Facing an HR interview should not be daunting. In fact, you should praise yourself for making it through to that part of the interview process. However, it is important that you appreciate that this is still an interview and you should not take this lightly. This is typically the final and most important interview you will face as this will be the person and department that signs off any potential offer.

The responsibility of an HR representative is to make sure that they approve of the hiring managers choice to bring you into their business. If you think about this logically, the hiring manager will make sure that from a technical point of view you can do the role. What HR want to know is that you will be a success in their company.

Here are some example questions to expect in an HR interview:

Company Questions

·        What does our company do?

This is to make sure you understand what the company does and that you know what you are applying for. We recommend you find information on them on their website, but also on Linked In and relevant news stories on the internet.

·        What are the core values of the company?

Typically, you can find this on their website, where most company’s talk about team work, delivering success for their clients and achieving in their company. It is important you know what their values are, even if you are not asked about them, and that you are able to explain that you are those values. Do have relevant examples from your career to demonstrate this.

·        Why do you want this role?

This is a chance for you to showcase why you are suitable and to make sure you understand the requirements. Use this as a chance to show your enthusiasm and why you are suitable.

·        How do you feel about working late?

Let’s be honest, no one wants to willingly stay late, however in financial services it maybe expected when needs must. A good answer is to say that you will stay until the work is done.

·        What other companies are you interviewing with?

This is a chance for the interviewer to gauge if you are genuinely interested in working in their sector and if you are interviewing with competitors it will show your relevant desire. It may also be a question from your recruiter. Don’t be afraid to explain that you are interviewing elsewhere as this may quicken their decision but do remind them that the role you are interviewing for is your preference if it is.

·        Do you know anyone who works for us?

This is an excellent way to show them that you know of their company and may already have done some extra research by asking that person. Do mention who you may know there, especially if they are successful, but do avoid talking about those who may have left under a cloud.


·        Why are you leaving your current role, or left your last role?

Fundamentally the person is looking to make sure you are leaving for genuine reasons, and that they won’t offer you the same circumstances. Avoid saying that money or bad performance is driving the move but take the opportunity to say that actually the role and company on offer will further your career and give examples why. You are almost saying you are interested in that company rather than why you want to leave.

·        Can you explain all your reasons for leaving your previous roles?

They will want to make sure that there are real reasons for why you have moved previously. Companies like to see that you have taken on new challenges or progression with your move, or even the chance to further your learning.

·        You have changed jobs quite a few times, what is the reason for this?

Some candidates will have moved between contract positions regularly. This is not a problem at all, and whilst it will be easy to say that the “contract came to end”, it is important to explain what made you chose that new role and opportunity. Of course, maintaining earning in a contract market is absolutely fine, but make sure you were given the chance to learn X and all the experience gained has shown you are adaptable to new environments and new ways of learning processes and technology quickly.

·        Please can you explain the gaps in your CV?

Sometimes you might just have a gap after being made redundant. Or a break in contracts. Or wanted to travel or just take some time out. This is not a problem but make sure you can justify any gap on your CV, even if you say that you were looking for work during that period and being selective for the right role.

·        What can we expect from you in your first 3 months?

This is a question you could also ask them! They will want to see that you are thinking about what you would try to achieve in your initial period of employment. Explaining that you want to build trust with the team and department as part of the function is a good introduction, as will be making sure you have learned all aspects of the role, but a killer point is to say that you will follow the guidance of your manager and look to deliver on all aspects of you targets.

·        Why did you study what you did?

If you have studied something very relevant for the role you are interviewing with, then this is your chance to say that at a younger age you already had a desire to work in their industry. This is especially valid for any relevant further professional qualifications. If you didn’t study anything relevant, then don’t be afraid to say that when you were younger you had different ideas about your career but now you have found something you like and want to commit to that.

·        Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

This is a trick questions – they don’t want to hear you are using this opportunity as a stepping stone. Say you want to prove yourself in this opportunity first (this is the role you are interviewing for after all!) before considering other options later based on recognition, reward and pure hard work.

·        What would you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?

Try to think of something that is very relevant for the role. For instance, you may have improved a process that has saved time or money, or you might have been promoted based on performance.

·        What have you done in the last year to improve your knowledge?

Taking a professional qualification or enrolled yourself on a course is an obvious example. However, proving that you have identified a weakness in your knowledge is what they want to hear, but most importantly how you have then learned about it – it might be plenty of internet research, hiring a book from a library or sitting with a specialist in your current work environment.

·        Tell me about a time that a colleague/customer got angry with you and what happened?

