Competency interviews 3 steps to success.

Competency interviews 3 steps to success.

I successfully coach people to shine in this kind of interview. If you follow these 3 steps your likelihood of success will be very high. You wont be lost for words.

What is a competency-based interview?

The employer has a list of skills (competencies) that they require in the position they want to fill. By asking you questions about how you have demonstrated these skills in the past they aim to find out whether or not you have the skills need.

 If you haven’t already been told that the interview is a competency-based interview you can contact the employer and ask if there will be competency questions.

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Here are the 3 steps:

Step 1: The first thing you will need to do is make a list of the competencies you think the employer will be looking for. You can do this by looking at the job description and person specification that they gave you and by researching the company and other similar jobs. Look for key words. Have they asked for ‘good communication skills’? Did they say that you should have experience of ‘customer services’? Have they asked for any specific technical experience, maybe of a certain database or working on a specific machine? Make a list of those skills. Sometime companies have a list of values which they would like you to adhere to. Even if they don’t ask you a direct question about them they may be looking for you to demonstrate them in your answers. Make a list of those values.

You might end up with a list something like this:

  • Team work
  • Problem solving
  • Customer service
  • Report writing
  • Communication
  • Listening skills
  • Working independently
  • Working with integrity
  • Able to work with the XYZ customer database
  • Able to carry out daily maintenance on the ABC lawnmower.

 Competency questions will probably start like this:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you…………..?
  • Describe a situation when you………………….?
  • Tell me about a time when you needed to……………….

They will be more or less straight forward depending on how much detail they are looking for and if they are looking for anything specific.

Here some examples of questions about teams:

  • Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as part of a team.
  • Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together effectively.
  • Describe a time when a team member has annoyed you.
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to modify yourself (or a way you do something) to take into account someone else’s views.
  • Tell me about a situation when you needed to offer constructive criticism to a friend or team member?
  • Describe a time when you were a member of a team and witnessed a conflict within the team. What did you do? What were the results? What could you have done better?

You will need to be prepared and rehearsed or you will be trying to trawl through you memory while you are in a stressful situation and that wont be very successful.

Step 2: You will need to prepare lots of examples of things you have done in past jobs that will show you in a positive light and demonstrate that you have the skills and the values they need. You have already made a list so now you need to write down and memorise your examples ensuring that you highlight and remember key words and phrases that demonstrate that you have and use the skills they want.

One good story can be used to answer more than one question. For example you might have dealt with a situation, which you used you, team work skills, communication skills and time management skills.

Don’t worry if you haven’t had a job before, try and use other experience like voluntary work, experience of being in a sports team etc. If you are on the spot and can’t bring anything to mind then tell the interviewers what you would do if you were in that situation. It might be worth preparing some of these too.

If you are preparing examples about something specific, team work for example, try and think of all the things that make a team work well and make sure they are used in your example. Did your team communicate well if so how? How did you influence this? Did your team have a shared goal? What was it? How was it identified? How were you instrumental in this? How did you share information with your manager? Did you ask for help when you needed it? How did you manage your stress levels?

Talking about these things will get you points in a scoring system.   LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY TO THE QUESTION. THERE MAY BE CLUES ABOUT WHAT INDICATORS THE INTERVIEWERS ARE LOOKING FOR. Competency questions can be long and detailed. Ask the interviewer to repeat it if you cant remember it or are not sure what they are looking for.

Learn these two models and apply your stories to them:

The STAR Model

  • Situation: Describe the situation.
  • Task: Describe what task was required of you.
  • Action: Tell the interviewer what action you took.
  • Result: Conclude by describing the result of that action.

Here is a template you can write the stories in

S Situation Describe the situation. What was it that prompted your action? Was there a crisis or a problem that needed to be resolved? Were you set some specific targets that you needed to meet? Did you have an amazing plan that you wanted to put in to action?
T Task Describe what task was required of you. What did you need to do? Why did you need to do it? Did you need to stop the leak so that the building would be safe or clean up the flood and get and emergency plumber? Did you need to find a way of motivating your team to get the results required? Did you need to learn to use this specific database by Friday?
A Action Tell the interviewer what action you took. What did you do? You did this and then you did this and then you did that. ‘I phoned the on call service to find out where the building file is kept, I looked in the file to find out where the stop cock is’ and so on.
R Result Conclude by describing result of that action.   Make sure result was positive. Because you dealt with the situation appropriately every thing was better than it had been or could have been.

Be positive about your actions throughout your response and do not make up an example as you will NOT come across as believable. If you cannot think of good examples instantly, ask the interviewer for a moment or two to think about the question and then give your answer.

The CAR Model “Context” is your introduction, where you describe the scenario you faced, date and place. The “Action” forms the main body and should be the longest part of your answer. The “Result” is the conclusion and like the introduction, should be quite short.

  • Context: Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
  • Action: How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.
  • Result: What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience?

Here is a template for the CAR Model:

C Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
A How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.

How did you do what you did? What did you want to achieve? In what order did you do things? What skills did you use and how? How did you communicate? How did you manage your time? How did you learn what you needed to learn?

R What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience? Keep it positive!!!

Step 3: Now practice. Book a practice interview with a career coach or get a friend to interview you. Prepare some questions for them to ask you and do a role-play. Tell your coach or friend what skills the employer is looking for. Answer the questions as though you are in the interview and get them to give you feedback. Writing down your answers and saying them out loud will help you to remember and will give you confidence.

Good Luck

Extracts Taken from Wikijob

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