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Post Info TOPIC: Squeaky Bum Time

Veteran Member

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Posts: 34
Squeaky Bum Time

Hi guys,


I have been selected for an interview at a university, in the finance department. Does anyone know what the selection assessments are comprised of?

I also have two panel interviews, which is doing nothing for my nerves and anxiety at all.


I am really really bad at on the spot tests, the last one I had for an interview completely threw me as the chap sat opposite watching me try to work out algebra (its been 20 years since I did any of that!) logical and what I later found out to be strategic level CIMA questions. I nearly had a complete breakdown and ended up scrawling a note saying I found this too intense for the level of pay advertised (16k!) and I don't think I am the right candidate for the role.


I am dreading what the selection assessments comprise of.


Thanks peeps






MAAT, CIMA student, avoider of Tax as much as possible and going greyer by the day.

Senior Member

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Posts: 152

Hi Em,

Regarding your previous interview.  I have plenty of interview experience and I have never been required to do an exam question at CIMA Strategic Level as part of an interview.  That is really unusual, especially, as you say, for a salary of £16k.

Last year, I had an interview for a Finance Manager role at one of our larger local further education colleges.  The test element of the interview was to construct the college's balance sheet from a trial balance, and carry out a variance analysis of its income and expenditure statement.  Reasonably straight forward, not hugely demanding.

As it is a university, it should have professional HR processes in place in respect of interviewing.  Usual practice in an organisation of this standing is to conduct a competency based interview.  A competency based interview always consists of eight questions.  "Competency based" means that the questions are focused on ascertaining your competency to fulfil the requirements of that particular role.  To prepare for this go through the competencies described in the job description, try to imagine the kinds of competency based questions they might ask and then rehearse your answers.

Competency based interview panels usually consist of two finance managers (your prospective line manager and his/her line manager), and an HR representative.  They will share the questioning between them.

Also, make sure that you have as thorough an understanding of the university's business as possible, so that you can answer the question, "Can you tell us what you know about the university?", in a clear and informed manner.  This is a test of whether you are genuinely interested in the organisation, and whether you have taken a professional approach to preparing for the interview.

The other test of whether you are genuinely interested in the organisation is when they ask at the end of the interview, "Do you have any questions for us?".  For this, you need to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the future ambitions of the university and the strategic plans it has put in place.  Use this knowledge to construct questions that demonstrate your keen interest in helping the university achieve its future ambitions.

Hope that helps.

Kind regards,



Master Book-keeper

Status: Online
Posts: 7092

Ive not worked for a Univeristy - looked after a couple in a past life. But Ive worked in Corporate Finance and been involved in interviews (both sides of the fence) for some major banks and had some external ones too - never again, which is why I now have my own business. Hate them!

Ive never come across the competency based always consisting of eight questions David. Bloody hell you should tell that to the local council interview bods - they seem to think 30 in more in order!

Agree about them using that style of questioning and could tip to be able to answer them is to use the STAR process. Situation, Task, Action and Result. For each of the competencies listed in the job spec, PLUS for each line of your CV, think of a STAR. I have a two or three STARS for each at least, because you can drive home different aspects depending on the question. They take some time to get into, but make any questions really easy to answer with some practice.

Situation or Task (this can be one, or may be separate)
Describe the situation that you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished. With the STAR approach you need to set the context. Make it concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. For example, if the question is asking you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, explain how you came to meet that person and why they were being difficult. If the question is asking for an example of teamwork, explain the task that you had to undertake as a team.

This is the most important section of the STAR approach as it is where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did. In doing so, you will need to remember the following:
Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team. Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean. Steer clear of technical information, unless it is crucial to your story.
Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it. How you reacted to a given situation. Sell those skills!

Explain what happened eg at the end of the project/task/whatever. Ensure you describe what YOU accomplished and what you learnt in that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills.
This is probably the most crucial part of your answer. Interviewers want to know that you are using a variety of generic skills in order to achieve your objectives. Therefore you must be able to demonstrate in your answer that you are taking specific actions because you are trying to achieve a specific objective and not simply by chance.

There may be other tests, either on the day or when you get a callback, depends on the role itself and the seniority. You could have a technical test, case study to prep and present so they test knowledge, report writing and presentation skills). Some even stick some psychometric tests in there but Im always wary of those, especially if they havent got a suitable qualified person to interpret the results!

Good luck with it and let us know how you get on.




Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.


Veteran Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 34

Thanks for both your replies, my mind has been put at ease a little.

AND thanks to Joanne I have plenty of ideas of things in my head which I will practise going through.

I was even more annoyed at the surprise test as when I arranged the interview it was 'pop along for a casual chat' - I wont fall for that one again! I pity the poor soul that got offered the job in the end.




MAAT, CIMA student, avoider of Tax as much as possible and going greyer by the day.

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