You’ve been invited for an interview and been told that it’s a competency-based interview, but you’re not sure what that means or what to expect. Competency-based interviews are based on the idea that past behaviour is the predictor of future behaviour. Every job can be described in terms of key competencies and can include:
- Individual competencies – your personal attributes (flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, independence, risk taking, personal integrity)
- Managerial competencies – taking charge of other people (leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, corporate sensitivity, management control)
- Analytical competencies – the elements of decision making (innovation, analytical skills, numerical problem solving, detail consciousness)
- Interpersonal competencies – dealing with other people (communication, impact persuasiveness, personal awareness, teamwork, openness)
- Motivational competencies – the things that drive you (resilience, energy, motivation, achievement orientation, initiative, quality focus)
Preparing for a competency-based interview
During the interview the interviewer will be trying to get an overall impression of you as a person, including what your strengths and weaknesses are. Competency-based interview questions will ask you to give an example of a certain situation, what happened, what you did and how it was resolved.
Example questions include:
- What was your biggest decision in the last year?
- Describe your management style
- Tell me about a time you had to convince your manager to change a process
- Describe a project where you needed to gain input from other departments.
- How do you build relationships with other team members?
To prepare for this type of interview first review the job specification and then identify the competencies that are likely to be assessed. Next review your CV and identify two examples for each competency that you will refer to in the interview (if you find this exercise difficult it could be a good indication that the job may not suit you).
Use the STAR model to structure your answers:
- Situation – describe a situation or problem that you have encountered
- Task – describe a task that the situation required or ideas for resolving the problem
- Action – describe the action you took, obstacles that you had to overcome
- Results – highlight the outcomes achieved
For example, if they’re looking for someone with teamwork and leadership skills, think of a situation where you’ve demonstrated this.
Using the STAR technique above your answer might be:
‘I demonstrated my teamwork and leadership abilities when I was asked to lead and delivered a presentation to some clients on how we could improve their hiring practices. Before the presentation I put together a small team of colleagues to help me collate information on market trends and competitor analysis, the results of which enabled us to offer a competitive price to the client during the presentation which resulted in us winning the businesses’. The length of your answer should be roughly 2-3 minutes long.
- Make a list the competencies in the job specification
- Go through your CV and try to think of two examples for each competency
- For each example use the STAR technique
- Practice your answers out loud and if possible with a friend
- Enjoy the interview, you’re all prepared!
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