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Senior Executive Consultant Reed Dublin
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Top 10 soft skills you need to work in finance
When searching for a role in finance, it's often not what you know, but what you can offer. Job hunters have long been told to list, and give prominence to, technical skills on their CVs, but finance sector employers are increasingly looking for candidates with interpersonal abilities known as ‘soft skills'. Demonstrating these 10 characteristics will help candidates prove their value in the workplace.10 soft skills to help you prove your value in the workplace.1. CommunicationEarlier this year, analysis by LinkedIn showed that 57.9% of new hires who changed jobs in 2014-15 listed communication as one of their strong suits. Good communicators are in demand across a range of industries, and they're vital in fields that require employees to explain their specialist knowledge to others. An aptitude for number crunching won't get you far in finance if you can't justify and explain your calculations.2. NegotiationWhether you're closing a deal or managing expectations, it's important to know how to fight your corner without ruffling any feathers. An aptitude for negotiation will allow finance professionals to reach an agreement that benefits all parties. Failure to compromise effectively can create frustration and damage interpersonal relationships or, at worst, result in loss of revenue for a business. Having a demonstrable knack for negotiation will put you ahead in any financial enterprise.3. InfluencingFinance professionals must be prepared to explain how their objectives are mutually beneficial and anticipate objections. If, for instance, an investment banker wants to sell off a stake in a joint venture, he or she must be able to show how this will benefit the bank – even if some colleagues disagree.4. Critical thinkingA critical thinker objectively analyses or conceptualises a situation from a balanced perspective. Often, customers and clients will look to financial professionals to rationally evaluate a scenario – be it a ledger or the performance of a stock. In fast-paced business environments, a poorly thought-out decision can cost a company time and money. So the ability to make critically-informed choices is crucial for modern finance professionals.5. FlexibilityFlexible employees are capable of weathering change and staying productive in high-pressure situations. Good stockbrokers provide the most dramatic example of this: their day-to-day work revolves around coping with constant fluctuation and determining the best course of action. However, cultivating a flexible mindset also means being able to see through the eyes of others and understand their motivations. A flexible finance professional will always ask: "Why might someone think this way?"6. ResilienceResilience refers to one's ability to bounce back after facing adversity. While this is an important skill in any workplace, it's especially important in high-pressure situations. Being able to cope with changing circumstances, having confidence in your ability to deliver and thinking carefully about what you're trying to achieve can prove valuable – particularly in financial roles.7. CollaborationIt's no secret that top-level financiers are on the lookout for team players. A recent survey by Adaptive Insights showed that 70% of chief financial officers considered collaboration to be their top priority for 2016. In the financial sector, it has become increasingly common to work across multiple teams and geographies to achieve a shared goal. Someone who approaches group-working scenarios with an open mind and a willingness to listen will benefit any team.8. Problem solvingEffective problem solvers identify the issue at hand, weigh up their options quickly and make a firm decision about the best course of action. Those who excel at problem solving can really drive an organisation forward and will earn the respect of their colleagues by offering meaningful input in even the toughest situations.9. DedicationDedication is fierce commitment without the expectation of returns. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by a single task, dedicated workers will devote themselves from start to finish. Discipline, hard work and acceptance of delayed gratification are key ingredients in developing the dedication mindset.10. EmpathyIt's a common misconception that roles focused on data and numbers require a detached approach – empathy should never be undervalued in finance. Clients often seek financial advice during stressful life events, and dealing with someone who has suffered a loss requires a different approach from a couple seeking their first mortgage.An empathetic person shows that he or she cares. In displaying understanding, finance professionals will also build trust in their relationships with co-workers and clients.It's not enough to simply tell an employer you have the soft skills they're looking for. Instead, strive to demonstrate your skillset by offering up examples from previous job roles and highlighting talents you've developed outside of the workplace. Remember, employers are always seeking the right personality for the job – not just a list of positions and qualifications.How to identify your own skills:Reflect on your reactions to tense situations at work and compare them to those of managers and co-workers you admire.Prepare answers to interview questions that screen for soft skills, such as those about workplace experience in problem solving and collaboration.Ask current or past colleagues to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. They may be able to offer insights you hadn't previously considered.Consider your strengths in relation to the job you want to apply for so you can be confident about the criteria you already fulfil and areas that you can develop on the job.How to acquire new skills:Make a conscious effort to improve your soft skills every day – remember, they're attributes to develop, not innate qualities.Take up skill-building hobbies in your leisure time. Something as simple as a cooking class might prepare you to prioritise tasks and work under pressure.Ask for help and feedback from colleagues and senior staff in your workplace.Enrol in a course designed to build soft skills, such as those offered by Reed.
