One of the typical entry level jobs for accounting graduates, budget analyst is a great start for your professional career. You will see the numbers, understand the expenses, and you will easily learn the basics of running a business (or at least a budget).
What is more, this jobs pays better than most entry level jobs in big corporations and in public sector, and you can get it with bachelor’s degree in accounting (or other relevant field), and no previous working experience. Let’s have a look at some questions you will face in your interview.
Why do you want to work as a budget analyst?
You should talk about the value you can bring to the employer, and about your love for financial analysis—because that’s what you will do most of your days in work. They should feel that you apply because you believe to have what it takes to be an excellent budget analyst—required education, IQ, sense for detail and responsibility, and so on.
If you have any relevant experience—which always helps, do not hesitate to mention it (any experience with financial or business analysis, statistics and math).
Why do you want to work for our company/organization/for the government?
If you apply in a big corporation or public office (which is likely the case, since small private companies do not employ budget analysts), you can refer to their reputation, vision, goals, or basically to the magnitude of the company, and what they do. Hiring managers are typically proud people. Help them to feel good in an interview with you…
Whatever you say, they should have the feeling that you honestly want to work for them, and not just for anyone out there…
Special Tip: Applying for a civil service budget analyst job? You should know that you will have to pass Civil Service Budget Analyst Test to be considered for the job.
The test consists of understanding and interpreting written and tabular material test, evaluating conclusions in lights of known facts test, preparing written material test, and more. Definitely not an easy one to pass… You can practice effectively for all the tests with an excellent preparation kit for future civil service budget analysts. It’s a paid product but worth every penny, considering the difficulty of the tests, and the face that you won’t be hired unless you pass them.
* If you do not apply for a civil service job, please continue reading the article, the tests are not relevant for you.
Tell us something about your education (and experience).
Try to keep it relevant, and focus on practical subjects/experience. You can mention all subjects that relate to the job of a budget analyst, such as Statistics, Math, Accounting, Financial Analysis, Time Row Analysis, Project Management, and other. Show some confidence. Tell them that you believe to be ready to start the job (with everything you have learned up to this point), after getting initial training.
How do you imagine a typical day in work?
Having a cup of coffee in the morning, reading newspaper, sitting in a comfy massage chair, and briefly reviewing one or two small budgets. Is this your idea of a typical day in work? Well, you’ll have to show a different attitude in your interview—at least if you want to get hired.
You will be busy. You will have meetings with project and program managers, you may even travel to check funding allocations. You may spend a lot of time on the phone, and when finally you’ll have some time for yourself, you’ll take care of the core of your job—reviewing managers’ proposals for budgets, or preparing your own proposals for them.
Obviously the day looks slightly differently in each institution. If you work in school, you’ll do different things than you’ll do working for a construction company, or in a big corporation. But the most important thing remains the same—tell them that you expect to be busy, to have a lot of work on your table, and to proactively look for things to do.
Special tip no. 1: Download a full list of questions in a one-page long .PDF document, and practice your interview answers anytime later (even when offline):
What computer programs do you use in your work, and why?
You may be surprised, but many companies (including big players) still use MS Excel as their primary budgeting software. The simple interface, low purchasing costs, universal popularity, and almost unlimited functionality makes it a great software for skilled financial analyst.
There are also other tools, more fancy and also more expensive, such as Quick Books Enterprise, SAP, AccountEdge, BOARD and other. You may have worked with some at school, or in your last job.
Ensure the interviewers that you understand a good software can make your job easier, and that you are ready to learn to work with any program they happen to use in their company…
How do you ensure you make no mistakes in work?
Mistakes prove costly in this job. And while budgeting software helps us to minimize the number of mistakes, human factor is always involved, and not everything can be interpreted in the software (if it was so, job of a budget analyst would not exist, and companies would employ only administrative assistants instead, who’d blindly enter the data to the computer, without giving them a single thought)…
Ensure the interviewers that you are aware of your responsibility. You can say that you will double check everything, carefully consider each expense, count with some unexpected events and expenditure, etc. You can also emphasize that when something looks strange or unrealistic, you’ll verify the data with another source, and consult your results with your colleagues from the financial department.
One way or another, they should feel that you want to minimize the number of mistakes, or even eliminate them.
What is the first thing you look at when asked to review a budget?
This is a simple technical question, but the answer isn’t always obvious. The first thing most of us will look at is whether the real expenses match the projected expenses, or whether they exceed them. If they do exceed them, the budget needs to be reviewed (we either have to extend it, or cut some planned expenses that aren’t essential).
However, you can also approach the situation from a different perspective, looking for unexpected events first (labor problems, decrease of sales, unexpected increase of overheads, etc), which all has an impact on the amount of money you can, and need to allocate to certain items on the budget.
Other questions you may face in your budget analyst interview
- What is the first thing you look at when asked to review a budget?
- Imagine an executive tells you there’s some inconsistency between approved budget and actual expenditure at a department. What will you do?
- What do you want to accomplish on this position?
- Why do you want to leave your present job/Why did you leave your last job?
- When you have to cut the overall expenses, what items on the budget do you check first?
- Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the many other applicants for this job?
Conclusion and next steps
You will typically have to pass a series of interviews while trying to get a job of a budget analyst (or one long interview session). Since it is a good job, and most companies require just a bachelor degree’s (and little experience), you have to count with tough competition.
If you are not sure how to answer the questions, or experience anxiety, have a look at a specialized eBook I wrote for you, the Budget Analyst Interview Guide. You will find some excellent interview answers directly on the eBook page, so it makes sense to check it out even if you do not plan to purchase anything. Thank you, I wish you good luck in your interviews!
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- How to overcome interview nerves – Feeling anxious? Get rid of stress and improve your chances of succeeding in this rough interview.