They are not looking for what happened, but how you dealt with the situation. This is a chance for them to see how cool and calm you can be under strenuous pressure. The trick is show that you initially defused the situation, explained you are going to help, took the time to understand the issue and advised that you will revert ASAP.

·        How quickly do you adapt to new technology?

It is very unlikely that in the new role you will have used every system that they do. Be able to demonstrate those that you are already familiar with, however also show that in each role you have performed that you have had to learn new systems, how you have used something similar previously, and it’s just a case of being shown what to do.

·        What kind of work environment suits you best?

This question is designed to make sure that they believe they can offer you the right environment to be successful. It is important that you showcase the environment on offer, and maybe adding that you work well when you are in a team that has the same values and determination to offer successful work.

·        What kind of manager brings out the best in your performance?

Again, another type of question designed to make sure that they believe they can offer you the right manager to be successful. Like the previous question, make sure you can describe the style of the manager that you know you’d be working for and have met, or alternatively talk about how you like to be held responsible for your actions, and encouraged throughout your career.

·        Describe your dream job?

Trick question alert! Now most peoples dream job is probably not the job you are interviewing for. If it is then you are very lucky, and you must highlight this. But refrain from saying that you want to be a footballer or celebrity as example, because it’s nothing to with the role you are going for! Use this as a chance to show that you are looking for a role that utilises your competencies like being diligent, hard working and with a strong team ethic (use the competencies from the spec that they are looking for).

Competency Questions

·        What are your strengths or out of all the candidates why should we hire you?

Choose three competencies from the spec and use these with examples as your answers. These are competencies they want for the role! If there is a specific skill set required for the position in question then also feel free to showcase this.

·        What are your weaknesses?

Try to choose things that do not appear on the spec, but you can demonstrate was a shortfall in your skills or knowledge and how you have improved yourself by developing further and it not being an issue going forward.

·        If you were an animal, which one would you want to be? OR How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine? OR They say the m25 is the largest car park in the world, how many cars can you park on it? OR How many trees are there in the Amazon rainforest?

Yes these questions do exist! Remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—he wants to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you deliver a transparent and logical way to respond. So, just take a deep breath, and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!). Just try to explain your logic and how you have got to your answer. It’s not necessarily the answer they are looking for, just how you can react to trying to solve things in a new situation.

·        How do you think that other people would describe you?

Similar answer to your 3 strengths, or what was described as the values of the company you are interviewing for, just make sure that you say something relevant that is what they are looking for.

·        Give an example of how you’ve solved an issue or problem?

This is a question where they don’t necessarily need to know the problem, it’s more about your logic to resolve it. Always think of a work-related answer and demonstrate something where an issue or error kept reoccurring and what you did to not only notice it, but how you prevented it from happening further. This will show that you should be able to do it again for their company.

·        What is your leadership style?

You don’t necessarily need to be a manager of a team to be a leader. This is more your chance to show how you have set an example to others. Of course, if you are a manager or supervisor of others then do explain how you like to show your subordinates the correct way of doing things and you take pride in making sure that they grow with experience. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to say that you like make sure you are setting a good example by even working towards having the best accuracy in the team, or become the “go-to” person in the team as example.

·        How do you cope in adversity (under pressure/deadline/stressful situation)?

Well the last thing they want to hear is that you are not good in any situation like this. Financial services is an industry that pays the best but the expect the best. Explain that you thrive on situations and environments like that and be able to give examples of difficult or more strenuous times.

·        Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a decision. What did you do?

They are not looking for what happened, but how you dealt with the situation and how you were empathetic. It is not a problem that you have a different of opinion but must an ability to understand and listen to others. Be open to talk about how sometimes many opinions are given for one outcome and not always is it yours that’s accepted.

·        What motivates you?

Try to get across that working with like minded individuals is most important and given the chance to do the role in question in a company that you are interviewing with fulfils your motivations. By having clear goals set out in regular performance appraisals is something to benchmark and follow.

·        What makes you angry?

The opposite of the above is a simple way to answer! Working with individuals who don’t value teamwork and success is a very good example. This will show that you will work hard and deliver.

·        How do you respond to change?

Change is an important part of every day life. The world is forever changing, and every person should change as they grow older accordingly. You should be able to explain that the role you are interviewing now will be different in 5 years’ time, so you would be willing to evolve as you progress in that company.

·        What are your hobbies?

Don’t be afraid to talk about what you like to do outside of work. Try to not conform to just stating that you like to socialise with friends or like sports. Be more specific like saying you regularly catch up with friends to discuss what fiction books you are currently reading, or that you are an Arsenal fan and go to games as often as possible as well as playing football on a Monday night still, as example. We once placed someone in a job because he owned a ferret! It transpired the hiring manager owned a ferret farm!


