Competency Based Interviews

There are now many types of interviews which candidates are asked to attend. As a recruiter, I’ve booked most things from telephone interviews to 2 stage group assessments followed by a one to one interview.

The type of interview a candidate is asked to attend generally depends on the type of company and role for which they have applied. But you should always ask what type of interview you are being invited to attend.

Most frequently requested types of interview:

  • 1 stage competency-based interview
  • 2 stage, face to face interview
  • 2 stage, video interview, and face to face interview
  • 2 stage, telephone interview, and face to face interview
  • Group Assessment day

In order to help candidates prepare, I will be writing a series of blog articles on the types of interviews listed above. In this one, I’ll focus on Competency-based interviews.

The 1 Stage Competency-Based Interview

Competency-based interviews are probably the most typical type in the sector for which I recruit. This type of interview will focus on your experience. It is typically structured as follows:

  • Introductions and icebreakers
  • Talking through what you know about the company
  • Telling your interviewer more about yourself and your experience (talking through your CV)

You will then most likely get a combination of the following generic competency questions such as:

  • Can you give me your 3 biggest strengths and 3 biggest weaknesses’?/ Where do your strengths lie? (think in line with what the client will want to hear)
  • ‘Can you tell me about a time you handled a difficult… (situation relevant to the role)’?
  • ‘How would your colleagues/friends describe you’?
  • What is/are your reason(s) for leaving your current/last job?
  • What do/did you like best about your job?
  • What do/did you least like about your job?
  • What are/were your responsibilities in your current/last job? (an average day)
  • What are your career plans or what are you looking for with regards to promotional prospects? / ‘Where do you see yourself in a years’ time’?/ ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’
  • What are your weaknesses? (try to turn it into a positive point, or that you have now overcome or learned from it – what have you done to overcome it?)
  • What personal qualities do you feel you can offer an employer?
  • What interested you in this position?
  • How do you cope under pressure? (give an example)
  • How do you cope when you have to prioritise? (give an example)
  • How do you work within a team? (give an example)
  • How do you work using your initiative? (give an example)
  • What computer packages are you familiar with and at what level?
  • Why should we employ you rather than anyone else?

The questions aim to establish the competencies required for the role. Based on your responses, the interviewer will then look for matches between your areas of competency and those required for the role.

While you cannot predict every question, which might be asked of you in a competency-based interview, there are some sure-fire ways to ensure that you are prepared.

Preparation:

Research the company and search the internet for any news. Usually a simple search such as ‘<company name> news’ will bring up any related content.

Read the job description closely and look at not only the knowledge and experience required, but also the role responsibilities/duties. The responsibilities of the role will allow you to pick out matches from your own CV/experience. When you are doing this, perhaps try using the star technique when relating your experience to the responsibilities of the role.

Example:

Responsibility on the Job Description

‘Liaising with internal and external stakeholders on account status and KPIs’

If you have something similar listed under your responsibilities on your CV, this is a great start. When preparing examples for the competency, you might like to deploy the STAR technique. That is the Situation, the Task you were required to undertake, the Action you took and the Results of your actions.

You might like to have these in bullet form as in the example below:

  • Situation – Poor performing account
  • Task – improve performance and report on SLA and KPIs to stakeholders
  • Action – what you did to improve KPIs
  • Results – the outcome of the improvements and how the report was received by the stakeholders

Whenever you answer competency-based questions, try to give strong examples from your previous work experience. STAR is very useful for formulating all of your examples in a competency-based interview. If you work out your examples, you will be able to confidently answer any question that comes your way. 

If you do not have direct experience of all of the areas listed under responsibilities, do not worry. You can address the learning curve with good answers to questions like, ‘what are your strengths’, ‘how do you cope under pressure’, ‘how do you use your initiative’ etc.

Lastly, do not forget to ask your own questions! These could be about the company or the role.

While this is intended to be generic advice aimed at anyone who visits our website, all of our registered candidates who secure an interview through amdas are offered consultation on interview preparation.

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