33 HMRC criminal investigator job interview questions

Updated 6 June 2023

Criminal investigators can work in various organisations, including tax agencies. These criminal investigators specialise in fraud and financial crime. If you're interested in this type of work, knowing potential interview questions can help you get the job you want. In this article, we explain what an HMRC criminal investigator is, list 30 HMRC criminal investigator job interview questions by category and show you explanations and example answers for three more.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What is an HMRC criminal investigator?

His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has criminal investigators who analyse various financial crimes, such as fraud and tax evasion, in its Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) department. They investigate these crimes, collect evidence and retrieve funds that derived from crime and tax offences. HMRC also has the Risk and Intelligence Service, which supports the work of the FIS and others by providing risk information and intelligence.

HMRC officers conduct interviews, arrest people, search property, seize items, apply to freeze suspects' accounts and impose certain civil penalties. HMRC's criminal investigators may work closely with banks and other third parties to find information, identify anomalies and track suspicious expenditure. These enquiries may be either civil or criminal, depending on the actions of the individual under investigation and their severity.

Related: How to become a criminal investigator (including skills)

10 general HMRC criminal investigator job interview questions

Initially, the interviewer is likely to ask you some general HMRC criminal investigator job interview questions. These questions are useful for developing rapport with you and setting up more in-depth questions later in the interview. Consequently, these questions are likely to be broader than subsequent ones, with topics including yourself, what you know about the job and your ambitions. To answer these questions, be concise and informative without providing excessive detail. Here are some questions you might encounter:

  1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

  2. Why do you want to be a criminal investigator?

  3. How did you find out about this job?

  4. What would you say is your greatest strength?

  5. What would you say is your main area for improvement?

  6. What do you know about HMRC and the FIS?

  7. What makes you the right person for this position?

  8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  9. Why do you want to work for HMRC?

  10. Why are you looking for a new job?

Related: Top job interview questions and answers: examples and tips

10 background and experience interview questions

After asking broader questions, the interviewer might ask about your background and experience. These are key for roles that require qualifications or work history and are a useful indicator of your job ability. The answers to these questions are fact-based, but ensure you tailor them to best fit a criminal investigator's role. The interviewer may base their questions on your CV and cover letter, so review these as part of your preparation. Below are some questions to consider:

  1. Could you explain the details on your CV?

  2. Could you explain why there's an employment gap in your CV?

  3. Have you ever worked in investigative roles before?

  4. Which previous job do you believe prepared you the most for this one?

  5. Why did you choose to study that subject at university?

  6. Which investigative approaches have you found to be most effective? Why?

  7. Do you have any experience as a leader?

  8. What's the most challenging investigation you've encountered?

  9. Have you ever prepared evidence for a fraud case?

  10. Can you tell me about a time when you didn't succeed?

Related: How to answer interview questions about previous experience

10 in-depth interview questions

Towards the latter stages of the interview, your interviewer may ask you some more in-depth questions. These questions typically take longer to answer and require you to demonstrate key knowledge and skills. In-depth questions are often situational, where the interviewer asks how you'd approach a hypothetical situation. For these questions, try to break down your answer into sections to explain and justify each part. This can demonstrate your ability to use critical thinking and be organised. Some questions you might encounter include the following:

  1. How do you handle ethical dilemmas at work?

  2. What is your reaction when an investigation encounters a setback?

  3. What would you do if a case required more time than you thought?

  4. How would you describe proper evidence-collection processes?

  5. What would you say are the ideal criminal investigator qualities?

  6. What do you think is the most common mistake in criminal investigations?

  7. How do you organise and prioritise a heavy workload?

  8. What would you do if a colleague asked you to do something unethical?

  9. You suspect a colleague is concealing information relevant to a case. What do you do?

  10. Do you have any questions of your own?

Related: 5 situational interview questions and how to answer them

3 questions with example answers

To help you prepare for an interview, here are three additional questions that you might encounter in an interview as an HMRC investigator, along with an explanation and example answer for each:

1. How do you remain unbiased during an investigation?

Effective investigators are unbiased, disregard personal feelings or opinions and focus solely on the evidence available when investigating a case. The interviewer wants you to confirm that you can remain unbiased and how you manage this. To answer this question, emphasise the importance of objectivity and explain your process for separating your opinions and emotions from your work.

The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

Example answer: 'I believe that the most effective way for me to be an investigator is to remain unbiased. This helps me consider every possible eventuality and clarifies my thought processes, while keeping my professional and personal lives separate. I adopt a professional mentality in the workplace, disregarding my opinions and allowing evidence to guide me. I find that a useful approach to reinforce this is to constantly question my thought patterns and challenge my hypotheses to ensure that no unconscious bias affects me.'

Related: 8 types of biases and how they may affect your thinking

2. What would you say are the most common signs of fraud?

Investigating instances of financial fraud can be part of an HMRC investigator's job. These investigations often start with observations of unusual or suspicious behaviour that might indicate that someone has been untruthful about their finances. This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your experience, for example mentioning the most common signs you've encountered previously. To answer this question, provide at least two different indications of fraud and demonstrate that you understand what they mean.

Example answer: 'In my experience, I've found that sudden changes in financial activity are among the most common signs of fraud. This could mean a sudden increase in cash withdrawals or transfer of funds from new sources. Another sign is a lack of supporting documentation for new expenditure, especially those inconsistent with previous buying patterns. In the case of a business, another sign is owners having a lifestyle that doesn't match the amount of income they claim to have derived from the business.'

Related: Responsibilities of a detective and a criminal investigator

3. What's the most important ethical consideration for investigative work?

This question is about your opinion, although it's still somewhat of a facts-based topic. Ethics are a key consideration when investigating people, especially given that many may be innocent of wrongdoing. Consider naming factors such as confidentiality, objectivity or compliance in your answer and explain why they're important.

Example answer: 'Confidentiality is the most important consideration for me when working. I try to always remind myself that I'm handling other people's data, most of whom are likely to be completely innocent and law-abiding citizens. I treat their information with the utmost confidentiality. A useful habit for me is hiding the names of individuals in spreadsheets and similar programmes when going through data and looking at someone's name only once I have cause to investigate them further.'

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