Top 10 competency-based interview questions to find the perfect candidate
This list of competency-based questions encourage interviewees to use real-life examples in their answers. You get to understand how a candidate made a decision, and see the outcome of their actions.Our top ten list of competency-based interview questions will help you recruit the skills your team needs.1. What are your greatest strengths?This is a classic interview question, and with good reason.It’s a chance for your candidate to prove they have the right skills for the role. Keep the job description in mind to see whether the interviewee understands how their skills relate to the role.Remember you’re looking for transferable skills, not proof that they’ve done the role before.2. What will your skills and ideas bring to this company?This competency-based question is an opportunity to see which of your candidates stand out from the crowd.A good candidate will show an understanding of your company goals within their answer. A great candidate will offer practical examples of how their skills can help you achieve that vision.3. What have you achieved elsewhere?Confidence is key in this competency-based question. It gives your candidate an opportunity to talk about previous successes and experiences that relate to your vacancy.Make sure the achievements you take away from their answers are work-related and relevant to what you’re looking for.4. How have you improved in the last year?Candidates can tie themselves up in knots trying to disguise their weaknesses. This competency-based interview question is a chance to show a willingness to learn from their mistakes.It’s also an opportunity to test the candidate’s level of self-awareness and desire to develop."Competency-based interview questions ask for real-life examples to show a candidate’s skills."5. Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was strugglingThis competency-based question will test your candidate’s ability to show compassion towards their colleagues without losing sight of their own objectives.Those further along in their career should be able to reference training or mentoring that not only helped their co-worker but also improved team performance.6. Give an example of a time you’ve had to improvise to achieve your goalIn other words: “Can you think on your feet?” It is increasingly important to be able to react to unexpected situations.The candidate’s answer should highlight their ability to keep their cool and perform in a scenario they haven’t prepared for.7. What was the last big decision you had to make?The answer to this question should be a window into your candidate’s decision-making process and whether their reasoning is appropriate for your role.This is a competency-based question designed to highlight how an interviewee makes decisions. Do they use logical reasoning? Gut intuition? However they manage big decisions, does their approach match what you’re looking for?8. Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult personAll candidates should be able to reference an experience of working with a challenging colleague. Look for them to approach this question with honesty and a clear example of working through the experience.Rather than passing blame, there should be a recognition of the part they have played in the situation, and how they might tackle it differently next time.It’s essential to get a sense of how candidates would fit and thrive within your company culture.9. What was the last thing you taught?You’ve asked the interviewee about their skills, but can they show a capability for teaching others about these skills?This question isn’t restricted to managerial or senior roles, and should be asked whenever you’re looking for a candidate who will add value to your team.10. Why are you a good fit for this company?The key to this competency-based question is whether the candidate can explain how their transferable skills would fit your role. This tests both an awareness of their own abilities and an understanding of what you are looking for in a new employee.The candidate should be able to confidently explain why they want to work for your company, and convince you that they would fit your team culture.If you’re interested in learning more about interviews, please contact your local recruitment specialist.
How long should an interview last?
Discover the full range of items to take into account when planning to interview a candidateInterviewing candidates is often the most crucial part of any recruitment process. Our clients often ask the question, “How long should an interview last?”Spending too little time in an interview can mean you don’t pick up on candidate skills. Too long and it you will experience a diminishing return on your time.Commonly, face-to-face interviews tend to last no less than 30 minutes. Half an hour doesn't give either you or the candidate an accurate impression of each other. After all, you want to ensure that they are the best fit for the business.Although it varies depending on industry, most interviews last between 45 minutes and one hour. This should provide sufficient time and flexibility from both sides to get to know one another.But what works for one business may not work for you. The length of time spent in an interview is also highly dependent on how senior and/or specialist the role is, as well as the total time you and your staff have available.So, to help you to decide on how long an interview should last, here are some items to consider:Before the interview:To make a good impression, candidates often arrive before their allotted time. Ensure either you or a member of staff has the time to greet them before the interview begins.During the interview:Making a firm decision on how an interview will be structured beforehand will help dictate the overall duration of the interview.If an interview is a structured series of competency based questions then the overall time spent will be fairly consistent across multiple candidates. Rehearsing the interview process with another employee can help to gauge how long the interview will take. Less formal interviews often help to gain a better insight into a candidate and can help to build a greater rapport. If you're planning on a more relaxed interview style then extra time may need to be factored in depending how the conversation develops.In certain industries, companies will often ask candidates for a demonstration of their skills alongside a traditional face-to-face interview. If there are any tasks, tests or formal presentations that need to be completed the time for these will also need to be factored in.It is also important that a candidate has the opportunity to raise anything that they're unsure about. Remember to allow time for questions from the candidate at the end of the interview.After the interview:Once the discussions have taken place does the candidate need to be shown anything more, meet members of staff, or see your facilities?The more you can plan your interview process, the better you will be at estimating how long the interview will take – which will give you a more effective recruitment process.