4-Step guide to a great competency based interview

Loss of appetite, sweaty palms and sleepless nights? You probably have a job interview coming up! Seriously, it can be a nerve-wracking experience, but as with so many areas of working life, if you know how to prepare for the event, it will seem less menacing.

The key to a successful competency based interview is understanding what the employer wants to know. To you it might be glaringly obvious you’re the ideal person for the role, but the interviewer still needs to assess whether your skills and experience are suitable compared to other candidates.

Here’s how you can plan ahead to get through the interview with fewer unpleasant symptoms of stress!

Typical questions

To start with, get an idea of the classic questions used in this kind of interview…

  • Describe how you have motivated your team in the past?
  • Have you ever dealt with a disagreement with another department? How?
  • Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline or made some kind of mistake.
  • How have you handled working on multiple projects at the same time?

Such questions would apply for most roles, at most levels; from accounts assistant to HR director.

Be a STAR!

Questions are carefully crafted so the employer can find out if you’re capable of doing the job. An interview tactic that is recommended for candidates to use is the STAR method. It breaks down your answers, so you come over as well-prepared and confident of your abilities:

  • Situation – set the scene by explaining the situation you found yourself in.
  • Task – what was the required task as a result of the situation?
  • Action – outline your choice of action, and why and how you did it.
  • Result – finally, explain the outcome of your actions and lessons learned.

Finding examples

The examples you give should be influenced by the job you’re applying for. So, go through the duties on the job description and figure out which of your competencies are most relevant.

If you’re hoping to get a new marketing executive role select examples of situations and challenges from previous positions in the field. Then, using the STAR technique, break down each of your examples.

How it’s done

Imagine you’re applying for the above a marketing vacancy. Looking at the job description you see that you’d be responsible for briefing the in-house graphic designer on the look and layout of company brochures and leaflets. An example of an answer to: “Tell me about a time you dealt with an urgent problem”, might be…

S – The graphic designer called in sick just before a big deadline; there was still a lot to do to complete a brochure of new products about to be launched at a major industry conference.

T – I had to find a replacement designer immediately to take over and finish the project to the company’s usual high standard to help maintain our industry-leading reputation.

A – First, I called the printer to ask if the deadline could be pushed back a little – I got an additional half-a-day. I then called some of our best freelancers to see if someone could come in at the last minute. Luckily, one of them had just completed another job - I had to negotiate but after we agreed fees and she was able to come in that same afternoon.

R – Although the deadline was put back, the freelancer was very quick to pick up on what had already been done and put in long hours to get back on schedule and on budget. The brochures were popular at the conference; not long after we had orders and enquiries from people who’d picked it up. After the incident I extended production deadlines and included a contingency plan and updated our freelance database.

As long as you keep answers to-the-point and you don’t ramble, you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to showcase your competencies. And if you get the job, every minute of preparation will be worth it!

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