Financial analysts, like business analysts, are in high demand by companies of all types and sizes across industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that financial analyst jobs will grow at a rate of 12 percent through 2024 — faster than average for all positions. And the latest Salary Guide from Robert Half lists financial analyst as one of this year’s hottest accounting and finance jobs. It’s also a role experiencing a dearth of available candidates; the BLS reports the fourth quarter unemployment rate for these professionals was 1.0 percent.
Despite this supply-and-demand issue, businesses are typically very selective when hiring financial analysts and will put candidates through a rigorous job interview process. They are thorough with their due diligence because they usually expect financial analysts to do much more than just analyze financial plans, forecasts and reports. For example, these professionals are now often asked to interpret financial data to identify trends and potential risks and to share those insights with senior management who, in turn, apply them to business decision-making.
As for skills, financial analysts must be able to communicate effectively across all levels of the company. They are in a highly visible job and need to interact frequently with executive management, project team leaders and others. Many employers also look specifically for financial analysts who possess solid business analytics skills, as well as the ability to think strategically. IT knowledge is also valuable, as many firms now look to both financial analysts and business analysts to collaborate with IT management on major technology initiatives, like cloud migrations.
Preparing for financial analyst interview questions
Even though the expectations for and responsibilities of financial analysts can vary by company, there are several questions you are likely to hear in any interview for this job. Below are five common financial analyst interview questions, along with some advice from Robert Half Management Resources workplace experts on how to prepare for them. Here are the first three examples:
1. Describe the processes you use to create financial analysis reports.
2. Can you explain financial models?
3. Which methodologies do you utilize during financial analysis?
Shiela Duggan, Robert Half Management Resources senior vice president and division director in King of Prussia, Pa., recommends that financial analysts cite specific examples from their work experience when answering these questions during the interview. Doing so will help to underscore your real-world knowledge of financial analysis. “Be concise when providing examples, but elaborate enough to show your overall understanding,” she says.
4. What types of certifications and credentials have you earned?
In-demand certifications, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), help to underscore your financial knowledge and expertise as well as demonstrate a commitment to learning. Credentials that certify proficiency with business intelligence and reporting and financial management solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics GP and Hyperion are also highly valued, and even required, by many employers. So, too, are exemplary software skills, especially Microsoft Excel skills.
IT-related certifications such as the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) designation from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) program from ISACA can also give you an edge in the hiring process.
Greg Lainas, CPA, senior vice president for Robert Half Management Resources in Hartford, Conn., says, “For most organizations today, IT and capital spend go hand in hand. If candidates for financial analyst jobs have IT and finance knowledge, along with financial planning and analysis skills, companies want to talk to them.”
There are also some basic credentials for the financial analyst job that you might be asked about during the interview, even if you already outlined them in your resume. For example, employers typically look for candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field. For senior-level roles, candidates with MBAs are often preferred.
5. What do you think was your most successful project and why?
The answer you provide to this type of question depends on your personal experience working in financial analyst roles, of course. However, the job description, as well as the homework you do on the company in preparation for the interview, can provide clues as to what project the employer would likely want to hear about most.
For example, if you interview with a small but fast-growing company, you might explain how you helped a startup with revenue and expense projections that enabled the firm to expand its operations successfully — and sooner than expected. When sharing your example, be sure to explain how you gathered the information necessary to develop the projections, and how you ultimately communicated that information to stakeholders (such as through a presentation or in a written report).
“Successful financial analysts are adept at developing collaborative work relationships with people throughout the organization who have access to the information they need for analysis,” says Lainas.
He adds, “Communication abilities are vital for financial analysts, as are other soft skills. In fact, these skills can be a deciding factor in the hiring process when an employer is evaluating two candidates with similar technical skills for a senior-level job. You will find that most senior financial analysts have very good presentation skills.”
Want to find out what types of questions an employer might ask in the job interview for a senior financial analyst position? View our slideshow.
Preparing for a first financial analyst interview
What about accounting and finance professionals who are looking to move into a financial analyst position for the first time? How can they demonstrate to a current or potential employer that they are capable of making this transition?
“Be prepared to articulate why you want to move into financial analysis and, maybe more importantly, how you can make the leap,” says Cynthia Ritter, former vice president and CFO at security systems company Tyco International. “State examples showing commensurate experience you may have had in your previous role that will apply to the one you’re applying for now. You have to prove to the employer that you have the fundamental skills on which they can develop you.”
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