Competency Based Interviews – A Guide for Candidates

A Guide to Help You Prepare for Your Competency Based Interview

Aside from regular, interviews based around open questions with little structure, you may find your self needing to prepare for a competency-based interview.

Aimed at taking examples of your past experiences and situations to compare you to other candidates, these interviews can require a little more prep time and we have you covered!

So, what is a competency based interview?

Also known as structured, behavioural or situational, this style of interview is designed to find out how you have used specific skills in your previous experience and how you approach problems, tasks and challenges. Based on the idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. 

A competency based interview is more systematic in comparison to a standard, unstructured interview. The interviewer will ask you a series of questions, each concentrating on a different ability, and your responses will be compared to pre-determined criteria and graded appropriately. The interviewer will want specific examples of when and how you demonstrated particular behaviours. 

The word competency is widely used in business and personnel psychology and refers to the behaviours that are necessary to achieve the objectives of an organisation.

Competency Variations

There are a variety of competencies you can be assessed against, some of the key areas are as follows:

Your personal attributes: Flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, independence, risk taking, personal integrity.

Taking charge of other people: Leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, corporate sensitivity, project management, management control.

The elements of decision making: Innovation, analytical skills, numerical problem solving, problem solving, practical learning, detail consciousness.

Dealing with other people: Communication, impact, persuasiveness, personal awareness, teamwork, openness.

The things that drive you: Resilience, energy, motivation, achievement orientation, initiative, quality focus

Preparing for the Interview

The key to providing successful answers to competency questions is preparation, luckily this is pretty easy to do.

Firstly, it’s essential that you read and understand the job advert, review the job description carefully and identify the skills and traits likely to be assessed. Next you must prepare by thinking of examples of when and how you’ve demonstrated each of these.

Competency focused, well-structured answers are extremely powerful and will win you the interview.

Question examples

Essentially, the interviewer is searching for examples of important attributes in practice.

Your examples could derive from previous work, your education, or even personal hobbies, such as sports teams or groups you are involved in. 

NC Top Tips

As you can see, responding to these questions requires a thorough recollection and a solid understanding of the examples you use in response to the question.

Practice makes perfect; preparing for an interview will help you succeed in showcasing your skills to a potential employer.

Follow our top tips below to ensure you’re expertly prepared…

Prior to the interview come up with six to ten responses that demonstrate behaviours and skills that employers typically seek. Use examples that will exploit your top selling points and make sure to vary these from times across the past five years – don’t focus specifically on one time throughout the IV.

  • Half of your examples should be entirely positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome

*Use key skills highlighted in the job description to help you pick out attributes

Don’t make any false statements. You will be questioned on the subject, and any enhancements you’ve created will soon be recognised.

Don’t try and think on your feet, pressure can often get the better of us and you can end up forgetting to mention key points.

With that said, take your time to think of your answer. You shouldn’t feel under pressure to respond immediately.

Don’t rehearse too much so that you sound like a robot on the day – showing off your personality is a very valuable asset in an interview too!

STAR Model

The STAR model is something that you can follow to help you keep your answers clear and concise, identifying each following aspect of the model will help you establish a strong question response…

Situation: describe a situation or problem that you have encountered – the background / context

Task: describe the task you were faced with – what did the situation require?

Actions: describe the action you took and the obstacles that you had to overcome. How and why did you do this?

Results: highlight the outcomes achieved – what was accomplished or achieved from the situation?

*Relate the skill or ability you’re illustrating back to the vacancy you’re applying for and explain why it’s useful.

We wish you the very best of luck for your interview and future career!

If you would like any further advice or career help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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