looking for candidates who will spend the first three months learning and evaluating the unique demands of their finance role, and who’ll be capable of creating sixty day action plans around engaging with stakeholders. After twelve months, the expectation is that you’ll be successfully handling projects and making inroads on other key performance measures.
2. What are the behavioural attributes that the top performers at this company share?
The answer to this will give you a clear indication of what the hiring manager values most in their finance team – and what you’ll need to express when you’re a part of it.
It could relate to creativity and process change, or the ability to create collaborative work environments to achieve group goals. There are many possibilities and knowing them upfront gives you an edge and shows your interviewer that you want to be amongst those at the top.
3. What’s the strategic direction of the finance department for the coming year?
This is a key question in finance. Is the department rationalising to reduce costs in the organisation? Or in acquisition mode? Is there M&A to drive growth? Or are they cutting back?
All finance departments have something in common: they provide financial insights for their company. Knowing if the business is in growth or rationalisation is important as it will influence the role you are hoping to fill, and give you a glimpse of what’s going on in the big picture. You’ll also get an idea of what’s needed from you in addition to your normal day-to-day tasks.
4. Ask the interviewer what keeps them at the company.
This question gives the manager the platform to express why they like their company and what keeps them there—and provides you with an insight into the company’s culture. It also sways the power balance in your favour and creates a more equal dynamic for the interview.
So what will you ask?
When preparing for your next finance interview, think about the questions you will ask—not just those you will answer. There is much to be gained when you nail this part of the interview. You stand out as a candidate that has thought deeply about the role, the company and the finance department – and show them that you want to be part of it.
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