Everything you need to know about numerical reasoning tests

If you’re applying for positions in finance and accounting, then at some point you’re going to be faced with psychometric tests.

Numerical Reasoning Tests
Numerical reasoning tests examine your ability to work with numbers and to analyse data.

The term “numerical reasoning” is broad, but generally refers to tests which look to assess more than just basic arithmetic. Numerical reasoning tests tend to consist of word problems and graph/table questions:

Word Problems
In word problems the question is presented as a text, without the use of graphs or charts. For example, “Helen buys four cartons of milk at £2.50 each. David buys a loaf of bread for twice as much as one of Sally’s cartons. How much did they spend together?”

When tackling word problems you need to: understand what information you are being asked to provide; decide how you will arrive at the answer (for example, will you set up an equation?); and then find the numbers that you’ll need to use. Word problems require careful reading and understanding of, often deliberately, convoluted texts before doing any maths.

Numerical Reasoning Charts: Graph and Table Questions
The standard format in this type of question is to present test-takers with information in the form of tables or graphs, and ask questions based on this information. You might, for example, be shown a sales chart and asked to calculate some common financial information – profit margins, predictions of growth, gross profits, percentage increases/decreases etc. You might be shown the nutritional information for a chocolate bar and asked to work out how many grams a person would need to eat to arrive at his recommended daily calcium intake. The actual information that is displayed in the graph isn’t really relevant; what’s important is your ability to work comfortably with different types of graphs and tables, and to have a firm grip on how to extract and analyse information from them. Try JobTestPrep’s numerical reasoning practice packs, which include comprehensive tips and test strategy guides.

JobTest
What were the sea delivery costs for large family cars in 2002?

How to Pass Numerical Tests
Our advice? Practice, practice, practice. Becoming familiar with the different types of questions and different test formats will allow you to remain relaxed and confident when taking the real thing. JobTestPrep is the only test-preparation company that has practice packs tailored per company/position, and can provide applicants information with exactly which tests they need to practice in order to prepare for specific job applications.

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Top tips to kick start your career

Top tips to kick start your career   

Recently graduated or qualified and are now actively job seeking? These key career tips from Corinne Mills, MD of Personal Career Management will help you succeed in your job search.

  • Perfect your CV

Your CV should be well polished, simply formatted and show off the skills you have which are directly relevant to the type of job you are applying for.  Make sure your CV is presented using standard fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial as many companies use recruitment software to search through CVs and the software will not be able to read CVs with unusual fonts or heavy formatting such as graphics, columns and tables. Remember to check your CV for any errors, ask a family member or friend to double-check it for you.

  • Be aware of your online presence

Interviewers will more than likely search for you on the internet to see if they can find out a bit more about you other than what is on your CV or application. Make sure your Facebook profile is private and there is no information about you online that could show you in a negative way. Every working professional should also have a LinkedIn profile that highlights your skills and capabilities in the same way as your CV.

  • Where to find the jobs

You should sign up to all the online job boards which are relevant to the type of industry you are applying to. i.e. GAAPweb for jobs in the accounting & finance sector. You should also ask your friends, family, and tutors if they know of any companies who are likely to be hiring graduates with your skill-set. Employers are increasingly using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to place job adverts so make sure that you follow companies you are interested in, so you don’t miss any opportunities that arise.

  • Be prepared for interview

There is nothing worse than turning up for your interview unprepared. Ensure you take a copy of your CV and application form you submitted as well as a copy of the job description. Prepare your answers to standard interview questions including why you have the skills to do the job, your strengths and weaknesses, and prepare to talk about some achievements which show off your capabilities.  Thoroughly research the company beforehand including their products and services, recent press releases; how they compare with their competitors, industry trends etc.  Talk about this research at the interview to show your genuine interest and commitment to work for the company.

  • Graduate Career Coaching

Personal Career Management provide specialist career coaching and career advice to graduates looking to make good decisions on the right role for them and how to stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market.

Click here to book your free no-obligation meeting.

Why asking questions is key in a Senior Finance Interview

By Lauren Druce

Lauren is Associate Partner at Cedar, a  specialist financial recruitment consultancy focused on sourcing senior financial talent across commercial organisations.     

When candidates prepare for an interview, they typically focus on how best to talk through their CV, answer questions and present their experience in line with a job brief. All too often they overlook one of the most fundamental weapons in their armoury: asking questions.

It’s a common misconception that an interview is a one-sided conversation. An interviewer needs to know about your experience and background, asses your cultural fit for the team and your overall suitability for the role. But is’s also your opportunity to gather information and find out more about the business, the role, the team, the challenges, expectations and the broader process. For an interview to be successful this two-way information exchange is essential.

The internet can facilitate your initial research but there are important questions that you need to ask in an interview to truly determine whether this is the right opportunity for you. Asking insightful and considered questions proves to your interviewer that you are taking the process seriously. It’s easy to feign interest in a company but demonstrating that you have done your due diligence will put you in a much stronger position.