The reason why they are you about your required salary is to see if money is your motivator. If you give them a figure, then it clearly shows that it is a driver for you applying for the role. The only number you should give them is the monies that you are currently or previously employed earning. As you as you given them an ideal number, you are going to do one of two things, either out price yourself or worse case undersell yourself. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “money is not the most important factor for me with this role as I will benefit from learning X, X, and X. However, I am currently earning X and the range has been explained to me and that is why I am here”.

Any questions for me?

Yes you do have questions! By not asking questions shows that you are potentially not interested.

Some examples that we like are:

·        “If you were to rank them, what are the three traits your top performers have in common?”

·        “What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?”

·        “What are the company’s highest-priority goals this year, and how would my role contribute?”

And if you are feeling adventurous:

·        “Is there anything that you think will mean I can’t get this job or not get me an offer?”

Once you have received the answers to all of the above questions, you are then given the opportunity to say that you tick those boxes and reinforce the opportunity to get the job. 

Facing a telephone interview can be more daunting than an actual face-to-face interview, and that’s because most interviewees would rather gauge reactions face-to-face from the hiring manager you are meeting. It is worth noting that telephone interviews are largely not preferred because clients like to meet and assess a cultural fit, so below are a few of CassonX’s helpful hints and tips on how you can make sure you perform well in one of the more difficult types of interviews:

Since CassonX was formed in February 2016, we have been really impressed with the way that candidates conduct themselves in interview, especially in what is a competitive Operations and Middle Office recruitment market. Whilst CassonX prides itself on making candidates prepared for interview by meeting all candidates face to face before your first conversation, CassonX thought they would share the most common reasons why sometimes you can run a race and come second in the interview process:

Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm.

A lack of enthusiasm is where a lot of candidates fall down. Especially when you are being considered against someone who does show that they really want the role, and can prove it. Whilst we understand that individual personalities differ from person to person, everyone can still tell the hiring manager why they have learned a lot, and furthered yourself, but (regardless of the situation for leaving) you want to work at their company, in their role, under their stewardship and the reason why! Even saying simple things like, “I’d like to do that”, or “I have really enjoyed doing that in my current role” can go a long way to proving this. “I wasn’t really looking to leave, but the main reason why I am here being because I can learn X with this opportunity and further myself” is another prime example. It also shows you know what you are interviewing for and have genuine interest!

Know your CV!

Believe it or not, some individuals still decide to bend the truth on their CV when applying for a role. Do not do this. One of the key things any hiring manager will want is for you to be able to prove every part of your CV, as this is what you have declared you can do. It is absolutely essential that when asked in an interview that you can, with a work based example, demonstrate anything that is asked from your CV. That way if anything technical arises you will be ready with a relevant answer to prove you can tick that box.

Prove you are the spec.

The job spec is what the company have declared they are looking for, so this is your chance to tell them that you are what appears on the spec, with an example. If there is something that appears on the spec that you don’t know, then make sure you research it prior to the interview – at least you can say that you have no working technical experience but you have taken the time to understand it and prove it, and this will leave the hiring manager thinking that you are willing to learn and showing lots of enthusiasm. Most specs also have a list of character traits affiliated with their current team, so do of course have some examples to prove that you are those character traits from your work experience also. It is essential to show that technically and culturally you can perform as much of the spec as possible.

How do you answer questions on the points you haven’t done before?

It is not a problem that you might not have all the relevant working experience to answer a technical question in an interview, it is expected that most applicants tick about 85% of the job spec as candidates typically look for those roles where they want to learn and develop still. Sometimes a hiring manager will even ask you something deliberately that they know you can’t do. What is important is that you show willingness to learn it so you can achieve the goals of the role, and to show you can further yourself. By giving an example of how you have learnt this before an interview, or at least researched it, will show the manager that you have the right “can do” attitude to be employed in their team.

Have you actually prepared?

There is a famous saying that an Actor doesn’t go on stage unless they have learned their lines… This is the view that any hiring manager will take when presenting yourself. Whether you run through it on your own, standing in front of a mirror, with your recruiter or a with a friend or family, then make sure you have at least run through example questions once. Practise does make perfect. Some candidates will go “blank” in an interview. Don’t worry, we are not robots! The key is how you come out the other side. By saying something like, “I am sorry, I have just lost my way, please can I just have a moment to regather my thoughts so I can give you the best answer” is not necessary a bad thing, as it is showing you are trying to impress as best as possible.

Cultural fit.

