Compliance Job Interview Questions – What to expect and what to ask

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Compliance, though incredibly crucial to the success of any business, does not typically come under the list of dream jobs of young professionals. Most people who find themselves working in compliance, journey there by way of careers in areas including policy, law, accounting or finance. All solid launchpads to a compliance career with a number of transferable skills; though it is understanding the purpose of compliance within an organisation that will set you apart at interview.

On that note, what are the types of questions you can expect at an interview for a compliance job?

How would you define the role of compliance?

The best response here is to illustrate your understanding of compliance as functioning as both sword and shield of an organisation in its responsibility to both protect the organisation from the actions of the directors and the board, as well as to protect the organisation from external factors such as the regulators.

The role of a compliance officer is to ensure the proper controls are in place to enable the business to function in the way it wants to.

How would you define the regulators’ relationship to the organisation?

Compliance candidates are expected to understand the role of regulators and their impact upon an organisation. This question gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have excellent knowledge of what a regulator is looking at with regards the business you’re planning to work for as well as which regulators the business is beholden to and subject to. For those compliance professionals entering the financial services industry there are a large number of regulators at play, compared with industries such as telecommunications and energy, so being able to show you have done your research on this front is an excellent nod to your competency.

What is your technical understanding of a compliance role?

When an interviewer gets into the technical line of questioning around compliance they’re looking at your familiarity with setting up, monitoring and testing compliance controls as part of the compliance framework of the business. So depending on which area you’re coming from you will be bringing a different focus; the IT person will be looking through a system and tech lens, while a risk or internal controls person will be more systems focused and a regulatory or legal person more concerned with the company’s internal and external controls and how current regulations are impacting the directive of the organisation. Fundamentally, anyone applying for compliance jobs should be au fait with setting up, monitoring and adjusting the controls of an organisation’s compliance framework as that is central to the role.

How can compliance mitigate the regulatory impact of change within the business?

Anything from acquisitions to government legislation can cause a shift in the way a business engages with regulation. The role of compliance is to keep the business in line with internal policies as well as external regulations, and as things change so too does the degree of regulation required for the business. Thus, it is crucial for compliance professionals to stay aboard the regulatory merry-go-round in order to carry out their duty to the organisation effectively. Whether they need a different type of licence to complete an acquisition or approval from the regulator, the compliance team are responsible for ensuring these measures are adhered to.


Over to You – What questions should you ask in a compliance job interview?

What is the context of the role?

Find out what the reporting lines are, the responsibilities of the role and the basic expectations of your manager of you in the role. Will you be part of a large team with lots of more senior mentors to learn from? What resources and training opportunities are available to you?

What is the reputation of the compliance function within the business?

Is compliance viewed as a roadblock to revenue, entirely reactive to what the business is doing? Or is it working proactively, in prime position on the front end to offer useful advice to key decision makers? A big part of compliance is educating people in the business, to do this effectively you need to have their respect and their attention. You want to be part of a team that is seen as adding value to the organisation as opposed to preventing it doing deals.

How do you define success in this role?

Asking this will give you a clearer idea of your progression in the role. Try to get an understanding of the reality of the role and what the hiring manager is looking for. Job descriptions can often be generic, so asking this question will help clarify how they see the role and what you need to do to impress them.


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