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Career Advice

How to Handle a Competency Interview

question-markThere are very few interviews which don’t include some form of competency style questions. You know the ones – the questions where you are asked to provide examples of how you have reacted to or dealt with various situations in your past. It’s pretty much a given that you’ll be asked a competency question of some sort or even have an entire interview based on such behavioural questions. These tips on how to handle a competency interview should hopefully help.

Research

It’s not possible to predict the type of competency questions that you will be asked however it is possible to have a rough idea. How? Well by doing a little research of course. Take some time out to review the job description or personnel specification if you have it. You will be able to identify which key competencies and skills the employer is looking for. The essential criteria is important here. If a role stipulates that candidates must have People Management skills – you could for example expect to be asked questions in and around your team management experience. You might be asked about difficult situations that you had when managing people, examples of how you dealt with someone who wasn’t performing or how you motivated your staff. The key thing is to research the key criteria for the role  – the clues for your preparation are all there.

Prepare Some Examples

After identifying the key criteria for the role, you will then need to work out some relevant examples for each. Try and come up with examples which best highlight your skills and competency in a given area. You may need to prepare a few examples for each. Your examples should ideally be fairly recent and also varied. You don’t want to be repetitive in your interview and continually be referring back to one situation every time. Aim to prepare examples which show the full breadth of the experience you have had and which fully showcase your skills and abilities. Competency questions and your responses to them are one of the main ways that you can differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Use the STAR method

It’s important when preparing your examples, that you use a well used technique or formula known as the STAR method – STAR standing for Situation, Task, Action, Result. By using this as a framework for your examples, you are giving yourself the best opportunity of fully showcasing your skills to an employer. Basically you should structure your examples and answers like this:

Situation – describe the background to whatever situation or example – how it came to be

Task – describe what your fundamental goal was in the particular situation

Action – describe what your actions were to meet this goal

Result – outline what the results and outcomes were of the actions that you took – hopefully they are all positive ones!

Keep it personal

An interview is all about an employer finding out more about you and what you can do and have done. That is why it’s important that you keep your examples personal to you. Even though you will probably have worked as part of a team, you should refer to your specific role within those teams and the specific actions and duties that you undertook. Keep the focus on using phrases such as “I did …”, “ I decided…”, “ I chose to…” as opposed to using the “we” phrases. The interview is all about you after all.

Remember the hypothetical questions

Not all competency questions will be based on situations that you have already been in. Some will instead revolve around potential situations or hypothetical circumstances. In these cases, you will have to give an indication as to how you would typically react or respond to an event or set of circumstances. You could for example draw on things in your past and how past experience has dictated that you respond in a given way. You could also give somewhat textbook answers – how an ideal employee would respond – however you should be prepared to justify why you would respond in that particular way and how you already have the skills to do just that.

We hope that these basic tips on how to handle competency interview will help any of you who are facing just such an interview in the coming weeks. Best of luck if you are !

 

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