Interview Tips

Regulatory Compliance and Financial Services Competency-Based Interview Tips

How to prepare for a competency-based interview in the Regulatory Compliance or Financial Services Industry.

As with most things, preparation is key when preparing for a competency-based interview. This is true of any competency-based interview scenario, especially if the role you are interviewing for is in the Regulatory Compliance or Financial Services industry.

You will likely have a few tricky questions thrown at you during the interview, and you don’t want to start thinking on the spot. To ensure you are prepared, experts recommend you follow several steps, as follows:

1. Understand the skills and competencies you will be tested on and prepare scenarios and answers for each of these skills.

It is crucial to understand the requirements for the post, whether they are stated explicitly or not in the person’s specification.

Every regulatory compliance role or any role in the financial services industry will have a particular set of skills and competencies. You will be tested on these during the competency-based interview. Whilst the person’s specification might be vague, the necessary skills to do the job won’t be. Make sure you’re clear on the skills required to do the role and then once you are clear on the skills list, take the time to think of specific examples in your career where you have had to use each of the skills required.

Identify examples from your experience that you can use to demonstrate that you possess the skills and competencies that you are being asked to demonstrate. You do not have to find hyper-complicated examples; in particular, the outcome of the story does not have to be extraordinary; what matters most is that the role you played in reaching the outcome was substantial.

2. Practice your answers using the STAR Method

The next important step in preparing for your competency-based interview is to practice. Once you have identified relevant examples, practice narrating the story using the STAR method as it relates to the skill.

In short, this means that when retelling the story you’re sharing in the interview, you can set the scene, explain how you handled the situation by emphasising your role, and detail the outcome/result.

What is the STAR Method?

The acronym STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

During a competency-based interview, hiring managers use specific questions designed to assess an applicant’s experience and qualities. The questions allow the candidate to share their experience in a story-like response.

It is a universally recognised communication technique designed to enable you to provide a meaningful and complete answer to questions asking for examples. At the same time, it has the advantage of being simple enough to be applied easily.

Many interviewers will have been trained in using the STAR structure. When candidates answer the questions in a structured manner, the interviewer will become more receptive to the messages they are trying to communicate.

SITUATION: Describe a situation and when it took place.

Describe the situation that you were confronted with. With the STAR approach, you need to set the context. Make it concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story.

Example 1:

If the Interviewer asks you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult FinTech CEO, explain how you met that person and why they were difficult.

Example 2:

If the interviewer asks you to describe a situation where you had to turn around an underperforming Fund, explain how you were exposed to the fund and why it was underperforming.

TASK: Explain the task and what the goal was.

From the examples above, describe the task that needed to be accomplished and your exact role or responsibility in the situation. Ensure the interviewer knows what you were tasked with doing rather than what everyone else was supposed to achieve.

However, if the question asks for an example of teamwork, explain the task you had to undertake as a team, but still mention your role within the team.

ACTION: Provide details about the action you took to attain this.

Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did. This is the most important section of the STAR approach in competency-based interviews, where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Explain how you handled the specific situation or solved the problem.

In doing so, you will need to remember the following:

  • Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team.
  • Go into some detail.
  • Do not assume that they will guess what you mean.
  • Steer clear of unnecessary technical information unless it is crucial to your story.
  • Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.

What you did and how you did it?

The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling some important skills.

For example, describe how you used your FCA experience and knowledge to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep all stakeholders updated on progress etc.

Why you did it?

You will make a more significant impact by highlighting the reasons behind your action. For example:

For example, when discussing a situation where you had to deal with an underperforming fund, many candidates would say: 

I told the CIO where the errors were and what the overall problem was that needed fixing”.

This response does not clearly indicate, though, what drove you to take any specific action. How did you find out where the errors were made? What sources of data and inputs helped you to define the corrective action to resolve the overall problem?  

Having reviewed the performance data and compared it to the benchmark metrics of the above-average return funds in the same sector, I could give a clear indication of a path to greater returns by restructuring the overall portfolio. By including the CIO in the review reporting, I gave him the opportunity to see the exposure that the fund was giving us in the current set-up. I then explained my point of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was to re-structure the fund exposure so that we found a solution that delivered us the returns that he originally hoped for.

This revised answer helps the interviewers understand what drove your actions and reinforces the feeling that you are calculating the consequences of your actions, thus retaining complete control of the situation. It provides much more information about you as an individual and is another reason the STAR approach is so useful.

RESULT: Conclude with the result of your action.

Explain what happened eventually and how it all ended. Use the opportunity to describe what you accomplished and learned in that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight additional skills.

This is the most crucial part of your answer. Interviewers want to know that you are using various generic skills to achieve your objectives. You must demonstrate in your response that you are taking specific actions because you are trying to accomplish a particular objective and not simply by chance.

For examples of competency-based interview questions for compliance roles, there are sites such as Indeed that can provide further guidance.

At FINCO Search, we support our candidates through the recruitment process, which includes not only CV Consultancy Service, but we provide practical tips for competency-based interviews specific to the Regulatory Compliance and Financial Services industry.

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