Before you become a finance intern, you first have to interview well enough to have an organization hire you. Internship interviews can be nerve-wracking, but this guide offers advice to help you prepare for the finance internship interview and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
Brush up on your technical finance skills and concepts. Before the day of your interview, refresh yourself with common finance problems or processes with which you could be tested. Wall Street banks are known for asking intern candidates to orally walk through finance processes. “How do you get from revenue to free cash flow?” “How does $100 of depreciation expense impact the three major financial statements?” You can expect questions as fundamental as what you would learn in an introduction to finance class, or questions that dig into advanced processes that you would learn in high-level college courses. Not every interviewer will demand perfect and instant answers, but they do want to know how familiar you are with the field in which you are applying.
Evaluate yourself. What are you good at? What makes you different from every other candidate who is applying for this internship? What soft skills, personality traits, passions, and values do you bring to the table that others don’t? Write these down. Envision ways you can demonstrate or bring attention to these in the interview—it is critical the interviewer sees what makes you special.
Think back. What roles or projects in your previous work experience or school history can relate to what you’ll be doing in your internship? It’s a good idea to write these down ahead of time and bring them to the interview for reference.
Research the company. What is their business model? Who is their executive leadership? What’s been happening in the organization lately? How has their stock price performed over the past five years or the past six months? Showing your interviewer that you know about their company will save them some time in the interview and demonstrate that you came prepared.
Study the industry. Is the internship you are applying for with the finance department of a corporation? Is it with a financial planning or advising firm? Is it with a large bank? Those are all very different internships. By studying the environment, the competition, and the market in which the firm does business, you’ll be more confident and prepared for conversation in the interview.
Practice answering interview questions. A quick Google search will help you find the most common and tricky internship interview questions. Many people and websites will tell you exactly what to say to “best” answer these questions. Take those for what they’re worth, but remember to answer questions truthfully and with your own personality. That’s what makes you unique! One universally accepted way to answer behavioral or situational questions is to use the STAR technique. When asked a question about times or events in the past, lay out the situation, describe the task at hand you were faced with, detail the actions you took to solve the task, and explain the result of your actions. This is a savvy way to calmly navigate through a tough question and demonstrate competence.
Prepare some questions. Think ahead of time about the company or the position. At the end of the interview, if these have not been addressed, ask your interviewer. Consider questions such as:
When asking questions, it’s important to be curious and personable. The interviewer will be able to tell if you actually care or not. Having questions for the interviewer shows you are prepared, truly interested in the position, and have the confidence to ask questions on the job.
Dress professionally. This means doing (or not doing) all the things you’ve heard a hundred times...iron your clothes, don’t chew gum, sit up straight, leave your phone in the car, don’t go overboard on cologne or perfume. These small things may seem trivial, but they can sometimes make the difference between a good first impression and a bad one.
Brand yourself appropriately. Remember that every second you are in the employer’s facility, you are essentially building your reputation. Someone is always watching, ready to give feedback to the hiring manager. Make sure you are professional, kind, and respectful—from the front door to the lobby to the interview and back out the door.
Relax and have confidence in yourself! Have some fun and remember to smile. Realize that your goal in the interview is to make it as hard as possible for them to not hire you. You prepared yourself, you practiced, and now it is the time to perform. Stay in the moment and take time to give thoughtful responses. Do your best, and you’ll be just fine.
There are additional things you can do besides acing your interview. Get even more information about getting a finance internship here.
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