This is something that typically you cannot control, as the hiring manager knows their team already and may think that you just won’t fit in. So you should actually respect this decision as you would hate to start in a company and not enjoy working there. However, make sure the decision is just about your ability to fit culturally into their team and not because you lack the typical character traits. For instance, if the spec says you need to be hard working and diligent, then be prepared to show how. However most hiring managers just want you to smile, enjoy the conversation, and show that you are keen for the opportunity, to work in their company and work under the hiring manager’s stewardship. As most hires are made on cultural fit, try to just get on with the hiring manager – that way if you have instant rapport, then the hiring manager is more likely to think of you first when making a decision.

You don’t have a weakness?!

Everyone has weaknesses. And no hiring manager wants to hire a know-it-all who has no weaknesses or can’t see opportunity to improve. By saying that you don’t have any is saying that you are perfect. Make sure that you give something constructive about your experience or characteristics where you can improve or be better, but try not to make it the most essential or vital part of the role requirements. By saying that you realised you weren’t as good as colleagues as X but have now taken the time to improve X and why, is a perfect answer.

Making money the most important part of the interview.

Hiring managers don’t want to you to be making money the most important factor in your search. Whilst CassonX understand that everyone wants to earn as much as possible, by giving a figure in an interview can not only out-price you but it could also undersell you! The only figure you should give is the current make up of your package including your basic salary, previous bonuses and additional benefits. If they push for you to give a figure then our best advice is to say that this opportunity is too good to miss out on and that’s why you’re interviewing, re-sell why you are suitable, and you would like them to be considerate of the risk to move when making an offer.

Overcoming difficult situations.

Sometimes you will be asked how you have dealt with a difficult customer, co-worker or boss. The only reason you will be asked this is to see what your logic is for overcoming the situation. These questions are designed to get all involved back to demonstrating team work and common goals. Try to show how you have diffused the situation, dealt with the problem / issue after reviewing the options and how you overcame the situation. What is very good is to demonstrate what controls or preventative measures have been implemented to stop it from happening again.

Every company needs a team player.

In every business, there is always more to think about than just the role you perform. The wider scope will have longer processes and if you can’t show that you understand the big picture of the company and team, then why would anyone hire someone who couldn’t understand where and how they would fit in. Having a group of individuals working in the same way is more successful than having outstanding individuals trying to work together. Yes, you need to show that you are willing to stay until your work is done, or more appropriately to help a team member out how is struggling with workloads etc., but it essential that you show how you fit into the wider group causes to make the company successful too. Having an understanding of the knock on effects too of good and bad performances in your role is deemed a “good for business hire”, and that you have the company’s interests at heart, and not just your own goals. This will also demonstrate that you can think outside the box, and hiring managers love this where we work in an evolving and demanding Financial Services market.

Over ambitious!

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years”. This is a trick question – the hiring manager doesn’t want to hear you are using this opportunity as a stepping stone, so don’t say you want their job or anything else apart from the role that is on offer as they will feel threatened, even though you’d think it would show progression. Say you want to prove yourself in this opportunity first (this is the role you are interviewing for!) before considering other options later based on recognition, reward and pure hard work. There is no harm in saying that in time you would like to think that you could take on a more senior role or more responsibility within the company and with time, however reiterate that this would be recognised from pure hard work and by following the hiring managers structured internal management and structured career trajectories.

Have you been successful in your career?

People measure success in different ways, however in an interview, what you need to prove is that your relevant experience has been delivered successfully and to the best of your ability. Yes, if you have gained an award or promotion then you need to demonstrate this and the reasons why, including any successful enhancements to save time or cost on your team, but not everyone can receive recognition in certain companies for various reasons. Success can be measured by doing a job well, being a long standing employee or evolving during turbulent times as example. However, the best way that you can show you have been successful is by proving you have done a good job and that you have been receptive to change. As the Financial Services world is ever evolving, by showing you have taken on new responsibilities or even updated your knowledge to perform your current role is a sound business reason to show success.

Have you told them you want the job!

If you are interested in the role, then why not tell them?! At the end of the interview, draw on the questions asked, and say that you have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with them, you were excited before the conversation started and after meeting with them, you would like to be considered further. Highlight the reasons why they should! This is the final chance to sell yourself and you should leave the hiring manager with a positive viewpoint about your application.

At the end of the day, CassonX will only ever tell their candidates interviewing to try their best. Even if it doesn’t work out for the role they are interviewing for, then you will be considered for others where appropriate. The hiring manager only wants to know if you can do the job, want the job, fit into the team and why you should be hired for it. You must learn from your previous interview experiences but fundamentally smile, enjoy yourself and don’t treat it as an interview, treat is as way of you just proving your justification to be hired.