Common Interview Questions for Compliance Officers

A compliance officer ensures an institution is in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and internal policies. The field is expanding, with a growing demand for compliance officers in a wide range of public and private industries because of the increasing maze of laws and regulations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 6% job growth between 2018 and 2028.

The following are some commonly asked questions and suggested answers to help you get through an interview for a compliance officer job.

Key Takeaways

  • A compliance officer makes sure a company is following all laws, regulations, and rules that pertain to its industry.
  • Job applicants should at the very least have a bachelor's degree and work experience in a related field, if not compliance-specific certifications.
  • Workers looking for a compliance officer job will have to answer the same question any job applicant would: namely, 'why should we hire you?'
  • They will also need to address industry-specific issues, such as 'what would you do if an employee violated the company’s code of conduct?'

"Tell me about your experience as a compliance officer?"

Be prepared to discuss your previous compliance experience. If you do not have previous experience as a compliance officer, perhaps because you are switching careers, discuss transferable skills. Keith Darcy, executive director of the Ethics & Compliance Officers Association, says, "The most important skills include leadership, writing, public speaking, ethical decision-making, communications, and training and instructional design." He adds, "They should also possess a high degree of courage and integrity due to the confidential nature of the work." 

"What do you know about us?"

This is a general question and could be asked of any applicant irrespective of the industry. Be prepared to answer it well. As a first step, take the time to research the company at which you are interviewing. Do not miss this opportunity to make a good impression by showing how knowledgeable you are about the company’s operations.

"How would you handle a situation where you learned an employee violated the company’s code of conduct?"

This is an ethics question, and the employer wants to know you respect the ethics codes of the company and can be appropriately tough when needed. Answer this question by letting the employer know you are prepared to fire an employee who violates the company’s code of conduct depending on the severity of the violation, and, if appropriate, you are prepared to pursue criminal prosecution.

"How would you handle employees who report violations of compliance policies or other laws or regulations?"

Whistleblower laws protect an employee who reports violations of various laws by other employees from retaliation. This question is designed to test your knowledge and awareness of federal and state statutes regarding this issue.

"What constitutes an effective compliance program?"

Under the United States Sentencing Commission Compliance Recommendations, (§8B2.1[5] [C] of the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines), an effective compliance program means an organization has taken appropriate steps to ensure laws, rules and regulations are complied with and ethical conduct among employees is promoted. This question tests your knowledge of the requirements of the law governing effective compliance programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10% of officers earned an average of $38,920 in 2019, while the highest 90% earned $109,950.

"Do you have any professional compliance certifications? Do you plan to get any?"

The employer is attempting to assess whether you are serious about a career as a compliance officer. Compliance is a field that attracts many people wishing to switch careers and is an attractive area for lawyers. Obtaining compliance designations and certifications show the employer how committed you are to a profession as a compliance officer.

"How would you handle a request by a senior executive to violate a company’s code of conduct?"

This question is an attempt to assess whether you are comfortable dealing with senior level employees. As a compliance officer, you must convince corporate boards and senior executives, including the CEO, that an effective compliance program is a priority. You must ensure that all employees, regardless of rank, are educated about the risks to the organization of not complying with laws, rules, and regulations.


The mean annual wage for compliance officers in 2018, representing a per-hour rate of $35, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

"Why should we hire you?"

This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Be clear about how your skills, education, and experience match the requirements of the job. It is often best to back up specific skills with real-life examples. Remember to prepare a few insightful and thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer. Questions can be about the job, the company or the team you would be working with if hired.

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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Data for Occupations Not Covered in Detail."

  2. United States Sentencing Commission. "Guidelines Manual–Chapter 8."

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 13-1041 Compliance Officers."