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1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What did you most enjoy about your last job?
3. How would your colleagues or supervisor
4. What can you offer us that other people cannot?
5. What about this job attracts you? What is
6. How long do you see yourself with us?
7. How would you describe an ideal working
Standard interview questions might not seem difficult,
but your answer to each should be polished and sharp. Craft responses
and practice them before your interview so that they roll off your
tongue when you face the interviewer. Effective responses answer
questions honestly, positively, and briefly, highlighting important
qualities and accomplishments that are relevant to the position
at hand. Give examples to illustrate and corroborate your statements
when possible. Your responses should work together, making connections
between what you have previously done, the available position, and
Mark is preparing for an important interview. He is a recent graduate
from law school who wishes to become a financial planner at a mid-sized
firm that deals with families who have a minimum account of twenty-five
million dollars. Before he went to law school, he was a financial
analyst for three years and passed two levels of testing toward
a CFA certification. He decided not to complete the CFA training.
His company promoted him twice during his time there, once into
a management position that suited him only fairly well. He did not
get the kind of training from his company that he felt he needed
in order to manage people effectively. Still, he likes to help people
make good decisions and he effectively led his team to create a
clearer strategy for approaching new accounts. Mark seems to have
a sixth sense for how to compound wealth. He knows how to spot trends
and retreat from them just as they crest in profitability. He thinks
he might one day become an estate planning attorney in a financial
planning firm. Of course, he does not know what life will bring
him. Mark does not want to constrict his options unnecessarily,
and he certainly is not ready to settle down into a firm for the
next ten years.
Consider how Mark might answer standard questions effectively and
Tell me about yourself.
Ineffective: I am a hard-worker who is good
with numbers. After I worked as a financial analyst for a few
years, I decided to go to law school. I just finished and now
am looking for a new challenge.
Effective: I began developing skills relevant to financial planning
when I worked as a financial analyst for three years. In that
role, I succeeded in multiplying the wealth of my clients by
carefully analyzing the market for trends. The return on the
portfolios I managed was generally 2% more than most of the
portfolios managed by my company. My initiative, planning, and
analytic skills were rewarded by two promotions. As the manager
of a team, I successfully led them to develop a more efficient
and profitable strategy for dealing with new accounts. My subsequent
training in the law, including tax law and estate law, gives
me an informed view of what types of investments and charitable
gifts would be most advantageous for your clients.
What did you most enjoy about your last job?
Ineffective: I liked lots of things-the people,
the challenge, the rewards. Sometimes we had to work long hours,
but it always seemed to pay off.
Effective: Of the many things that I enjoyed, I would say that
the strategic aspects of my job most energized me. I liked setting
concrete performance goals for myself and finding ways to meet
them. I similarly enjoyed analyzing markets for trends and identifying
when would be the most beneficial time to enter or withdraw
from certain funds. When I was a manager, my team and I developed
a new approach to accounts that became a standard for the company.
Strategizing gave my work a sense of tangible direction and
How would your colleagues or supervisor describe you?
Ineffective: I guess they would say that
I am a hard worker who is successful.
Effective: My supervisor and colleagues have described me as
a dependable worker. My supervisor has appreciated that I prioritize
tasks and manage my responsibilities so that she can rely on
me. My bosses tell me I have a sixth sense for markets and I
learn new information and procedures quickly. These skills account
for my two promotions in three years. My boss was also impressed
by how I was able to lead my team.
What can you offer us that other people cannot?
Ineffective: I have a unique combination
of skills. I also really want the job.
Effective: I have a track-record of multiplying wealth through
investments and developing strategies with teams. Since I have
a JD, I also know what legal parameters and loopholes affect
families and individuals planning their finances. My CFA training
not only shows that I will succeed in the CFP courses, but also
gives me a broader view of why financial plans work as they
do. Since I am organized and self-motivated, I will add value
to the company without requiring much tending and supervision.
What about this job attracts you? What is unattractive?
Ineffective: I like that it is in the field
I am targeting. I don't like the commute that it will require.
Effective: As I evaluate my skills and goals, this job maximizes
on both. I will be able to merge my knowledge of law and markets
while strategizing for the sound financial future of clients.
Since this is a small company, I imagine that there will be
opportunity for increased responsibilities and challenges. I
share the values of the company. I am not eager to do much data
processing, but the position is very attractive.
How long do you see yourself with us?
Ineffective: I don't want to make any hasty
commitments, and I like to keep my options open. Maybe I will
be here for one year, maybe for five. It depends.
Effective: I see myself here as long as we both think that I
am contributing to the vitality of the company while still being
grown through challenges.
How would you describe an ideal working environment?
Ineffective: A laptop and cell phone on a
beach sound ideal to me. Short of that, I would like an environment
in which I am able to work as I please, without much supervision.
Effective: It is important to me that my company has clear objectives
and strives for success. Similarly, I like having colleagues
whom I admire for their skills and perspectives. When communication
is clear between colleagues, our energy becomes synergy. In
addition, I find that I flourish when given discretion after
having gained the trust of my supervisor.