You might want to write down your critical questions beforehand, to ensure that when you walk out of your interview you have all the information you need.

Below are a selection of questions to consider before an interview and a few suggestions of those to avoid:

How is finance perceived by the broader business?   

Understanding how the finance function is viewed internally can be an indication of challenges that might face people joining the finance team. This can also lead to a further conversation that explores internal politics within the organisation.

What are the common traits of successful people in your business?   

Understanding more about the people already working within the team and their backgrounds will give you greater insight into the culture of an organisation and consequently how appropriate the fit will be for you.

What will be the biggest challenge(s) for someone coming into this role?   

It’s always much easier for the interviewer to talk about the positive attributes to a role rather than discuss the potential negatives. Asking about the challenges will ensure that you get a balanced view. This will also provide a good opportunity for you to further demonstrate relevant examples of your experience.

What are your expectations of the successful candidate over the first 12 months?   

It’s important to understand and be comfortable with the role expectations in the short to mid-term. This can lead to a conversation around the strategic plans for the business and how they might impact on your future career with the organisation.

How do I compare to your ideal candidate?   

There’s nothing wrong in asking for feedback in an interview. This will allow you to address any reservations or areas of concern and to clarify anything that might have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. Furthermore it will provide you with a final opportunity to cover off any areas that will support your candidacy for the role.

Questions to avoid:   

Only ask questions that you are genuinely interested in, rather than just for the sake of it. If you’re enquiring about general information that can be found on the company website or in the job description you will look ill-prepared.

Avoid asking closed questions which require a simple one-word answer. Instead opt for open-ended questions that give the interviewer an opportunity to expand with a more detailed response. It’s essential to build rapport during an interview but avoid being overly familiar and asking personal questions.

Avoid asking questions around the practical elements such as salary, holidays and flexible working early on in an interview. Ideally, these are conversations that you should have directly with your recruitment consultant, who can negotiate on your behalf.

Ask one question at a time rather than asking lengthy and cumbersome questions with multiple parts.

Throughout an interview the conversation should flow and should not feel like an interrogation from either side. Be mindful not to interject or interrupt; relax and be confident. It is your role to interview the interviewer as much as they are interviewing you. Leave your interviewer with a strong and lasting impression by using your questions not just your answers.

It is only by having two-way dialogue with a client that you can identify whether the opportunity is truly right for you or not. By working with the right consultancy, you can utilise your recruitment consultant to help you analyse and evaluate the responses to your questions based on your wants, needs and motivations for making the move ensuring that it would be the right choice on all levels.

Acing competency based interviews

That dread when you hear that the next stage of interview is going to be a ‘competency based interview’ is familiar to most of us; what if my mind goes blank, what if I don’t have any good examples, what if I have to make something up? Competency based interviewing (CBI) has replaced the old ‘biographical chat’ where the interviewer goes through your CV and asks questions about your past roles, in an attempt to bring a more scientific and fair approach to interviewing. Competence is described as ‘an observable skill or ability to complete a task successfully’.

The theory is that every job has a number of key competencies necessary to do the job well – HR should be sitting down with Line Managers to decide what these competencies are and what is critical. Often key values or competencies which are at the core of a company culture will also be measured during an interview and these might form a ‘competency framework’ for the organisation.

The best way to ‘ace’ a CBI is to prepare properly and put time aside to do this:

  • Ensure you have a job description or brief. These will usually give some indication of the competencies necessary for the role and might even list them. If you don’t have a JD refer back to the job advert as they will often be included on this.
  • Research on the company website as this will often include information on values and competencies that employees are expected to display, in particular look at the ‘careers’ section if there is one. Once you have a list of competencies you need to think of examples where you have shown you have this competency; for example, working under pressure, influencing others or managing conflict. Try to keep the examples work-related but if there is a fantastic example outside of work, such as from University or sports that’s fine.
  • Competency based questions will usually consist of something like ‘Tell us about a time when you had to work under pressure to achieve something against a tight deadline’. When talking through your example ensure you use the STAR structure – Situation, Task, Action, Result – so describe the situation, what was the task, what did you do and what was the outcome?  You will often be asked what ‘would you do differently’ or ‘what didn’t work and how did you handle this’, so be prepared for these questions too.
  • Even examples where something has gone wrong are fine as long as you can show that you have learnt from this and would change your approach next time.
  • TOP TIP – remember to say ‘I’ and not ‘we’! The interviewer is not assessing your team or your manager so make sure that you talk about ‘your’ role and what ‘you’ did.
  • Prepare one or two examples for all of the competencies and you will be fine but try to keep your answers relatively succinct.

Despite all this it’s still worth remembering the ‘halo and horns effect’ – if the interviewer likes you they will mark you more highly than someone they don’t like, even if you give the same answer in a competency based interview….so remember the basics and smile, make good eye contact , have a firm handshake and relax and be yourself.