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Jul 29, 2015

Seven questions to expect in an IR interview

What IR recruiters want to know about you and how to best prepare for an interview

Trying to predict how a job interview will go is a dangerous game, particularly in the IR world. Jennifer Bargrove, principal consultant at VMA Executive, says that as IR recruitment is relatively infrequent, internal HR managers might not have expert knowledge of the role.

‘They are just as likely to be looking at how you structure your answers – irrespective of the subject matter – and whether you culturally fit the wider communications and finance team for value and personality,’ she explains. ‘It is best, therefore, to focus on what impression you need to make on this interviewer and what a positive interview would look like for him or her.’

That said, there are a number of issues Bargrove predicts will come up in an interview. We also spoke to John Gollifer, general manager of the UK’s IR Society, who provided us with the questions IR candidates would be best advised to be prepared for in an interview.

1. What do you know about our company?

Though this involves some prior research, it is paramount to ‘demonstrating you have done your research to understand the company, its strategy and future prospects,’ says Gollifer. ‘Start with the company website, its annual report, and social media channels and make sure you are familiar with these and can put across the company’s story in your own words.’ Other sources such as analyst reports or media stories can back this up, while public filings and other data can give an overview of your prospective employer’s shareholder base, operating markets and competitors, Gollifer adds.

2. What do you know about this particular role?

It’s also important to research the specific role you’re hoping to take on, as this may well change from company to company. ‘Make sure you have done your homework and understand what is required of you and that you can provide evidence of fit for this role,’ Gollifer advises. ‘Give good examples of how your skills match those identified in the job description.’

3. What difference do you think you can make in this role?

Though it’s a staple of many interviews, for an IR job this question can provide a great opportunity to ‘demonstrate your past achievements,’ says Gollifer. ‘Use case studies to demonstrate your strengths and, where appropriate, financial statistics to back up your experience.’

4. How do you ensure your financial models are up to date and relevant?

Bargrove says many IROs come from outside the function and, while they may well have the knowledge and skills to do well, still lack an appreciation for what is involved in the day-to-day role of an IRO. ‘Individuals should go into meetings understanding that IR roles are often strong accounting, drafting and modeling-orientated, and be ready to assure clients their technical skills are first rate,’ she continues. ‘More importantly, they should express their willingness to commit to the daily grind: roadshows, conferences, meeting sell-side analysts and investors – these parts of the role are attractive, but they come after the hard work.’

5. How would you manage the relaying of negative feedback from the investment community to the C-suite?

Another area where IROs must be strong, says Bargrove, is in proving they can influence both stakeholders and the C-suite. ‘Not every individual who has strong analytical skills also has great communications skills, but an IR professional must have expertise in both,’ she explains. ‘Impact is something all working professionals strive for, and most interviewers will assess this through tone and presence in the room.’

6. If we select you, what would you propose doing in your first week, first month and first year?

‘This question is a useful measure for performance, so come prepared for it,’ Gollifer says. Examples he picks out include meeting key company management in the first weeks and months to better understand business, and building networks, both internal and external, to develop a deeper understanding of the company’s strategy and future growth prospects.

7. Are there any aspects of the role you would like to ask about?

‘An interview is an opportunity for you to ask questions, too,’ Gollifer concludes. ‘Make sure it is a two-way conversation, to get your personality across and build a rapport with the interviewer.’

Laurie Havelock

Laurie has been part of the IR Magazine team for more than a decade, starting out as a reporter and research editor before becoming editor in 2023. He was previously acting business editor at the i newspaper and deputy business editor at The Daily...