Preparing for Competency based Interviews

Anne Murray
in Careers guidance
Competency based Interviews

Great news – you have just secured an Interview! Then the realisation – ‘What’s a Competency Based Interview? I have not done a Competency Based Interview before’.

Fear not…. we are a very supportive bunch here are Search and Select. We love helping and supporting others. Let the nerves become excitement. Read on and see how with our help you can win that job!

A lot of Companies use this form of Interview – Why?

Because they are looking for:

1.       You to be able to demonstrate where you have actually carried out the requirements of their role. They will be looking for real examples of where you have carried out specific tasks.

2.       Do you have the behaviours/values that a company lives and breathes? Again, they will be looking for you to give them real and specific examples. They want people with the same values and behaviours as they have.

Both of these areas are assessed when you attend one of these Interviews. Can you demonstrate them by giving good solid examples?

It’s important to remember that when anyone carries out a task of any description, your behaviour also forms part of how the task is achieved.

What should I do before the Interview?

It’s really important you have the following ready for your preparation:

1.       A copy of the Job Description – if you don’t have one, ask

2.       Time to prepare is critical

3.       Know the Company’s Website so you can research a few things about them

What are they going to ask me at the Interview?

Often the clues to what will be asked are hidden within the Job Description. The Job Description will list the work elements or the tasks you have to do along with the behaviours that are associated with them. It’s important you analyse this thoroughly.

Here is an example of what you may be asked given the following Job Description wording. The areas highlighted in bold are the clues and the Interviewer(s) will look for real examples of where you have carried out the tasks and the values/behaviours you have used to complete the task.

Administrator Role Profile:

To deliver excellent customer service to clients by the processing of telephone calls and email requests within agreed turnaround times.

 Key Responsibilities:

  • Good Written and Verbal communication to both internal & external clients
  • Ability to deal with internal and external customers professionally, concisely and accurately via telephone, fax and e-mail
  • Ability to identify problem areas and offer various solutions
  • Adherence to regulatory legislation and ensuring compliance requirements are met
  • Working as part of a team
  • Adhering to the turnaround times/deadlines

Key Skills & Experience:

  • GCSE (or equivalent) grade C or above English and Maths
  • Minimum of 3 years' experience in a Financial Services environment
  • Good working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, Outlook)
  • Ability to draft letters/fax
  • Experience within a customer facing administration role
  • Good planning and organisational skills
  • Ability to work within a team or on own initiative
  • Can maintain high level of accuracy and still work within agreed service standards
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Strong communication skills (written & verbal)
  • Good team player
  • Good telephone manner

You will note that some words are repeated so this will usually mean that you are definitely going to be asked questions on these tasks/behaviours/values.

Now you have your clues, you can start to think of some examples. Don’t forget to write these down. You can take these with you to the Interview. You are not expected to remember everything and to take notes with you makes you look prepared and organised which may be one of their requirements for the role!

It’s also important to note that if you cannot think of a work example, you can use an outside of work example. Perhaps from education; are you part of a sports team or club or do you have other outside of work activities that you are involved in such as volunteering, charity work etc. You should be able to gather examples here.

What if you can’t think of an example?

If you are asked for an example that you have not done before, be honest and say you have not encountered this so far and ask the Interviewer if you could answer that particular question by saying how you would approach the task. Alternatively, you could also ask them for another question. You should not do this for every question though.

How do I make sure I answer the Competency Based Question fully?

By using the STAR method. If you think of examples and write them down using the S T A R you will answer the questions fully. Do remember when you think of your examples, they will be looking at the behaviours you demonstrate(d) as well as achieving the task. DON’T use examples such as I think I would do it like this. This will not answer the question. Think of a specific example to give. This is what they are looking for not how you would hypothetically do it.

Another good tip is avoiding the word ‘we’ as much as possible when giving your examples. Don’t forget they are Interviewing you and want to see the contribution you have made. Remember to start your examples with ‘I’.

S  Situation – briefly set the scene

T  Task – Describe what had to be done

A  Action – What did you do and why?

R  Result – What was the outcome?

Don’t forget before you get to the Competency based part of the Interview……

They will want to know:

1.        A bit about you. (Keep it short and concise)

2.        What you know about them

3.       At the end they will expect 1 or 2 questions from you – there is a link on our Website which will give you some good examples

And then it will be time for you to work your Competency based magic.

Author: Anne Murray

Recruiter and top manager, Anne is also the owner of the best stocked bar this side of Vegas. Loves her budgies and venturing out in her camper van.

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