Competency-based job interview preparation.
August 13, 2012
Competency-based interviews allow candidates to demonstrate their behaviours and skills by answering questions about how they have reacted to and dealt with previous work place situations. By looking at past experience a potential employer can predict future behaviour.
Candidates are asked to give an example of a situation or task that led to a certain course of action. Probing questions will then be used to determine the course of action taken, what changes were created by those actions and the effects of those actions on others. When answering, remember that the interviewer wants to know what individual rather than group achievements so avoid over-using examples of ‘we’.
When answering competency style questions it is best to adopt the STAR model, which will allow you to structure your answer in a logical and concise manner.
• Situation – Describe the situation/problem you were faced with (try to keep your examples recent).
• Task – What did you have to do?
• Action – What action did you take and why? Were there any challenges/obstacles and how did you overcome them?
• Results – Highlight the outcomes.
Preparing for a competency-based interview
Re-read your CV
The best way to identify the competencies that the organisation is likely to require is to review the job description and discuss further with your consultant who will be able to advise you. For each core competency try to think of specific examples of when you have evidenced those behaviours but do not prepare specific answers prior to your interview as this is likely to mean that you provide answers that do not fully answer the question. You may find it helpful to run through some competency examples with your consultant or perhaps with a friend prior to your interview.
To help you we have listed some of the most common competencies below that companies look for. Please note that these definitions may not be identical to those of a prospective employer and are just to give you an idea of what to expect.
1. Drive for results
This competency is trying to assess personal motivation and how you approach challenges.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- Give me an example of a time when you have had to achieve a specific result.
- What opportunities have you identified and used to achieve success?
- Tell me about a time when you have ‘made things happen’ for yourself or your team?
This competency is looking for the ability to communicate effectively and to influence others to act on and support goals or objectives. Interviewers will need to establish that you understand how to adapt your communication methods depending on the situation and individuals that you are facing. Communication methods can include: one-to-one discussions (formal and informal), group presentations, telephone, email etc. Different ‘audiences’ may include peers, subordinates, senior management, customers, suppliers and so forth.
- Can you please give a specific example of when you have had to influence a colleague to your way of thinking?
- Tell me about a particularly difficult issue you had to communicate.
3. Planning and Organising
This is looking to assess if and how you plan activities or projects. It is relevant for all roles, not just managerial positions. Often interviewers will look to identify how you fit your planning into a project.
- Describe a time when you have had to plan a large piece of work.
- How would you approach ensuring that you delivered results in your role.
- It’s a busy day with conflicting priorities and deadlines, what do you do?
4. Customer Focus
Individuals who display this competency understand and believe in the importance of customer focus. They listen to and understand the needs of external and internal customers. They meet and exceed customer requirements to ensure satisfaction.
- Can you give us an example of when you have dealt with an upset or angry customer in the past?
5. Influencing or Persuading Others
You may have strong verbal skills but can you influence another person to change their thinking or take some action – perhaps a colleague follows your advice or a client decides to buy a service or product. Things to consider are whether you the skills to persuade and involve rather than coerce and punish. Are you ethical in your dealings with people?
- Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s viewpoint significantly?
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with?
6. Interpersonal and Team Skills
The desire to build and maintain relationships in and beyond the workplace is critical. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams. Those who are highly collaborative and co-operative are most likely to thrive in this type of environment.
- What skills and personal qualities have you contributed to the teams you have been part of?
- Tell me about the most difficult person you have worked with.
7. Problem Solving and Decision Making
How do you come to a decision? What information do you utilise and how do you break that down and filter it to ensure your decisions are sound and valid? Are you able to make decisions or do you rely too heavily on others.
Take me back.
- Tell me about a difficult decision that you have made.
- Tell me about an unpopular difficult decision that you have made.