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The Most Common Finance Interview Questions and How to Prepare for Them

Woman waiting for her finance job interview in a chair
By: Kaplan Financial Education
March 7, 2019

If you’re in your final year of college, or you’ve recently graduated, chances are you’re dedicating a good portion of your life to searching for jobs, polishing and distributing your resume, and preparing for the ultimate nerve-test: the job interview. Interviews come with inherent pressure, stress, and mystery. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary part of the job hunting process. The good news is you don’t need to love job interviews to be successful in them. You just need to know how to prepare.

We talked with Clay Skurdal, COO of Advisors Ahead, about the most critical and commonly asked finance job interview questions. Advisors Ahead provides a bridge between finance students and the financial services industry, ensuring recent graduates come into the business with the training and background it takes to be productive on day one. Clay has sat across the desk from thousands of job seekers, and he knows what it takes for an applicant to stand out from the pack.

Here are Clay’s top four finance interview questions you should be prepared to be answer.

1. Why do you want to start a career in the financial services industry?

The worst thing you can do when you’re asked this question is to deliver a safe, meaningless answer. The interviewer is trying to figure out what makes you “you.” Telling the interviewer that you want to help people won’t make you stand out. If you say you want to help people, the interviewer might ask you why, and might continue to ask you why until they get to the core of your motivation.

The best way to prepare for this question is to write a “passion essay” on why you want to get into the business. Write your real story. Did your family go through a tough financial period that inspired you to learn about money management? That’s the kind of honesty the interviewer is looking for. There are as many answers to this question as there are applicants for the position you’re interviewing for, so the only wrong answer is a non-answer.

2. What are you most proud of in the last 12 months, and why?

This question is intended to get a better idea of who you are as a person, and find out what you’re passionate about. It could be an exam or paper that you worked hard for and did exceptionally well on. It could be a problem you solved in your internship or your night job. It could also be an example from your personal life. This question helps the interviewer understand who you are and what you value. It also shows them that you have the ability to set and accomplish goals.

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3. Tell me about a time someone asked you to bend the rules or do something unethical. How did you handle that situation?

In a finance career, there are unlimited opportunities to go astray and abandon your moral compass. This question helps the interviewer better understand your capacity to do the right thing, even in the face of extreme pressure. They want to know if you have a strong ethical center, or if you can be led down a bad path by poor judgement or outside influence. Again, have an example ready before the interview. Be prepared to tell a story that demonstrates your strong moral character.

4. Tell me about your extracurricular activities, and why you’re passionate about them?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but companies aren’t interested in hiring robots. Interviewers who ask this question are trying to see if you’re passionate about something other than work. What are your hobbies? When you’re not at work, how do you choose to spend your time? They want to get past the front that you’re putting up and learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite.

According to Clay, it’s more valuable to prepare your story than prepare for specific finance interview questions. Listen intently to the interviewer and find a way to tell your personal story within the questions that are asked. Finance is a “people” business. Who you are as a person is what tells the interviewer if you’re the kind of employee who can add value to the organization. When you walk into the interview, you are Jane Doe, a name on a resume. You’re not that different from the other resumes in the stack. To set yourself apart from the group, prepare for the interview and ensure your name, face, and story make a lasting impression.



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How to Find and Secure a Financial Advisor Internship

Financial Advisor Internship Found and Secured
By: Kaplan Financial Education
August 9, 2019

Financial advisor internships offer a great opportunity to get experience before earning a finance degree and fully entering the workforce. Internships enable aspiring financial advisors to learn the ropes firsthand, and the knowledge and “on-the-job” training can be beneficial during a later job hunt. Internships also benefit financial firms by providing additional help to address pressing demands. This article shares ways you can find a financial advisor internship and the steps you can take to secure it.

Financial Advisor Internships Aren’t Just for Summer Anymore

Before you start your search, think about whether you’d be willing to consider something other than a summer internship. Some universities and companies offer co-op positions throughout the year. Fall and spring internships are also available at some financial services firms. These longer-term internships are often easier to secure because there is less competition. So, if you go for one of these positions, you could already be an intern when the majority of students are applying for summer opportunities.

