If you are applying for a position in finance, poor analytical skills could cause the company serious problems. So of course, if you’re going to be problem solving in any financial capacity – from accounting to budgets to grants and more – chances are the company is going to want to make sure that you can use those analytical skills effectively when dealing with complicated financial information.
Behavioral Interview Question: Tell me about a time you were required to analyze detailed financial information. What were you looking for? What was the result?
The most important component of a good answer is to be specific. Avoid throwing around answers like “I looked at charts” or “I worked with accounting information” without something of substance that proves you have some idea of what you’re doing. It’s more important to say “I worked with XYZ trend line and found it was 3% which I then used to do ABC” than it is to say “I often worked with budgets to create projections” which don’t indicate the specifics of your role, and whether or not you are someone they can trust to perform complicated tasks with numbers.
“While working with the student aid commission, part of my job was analysing trends to determine if the upcoming year’s budgets would meet student aid needs. For example, I would look at the previous year’s budget and calculate growth and trends, and then compare those trends to previous years to see if it was steady over the past several budgetary cycles.
Then I’d look at the current numbers available for the upcoming year, multiply that by the trend percentage, and create projections. Those projections would then be used to create the upcoming budgetary requests for the governor, to see if we needed to request more money or if money could be allocated to other programs based on trend lines.
This information affected student aid throughout the state, so accuracy was crucial. Every year we were successfully able to match student aid with the correct number of students with an accuracy rate of +/- 1%, which was excellent compared to previous years.”
The specifics of this type of answer are what indicate that you can be trusted to handle detailed financial data. If you can indicate that you found actual solutions that had an effect on a company, business, etc., you’ll impress the employer.