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How to sail through a compliance job interview in banking

If you work in compliance right now you probably consider yourself able to find a new role almost at will. But while compliance professionals remain in demand, despite the advance of regulatory technology, interviewing for a job in the sector is far from straightforward.

“It’s actually a challenging interview environment in compliance and there’s no room to walk into an interview underprepared,” says Kate Reid, an associate director at recruitment company Eximius. “Hiring managers are generally interviewing a lot of candidates and are frustrated with high levels of turnover and the ever increasing cost of talent.”

If you’re about to interview for a compliance job at a bank, here’s how to ensure you perform well.

Have a stable career plan

With retention a key concern in compliance departments, your long-term objectives will be a key part of the interview. “It’s important for candidates at all levels to have a clear five-year career plan,” says Reid. “It’s always refreshing for an interviewer to hear a plan that they can support – one that’s designed to stabilise you as an employee in the bank and is focused on career development not remuneration.”

Look for ‘clues’ to potential questions

“Most compliance job descriptions have plenty of ‘clues’ in them as to the type of questions that will be used to assess your proficiency,” says Pathay Singh, managing director of recruitment firm Compliance Grid. “If the JD says ‘solid knowledge of the regulatory landscape in X market’ then write a few bullet points on your relevant experience so you can deliver clear and confident answers at the interview.”

Speak as if to the business

As in any interview, include plenty of practical examples to support your answers. But take care how you express these – interviewers are testing how you’d communicate with other departments, not with your compliance colleagues, says Tom Warren, a senior consultant in compliance at Twenty Recruitment. “If your responses aren’t clear and concise, they will question your communication skills and the degree of buy-in you'll gain from the business. The hiring manager will be asking ‘would I be comfortable putting you in front of the business?’”

It helps to use STAR in a compliance interview

Structuring answers in compliance interviews can be a minefield – you need to demonstrate regulatory knowledge, technical proficiency and the ability to work closely with other teams in the bank. “The Situation, Task, Action, Result (‘STAR’) methodology can help when you need to give detailed replies,” says Reid. “Describe the ‘situation’ aligned to regulatory environment, then the ‘task’ is the value you brought to that situation, and the ‘result’ is the business outcome and achievement for you and your team.”

Know all the new updates

Don’t expect just to be grilled about the core regulations in your field, interviewers will try to trip you up by asking about amendments to these regulations, some of which may only be a few days old. Check all the latest regulatory updates, press releases and decisions from relevant regulators before you go to the interview, advises Singh. “Also know about new fines and regulatory enforcement action,” adds Richard Eggleston, senior manager of compliance and legal contract at recruiters Morgan McKinley. “These are well publicised, so there’s no excuse for not regularly checking the news.”

Join the regulations to the bank

You’ll stand out at a compliance interview if you not only show regulatory expertise but demonstrate how those regulations are affecting the bank you want to join. “For example, consider how the bank’s strategy could impact cross-border regulatory issues, or how a recent regulatory development could be affecting its focus in particular areas of compliance,” says Warren. “Reviewing what regulations are likely to affect the business will arm you with the perfect response to questions like ‘what do you see as the firm’s key regulatory challenges?’” says Eggleston.

Research your questions before a compliance interview

“If you read regulator and expert research papers and attend compliance forums, you’ll be able to think of great questions to ask the interviewer,” says Reid from Eximius. “You’ll then get their opinions on the most topical subjects, which should open up interesting conversations outside of task-based questions. This will also help you get an understanding of the culture of the bank as the interviewer will likely give hints about the working environment in their answers.”

Show commercial nous

Compliance is rapidly moving from a reactive policing function to one which partners will the rest of the bank to develop long-term business strategies. “So demonstrate commercial acumen during your interview by giving examples of how you took a solutions-focused approach to a problem – assessing potential resolutions and working to achieve the desired outcome – as opposed to just saying no to an idea,” says Warren from Twenty Recruitment.

Don’t push your luck

“The demand for compliance professionals is well documented and while there is a skills shortage, this doesn’t apply to all positions,” says Eggleston from Morgan McKinley. “You don’t want to fall into the trap of promising the world and delivering very little. Being realistic about your experience, expectations and market value will help ensure you land the right role that fits your background and doesn’t expose you to risk.”

Image credit: mbbirdy, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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