Another benefit of longer-term internships is that they look good on your resume. They can also, on occasion, lead to a job offer from the same firm because they have had more time to evaluate your work and see your skills and knowledge.

Considering a finance career? Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals

Searching for Financial Advisor Internships

Once you decide what kind of internship you’d like, a good place to start the search is at your college or university career center. These centers often have a list of financial services firms who are specifically interested in hiring interns. The career center can also help you determine where you would like to work when you graduate and in what capacity, which can help you hone your search.

Another avenue for finding open internships is searching the websites of major financial services firms. Some of the most well-known, such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, advertise for internships on their sites. Others have their own special programs for college students. Vanguard, for example, has a College to Corporate Advice Internship Program.

Independent finance associations such as CFP® Board, NAIFA, and the Society of Financial Services Professionals have career listings that include internships. For less specialized sources, visit,, LinkedIn, and and do a keyword search for internships as a financial advisor.

And, here’s a great tip for internet searches that can save you time if you are interested in interning close to home or your university: simply go to Google and type “finance internship” or “financial advisor internship.” It will return listings of all the internships available in your area or state, including those that are advertised by financial firms or on all the major job search sites, including You even have options for where and how to apply.

Getting a Financial Advisor Internship Interview

Like any career opportunity, you need to stand out in a sea of online applications so you can get an interview. Here are three good tips that can help you meet that goal:

  • Contact the financial firms on LinkedIn before you apply: Do a search for the firms’ job openings. There is usually a contact name there. Or, you can do a search for “talent” with the company’s name to find a talent manager. Reach out to that person and express your interest in the internship and explain what makes you the best candidate. Let them know you plan to apply.
  • Go over your resume carefully to make sure that it honestly represents your experience: Eliminate language that stretches the truth, such as saying you have cash management experience because you were a retail sales associate. Put your most relevant experience at the beginning and don’t forget to include any related volunteer work, such as helping people with their taxes at the library or being part of an investment club at a charitable organization.
  • Apply early: As in just about every job market, competition for internships is fierce. The earlier you can get your application to financial services firms, the better. It helps you make a great first impression. You should also read the application carefully to make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. That also goes a long way toward impressing the firm.

Although these tips can’t guarantee you an interview, they can get you closer to one. If you don’t get an interview on the first try or first few tries, do not become discouraged. Look for other opportunities and keep applying. This article on getting a finance internship has additional advice that can help.

Acing the Interview

If you’ve been notified that you have an interview for a financial advisor internship, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you come through it with flying colors. Here are a few that have worked successfully for others:

  • Before the interview, brush up on your finance knowledge and technical skills and work through the common finance problems or processes on which you could be tested. Then consider them in the context of the firm that is interviewing you and how to apply them in real-life scenarios. In addition, read this article on common finance internship interview questions and practice answering them.
  • On the day before the interview, practice “selling 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?
  • On the day of the interview, bring your own set of questions: This article on preparing for a finance interview has some really good ones that focus on the work you’ll do, the organizational culture of the firm, and what skills and abilities you’ll have gained at the end.
  • Emphasize your flexibility: Although many interns have set duties, you might be asked to do work outside those duties or they might vary or change frequently. Let the interviewer know you are willing and able to take on new or different tasks. Be as professional as possible throughout the interview and in other interactions you have with anyone else in the firm. However, you should also relax and have confidence in yourself. Smile when you can because that always makes a good impression.

Personality Wins Out

A final note: personality is key to landing a financial advisor internship. Companies really aren’t interested in hiring robots; therefore, you can stand out from the crowd by demonstrating that you’re passionate about something other than work. Help the company get past your interview “game face” by letting them learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite in your resume, application, and interview.

You Got the Internship! What’s Next?

The questions shouldn’t stop once you’ve gotten hired. Read our article on the five valuable questions you should ask your employer during your financial advisor internship to learn more.