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Competency based interviews assess how likely you are to be competent at something based on your previous experience and past behaviour. If you're well prepared it's a great opportunity to showcase your skills and capabilities.
The interviewer will prepare questions about various scenarios. They differ from general, open interview questions because there's an intention to assess and measure specific things.
The questions themselves are worded in such a way that it's impossible to answer yes or no. This style of interview often feels more formal and questions are likely to start with something like:
" Describe a time when ...." " Give an example of ...."
" When did you ...." " How do you..."
Listen carefully to identify the competency, respond with enough information to give a complete answer but avoid falling into the waffle trap. Digressing and extra story telling is counter productive. It distracts your interviewer and waters down your response. The key to success on the day is your preparation, this simple three step process will give you a competitive edge.
There's often a section that lists them on the job description. If not, read it carefully and highlight them. Don't forget to speak to your Recruitment Consultant who would have spoken at length with the hiring manager.
Write the competency as a header and prepare a relevant example. Think of it like telling little mini stories with a beginning, middle and end.
Limit yourself to 2 sentences for the beginning and end, 4 for the middle. It's likely you'll expand a little on the day but if you prepare in this way you're more likely to deliver clear answers and recall the important points. If you're very visual you can even draw pictures.
Beginning: a short introduction for your response.
It's a good idea to name the competency if you can and to explain what role you were in and when, set the scene.
Middle: an explanation of what you did.
Use the first person 'I' not 'we' when you explain the scenario. If you were working in a team at the time make sure to talk about what you did within the team. It's very important because if there's ambiguity you will not get top marks for this answer.
End: the result of your action.
This is where you can bottom line what you delivered or achieved and give evidence that proves your competence.
Another nice way to structure your answers so you stay on track is to use the STAR technique:
Situation - background detail, what, where, when.
Task - what was the situation and what needed to be done. Why? What were the challenges / expectations?
Action - What did you do? Provide details for your example, what methods and tools did you use? What was your thought process?
Result - what was the outcome, can you quantify the result here? Talk positively about recognition you received from colleagues or clients.
It's not appropriate to use these notes in the interview, this is your behind the scenes effort. Practice answering the questions without notes as much as you can, either by yourself or with a friend. Make sure you can thoroughly explain your thinking and doing processes from start to finish.
This becomes a working document to revise and review throughout your job search. Read it an hour before each interview and keep it in your career folder for future use.
Examples of core competencies:
Hints and Tips
Try to use examples from your most recent and relevant job role where possible. However, it's fine to use examples from any position, education or even outside of work. So long as the example your give is positive and it's clear why you've chosen to present it.
If your interviewer starts asking you probing questions then take it as a hint. They want some specific information from you, follow their questioning.
Stay positive throughout, even if you're asked about challenges like managing difficult people and stressful circumstances. Always conclude with a positive statement about what you learned, a beneficial outcome and strategies you use to manage these situations.
Last but not least, never, ever lie! It's just not worth it. If you can't think of an example or the questions asked highlight a need for professional development then be honest about that. Wouldn't you prefer to accept a role with confidence, as opposed to an intimidating new position with expectations you're unlikely to meet?
Opportunity + Preparation = Luck
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