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Compliance Interview Tips & Competency Questions

  • October 09, 2015

Interviews and the type of competency questions for Compliance professionals are examined in the latest in our interview series.

Anyone who has had an interview will have experienced competency style questions; in today’s selection processes they are considered a standard interview technique.   They are designed and based on the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.  Each role has its own competency framework to ascertain a candidate’s suitability, and your interviewer will measure your responses against this throughout the process.

Competencies can vary dependent on company identity, and the requirements of a specific role.  If you are applying for a Compliance Officer role as part of a large team, then understandably the competencies that you are assessed against will be different than for a role in a smaller company where you may also be taking on responsibility for managing the Compliance team itself.

Competencies can be broadly grouped and although will vary you might be able to expect to be assessed against:

Your approach to your work and the responsibilities it entails.  
This will include how you work in a team and independently.  Your interviewer will want to ascertain your ability to prioritise, schedule your workload and manage your time as well as attention to detail.

This is a vitally important competency, regardless of the technicalities of the role.  Whether it be dealing with clients, your colleagues or regulatory bodies the manner in which you listen and tailor your communication according to the situation will be scrutinised.

If the role involves man-management, your interviewer will want to explore your ability to build and develop teams, and the successes that you’ve had in the past.  This will likely include training, mentoring and empowering through delegation, as well as managing poor performance and disciplinary issues.

Cognitive Competencies
These will include elements such as making decisions, problem identification and solution, assessing and managing risks as well as emotional resilience.

Preparing for a competency interview

This list isn’t exhaustive and you may well be assessed against other additional criteria.  The most practical piece of preparation you can do is to revisit the job description for the role.  The demands of the role such as man-management, team work and the role scope will help you to identify the competencies most likely to be addressed.  It’s possible that the company you’re applying to will also have their own established framework beyond the role scope alone, on which they base their interviewing.  Ask your consultant if they are aware of what it may be when preparing for your interview as they may be able to aid you in this area.

When discussing competencies during interviews, one of the most common pieces of negative feedback that we receive about a candidate is the tendency to talk around the question asked, and not actually answer it.  It is understandable; you’re in a pressurised environment and trying to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your experience and knowledge.  However, there are techniques to keep you on track and help deliver a really good, succinct answer.

Communicating your competencies

We recommend the SOAR technique as the best method to use.  When you are describing the Scenario, Ownership, Action, and Result, it’s essential that you become au fait with the use of “I” rather than “we”.  The focus on ownership within the SOAR technique helps to remind you that the interviewer is interested in your actions and results.

‘S’ - Scenario 
Choose a scenario that most appropriately fits the question. It could be an enquiry about your experience in a specific remit, or when you have implemented new ideas or processes, keep it relevant. 

‘O’ – Ownership  
Ensure it is clear that it was you who took ownership of the scenario.

 ‘A’ – Action
What action did you take to resolve the situation and bring about a satisfactory conclusion? 

‘R’ – Result  
How did the outcome have an effect on the company or department?  
This technique will help you to formulate an answer that is succinct, lasting about two minutes, contextualised and most importantly, actually answers the question! 

Practice makes perfect

Try not to fall into the trap of preparing answers to specific questions in advance.  There is a good chance that this would not actually answer the question posed in the interview as a result.  Practicing the technique described above however is very useful.  We’ve included some questions that you might find useful to practice with:

Tell me about a time you had difficulties with your subordinates accepting a new idea or departmental objective.  How did you overcome this?

Talk me through your involvement in the implementation of a compliance monitoring program?

Can you give me an example of how your department implemented a regulatory initiative?  What was the outcome? What problems did you experience?  How did you overcome these?

Can you give an example of when a project or your team failed to meet its deadlines?  What did you do?

How do you manage the daily demands of a busy Compliance department with the need to continually update policies and procedures as dictated by regulatory change?