Careers: Competency-Based Interviews
Competency-based interviews use questions that aim to find out how you have used specific skills in your previous experience to give an indication of how you approach problems, tasks and challenges. They work on the basis that the best indication of future performance (in the job you're being interviewed for) is past performance (how you performed in your current or previous jobs). A competency-based interview may start by asking you to talk through your previous experience, but these interviews are less focused on your career history than on your skills and abilities and the subsequent questions are for you to explain, by example, that you have the key competencies and skills for this role.
A good indication of whether an interview will be competency-based is a listing of required competencies in the job specification or information booklet.
Competency-based interview questions are usually open-ended which gives you the opportunity to go into some detail about how you demonstrated the required competency and also lets you emphasise your major achievements. As you'll be asked about specific examples, competency-based interviews requite some preparation
- Analysis and decision-making
- Management and delivery of results
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Specialist knowledge and expertise
- Time management, planning and organisation
- Customer service skills
Common ways for competency-based interview questions to start include:
- Tell me about a time when...
- Can you share with us an example of...
- Describe how you...
- Have you ever...
Or variations of the above.
Specific questions might include
- Can you provide examples of how you have managed conflict, either involving yourself, or within a team you have managed? What worked, what didn't work?
- Describe a problem you encountered at your last job and how you contributed to its resolution?
- Give an example of where you needed to ‘think outside the box’ to come up with a solution to a challenging problem? What did you learn from this?
- Tell me about a time when you had to join/lead a new team, what did you do to make sure you were accepted by the group? Do you think that was the best approach?
- Have you ever been asked to do something you disagreed with? How did you deal with that?
- Describe a time where you delivered excellent customer service?
- Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative new idea or strategy. How did you persuade people to use it?
The STAR Method
The best way to prepare for competency-based interview questions is to use the STAR method to structure your answers:
- Situation: Briefly describe the situation or background to your example
- Task: Specifically explain your responsibility
- Action: Talk about what you did
- Result: Describe the outcome of your actions.
In preparing for competency-based interviews, make sure you have examples of situations in the past where you used the relevant competencies or skills and can match them to the competencies required for the job for which you're being interviewed. So, you need to read the job specification and go through your CV to find situations where you used the competencies required for the job. For each competency, write bullet points based on the STAR method above. Prepare an answer and find someone who'll listen to you speak it out loud.
If the competencies are not mentioned directly, you can still deduce them from the job description and specification. For example, if the description mentions that you'll be working as part of a team, then teamwork will be a competency
Interviewers might want to know what you learnt from your experience, particularly how you might have done things, so it's a good idea to reflect upon the result and what you might have done differently