Edward Manson, Director at MERJE recruitment consultancy, discusses his five top tips when being interviewed for a Risk or Compliance role.
Preparation is key
“What can you tell us about the company?” is a question that comes up frequently in interviews. You won’t be expected to know everything about the organisation that you have applied to work for, but it could reflect very poorly on you if you are unable show a basic understanding of what the company does. Make sure you’ve had a thorough read through of the company’s website in detail, including the About Us section. Showing that you have read up on the company, including its history and recent news, exhibits a willingness to understand the company’s strategies, culture and values, and will hopefully stop any awkward silences when they ask you about the firm. Use your recruitment contact to also assist you with knowledge around the team, product development and focus and structure of the firm. We always share information and insider knowledge we have through the connections we have.
And don’t forget to brush up on the latest regulatory news and legislative reforms. There may be something which has been recently reported on that could have an impact on the company, so showing some knowledge of wider compliance issues will position you strongly.
Study the job spec and think of the wider context outside of the role
It also makes sense to fully get a grasp of the role. You should have been given a detailed job spec that gives an idea of the specific responsibilities and where it fits within the wider structure of the business. Read through it carefully and try to find examples of your skills and experience that match the points within the job spec. Risk and Compliance roles can be very technical, so making sure you have examples of your specific technical experience pre-prepared can relieve the pressure of trying to remember them when in the room.
Think of the different skills and behaviours that this specific role will need for someone to succeed and research them further. Have they produced any reports which includes their Key Risk Indicators? Do you know anyone that works there that can give you some insight to their Compliance or Conduct Risk framework? Can you highlight some issues that the Risk team may be facing or will be in the future? Placing the specifics of the role in to a wider Risk or Compliance context may well give you the edge in an interview, so make use of search engines, reports, magazines and journals to stay up-to-date. Also consider who you know that works at the firm or used to work at the firm and could give at least some information.
Knowing your interviewer could give a hint as to what to expect
At MERJE we always try to provide as much information on the background of the interviewers as we can prior to the interview. This is so that our Candidates can use resources like LinkedIn to research them beforehand. Finding out their job title and how long they have been at the company can help with preparation – for instance if you are applying for a Risk Manager role and the Head of Risk is interviewing you, you might want to spend time beforehand considering the functions of the Risk team as this may well be a talking point, whereas if you are meeting an MD or HR team member there may be more of a focus on the company as a whole.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Risk and Compliance roles deal with complex situations so highlighting that you are not afraid to find out more on a subject in order to fully understand it may well work in your favour. So as part of your preparation try to come up with five questions to fill in any gaps you have. Maybe you can ask about how your time will be split between certain responsibilities, what IT platforms they use, what the team structure is, how different offices work together, or how they see the role evolving over time. Are there any new frameworks or legislation which you’ve read about in your preparation that might have an impact on the team?
Asking questions shows that you want to know more about the role and its place within the company, but try to steer clear of negative ones, such as why the previous holder of the role is leaving, or asking too many so the focus doesn’t switch from you.
The expectations of a Compliance & Risk specialist have changed significantly over the years – as the roles in these areas started out, they were more of a box-ticking exercise, and however they have developed into much more of an engagement/advisory type remit. Therefore, interviewers want to see your personal traits come through during the interview. Personality now comes to the forefront as the teams are expected to deal with many other areas throughout the business. You will need to show your personality during the interview to prove that you can not only do the tasks that make up the role, but also work well with others.
As such, the interviewer will want to know that YOU are right for the role. As a recruiter in the Risk and Compliance area, it’s not just the bullet points on the CV we pay attention to, it’s also the Candidate themselves. This cultural fit is just as important (if not more so) when placing Candidates these days – a failure to match the right person to the right company could lead to issues down the road. We need to be confident that their personality and approach to work will slot in well with the potential firm.
This is why you should be yourself when you are being interviewed. Stay professional, but also open and approachable so the interviewers can be certain that you are a good choice. It may just give the edge over equally skilled Candidates who may not have the desired personality fit.