Competency-based interview

17 Jun 2010

What is a competency-based interview and how can you prepare for one?

Question: I’ve just been called for an interview, which I’ve been told will be ‘competency based’. Could you tell me what this means and what I can do to prepare for the interview?

Derek H, Galway

Answer: Competency-based interviews are increasing in popularity because they offer the jobseeker a fairer and more objective interview and normally lead to better hiring decisions for the company.

The belief behind these interviews is that the best indication of how an individual will behave in the future is their past behaviour. Therefore, competency questions will ask you to revisit a specific work situation or task and you will outline evidence of your actions and outcomes. Competency interview questions will normally begin: “Give an example of a situation/scenario where …” or “Tell me about a time when …”

The most common tool used to prepare and structure your answers for competency interviews is the STAR technique. Quite simply, you are telling a story with a beginning, middle and end. “S/T” is your explanation of the situation or task, “A” is an explanation of your actions and “R” represents the results or outcome.

Prior to interview ensure you access information about the relevant competencies required, if available. Brainstorm to identify your best examples and prepare at least two for each competency as a back up. Use the STAR technique to structure your answers. Ensure you role play, especially if you have not completed a competency interview before.

On the day of the interview, ensure that you stick to the STAR structure when delivering your answers. Remember to use the word “I” and not “We” when describing your actions.

Competency-based interviews can be impersonal with few smiles but this is normal. The interviewers will be writing throughout which is also normal.

Finally, competency interviews are actually an easier interview to navigate than the traditional interview once you prepare correctly. For more in-depth advice to support your preparation read ‘I just love competency-based interviews’.

Paul Mullan is founder of career and outplacement firm Measurability. He is an expert in personal branding, CV and interview skills and job search through social media.

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