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Dealing with competency based interviews

Your guide to answering tough questions

Many employers are now using what is known as a competency-based interview to learn the most about their prospective employees. This assesses behaviour in a previous role or situation and looks at how that can contribute to performance in the role being recruited for. But what is competency based interviewing and what sort of questions should candidates expect?

While historically, job descriptions have been broken down into duties and responsibilities, today more organisations are analysing roles by breaking them down into key measurable competencies which may include headings such as planning & organising, communication skills, problem solving, decision making, results orientation and team work. This way the employer establishes what it regards as valued and desired skills, experience, and behaviour so that each candidate is able to map out an indication of what is required of them.

Its is well worth, therefore, looking at what the competencies are for the role and preparing to give evidence through examples of real situations in your work where you have displayed those competencies. The STAR technique is a useful tool for this preparation:

  • Situation: Describe the situation
  • Task: Describe the task required to cope with the situation
  • Action: What was the action taken
  • Result: What was the outcome

The interviewer will be looking to gather evidence in support of your application to ensure that you have the ability and skills to match the ‘competencies’ needed for the job. You’ll be asked to answer questions based on how you have reacted to and dealt with previous workplace issues which relate to the key competencies for the role. Traditional interviewing focuses primarily on information on a CV which can lead to subjective decisions whereas competency based questions will be directly linked to essential functions of the role.

So, if for example problem solving is one of the key competencies, the interviewer may ask you to give an example of when you had to identify a problem and its causes, what action you took to solve it and what the outcome was. In responding to a competency-based question, the most important principle is to give a real example that actually happened to you. Avoid talking in broad terms about how you generally tackle those sorts of situations. Give a specific example. And be prepared to expand on your answer as the interviewer will probably ask you further questions to get a deeper understanding of what you did.

And finally…. Remember that, no matter how they are phrased, all the questions posed to you in an interview boil down to one - “How would you fit into this company and do the job better than any of the other people we are talking to?”

 

If you would like further career advice from expert consultants who know your sector inside out, get in touch.

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