Finance graduate job application forms: what to expect

As you embark on your job-hunting career, one thing you’ll have to get used to is the formidable online application form. For the majority of the big firms in the financial services industry, and for a lot of the smaller ones too, the typical “CV and covering letter” combo just isn’t enough anymore!

This is in part due to the fact these firms are inundated with thousands upon thousands of applications every year for a very limited number of places on their grad schemes. “How on Earth is one to whittle down such vast multitudes of hopefuls?” these firms asked in horror. It seems the answer was to put lots of different stages in the application process to make it easier for candidates to trip up—cruel, isn’t it?

The online application form is often the first stage in this process. It’s also the stage where most candidates are taken out of the running. Never fear, however! We’ve compiled a list of things to look out for so you can successfully navigate the minefield that is the finance application form.

What should I do before I start to fill out a finance application form?

Before you jump in all guns blazing, spilling all your most passionate feelings about the firm and the finance industry on the page, take your time to read through the form and get acquainted with the questions. Make sure you’ve researched the company thoroughly and know what they are looking for before you dive in.

It might be helpful to draft all of your answers to the questions on Word first. You can then save and spell check as you go along—nobody wants to read an application form peppered with spelling mistakes. In fact, that’s one of the many ways in which employers cross candidates off the list. Miss out that full-stop and you may well be missing out on your job! Grammar has never meant so much.

What kind of questions will I be asked?

Finance application forms usually follow a certain structure:

  • Personal details
  • Education
  • Work history/work experience
  • Competency/knowledge-based questions
  • Referees.

As you might have noticed, the online application form is basically a glorified CV. The difference lies in those ominous competency and knowledge-based questions. Whereas on a CV you’d have the choice to write as much or as little about your experiences, the application form will direct you to answer very specific questions about yourself and your past experiences.

What are competency questions?

Competency questions target a particular skill or competency. They are used by employers to see if you have the right skills for the job and usually ask you to use real-life examples as supporting evidence.

Examples of competency questions are:

  • Give an example of when you have used an innovative way to solve a problem.
  • Tell us about an occasion when you have demonstrated leadership skills.
  • Describe a time when you have failed. Explain why you failed and what you would do differently next time.

As you can see, these questions focus on the way you behave in certain situations. Take your time when answering these questions and think about what particular skill or personality trait the recruiters are looking for. For example, the questions above might be looking for evidence of:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Innovation
  • Strong leadership skills
  • The ability to understand and address your own weaknesses.

What are knowledge-based questions?

Of course, you’re applying for a role in the finance industry so it’s likely that there will be a few questions pertaining to the world of finance. This is where you need to demonstrate that all-important commercial awareness.

Examples of knowledge-based questions might include:

  • What are the main concerns for the global economy today?
  • What might the main issues affecting our firm be?
  • What opportunities does financial downturn present to financiers?

The key thing to keep in mind when answering these questions is that the recruiters know you will have the internet at your disposal to answer them! That means your answers needs more than just facts and figures to separate you from the crowd. Take your time and really think about the questions, come up with your own opinions and support them with evidence. That is much more likely to impress than something that has been stripped and copied word-for-word from The Financial Times or The Economist.

What should I do before I send it off?

Before you hit that magic send button, read and re-read your application. That may sound like obvious advice but with dozen of applications to fill in for the dozens of jobs you’re applying for, it’s easy to get lazy.

Try to get as many people as possible to read over your application too! A fresh pair of eyes is sure to pick up on things that you might have missed.

Once you’re sure you’ve done the best you can do, it’s time to cross your fingers, click send and hope for the best. Good luck!