Some info on competency-based interview questions. Not all interviews are going to use these but the preparation of examples of your strengths is indispensable for all interviews.
Use past performance evidence as to the best indicator of successful performance
Question for real evidence on past performance achievements
The interviewer will examine your examples in more detail, asking a series of probing questions. Given this, it is important to use good, solid examples, within which you can recall as much detail as possible. It is perfectly acceptable to use examples from your personal life, as well as from your professional activities. These typically begin with ‘Give me an example of a time when you…’
They will be aimed at establishing various core competencies depending on the role. Examples include:
Analysis and Decision making
Creativity and Innovation
Planning and Organising
It is essential that you prepare examples before the interview. The best way of structuring an example is
What was the situation?
What was your task?
What did you do?
What was the outcome?
What could you do differently next time?
When the chips are down and you are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, do you quit or overcome them? Do you have the strength of character and determination to always see a solution and to always persist?
Talk me through a time when you have had to work towards a challenging, ambitious objective.
Has there ever been a time when you have had to work harder and longer to ensure that a time deadline was met?
When was the last time that you were called upon to do more than would normally be expected of you?
What do you like least about your current role?
What do you feel is the greatest challenge in your current role?
Together everyone achieves more. Teamwork is all about synergy and partnership. It encompasses the ability to see the bigger picture and to work outside of the confines of our selfish motives. Teamwork requires an understanding of the dynamics of people, their personalities, their particular motivations and needs.
Tell me about the last time that you had to work as part of a team to achieve a specific outcome.
Whilst part of the team has there ever been a time where you witnessed conflict?
Describe a time when a colleague or friend has annoyed you.
Have you ever had to modify your approach to take account of someone else’s views?
Can you recall a time when you needed to offer constructive feedback to a friend or colleague?
Planning and Organization
If you fail to plan, then you are 100% planning to fail. In business as in sport, if you have no goals, you are sure to lose. A common denominator of all outstanding professionals is their attention to the planning process, followed by constant monitoring and adjustment as required.
When was the last time that you had to take on extra work at short notice?
How do you manage your own time and objectives?
When was the last time that you had to work to a particularly tight deadline?
How do you determine your priorities?
How do you monitor the progress of projects or tasks?
Attention to detail and taking the time to understand the needs of your customers is often the extra polish that converts average to excellent. Some people naturally go out of their way to deliver that extra service and take personal responsibility to ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
What do you dislike most about dealing with people or customers?
Has there ever been a time that you have dealt with personal criticism relating to a service that you have delivered?
Describe an instance where you have delivered more than is expected of you?
Have you received praise relating to the levels of service that you have delivered?
These guidance notes have been put together to help you prepare for your interview.
What is competency?
Competencies are those behaviours that you demonstrate at work that make you effective. They are a mixture of knowledge, skills, motivation and personal characteristics. In demonstrating your competence you’ll be displaying the skills and the background knowledge necessary for you to perform a particular task effectively, together with the motivation or drive to make things happen.
Why are they used?
Our individual skills, attributes and behaviours make us unique; they also influence the way we react and respond to events in our lives and thus how we perform at work. There is a direct relationship between our skills, attributes and behaviours and our performance at work. It makes sense for interviewers to ask you about your competencies and see how they “match” the job requirement. You can assess whether the job matches your competencies so that you’d be happy in that role.
What is a competency-based interview?
It is an interview in which each candidate is asked the same broad questions which are designed to obtain information about the match between the candidate’s competencies and those required for the job. These questions concentrate on the most important parts of a candidate’s experience. This enables the interviewer to draw from each candidate their ability to demonstrate successful performance in the job.
It’s vital that you prepare your evidence in advance by identifying your best examples of when you have demonstrated the key competencies for the role.
There are two main areas to consider:
Make sure that you have as much information about the role as you can get. You should then put yourself in the position of the line manager and think through what the important factors are. If you’re going to be successful in the job and think about how these match the competencies you have displayed in your current role.
Self-knowledge is an important part of your preparation. You need to make a good impression and be different. The interviewer may see several people and the one that will be remembered is the distinctive one, who has something interesting to say or can make a unique contribution to the role.
A possible starting point is to think about your past achievements:
The things that you have done that you are most proud of
Situations you feel that you have handled particularly well
Ways in which you have contributed to the success of the business as a whole.
What competencies do these achievements suggest? For each achievement think about the part that you played — what did you do, what did you say, what did you think? This should give you a clear indication of your strengths and weaknesses. Then consider how to present these achievements in competency terms at the interview.
You should also consider how your experience and competencies match the requirements of the role for which you are being considered. If there are any gaps, it may be worthwhile doing some more self-analysis and/or identification of achievements to ensure your suitability for the job.
At the interview
Initially, you’ll normally be asked some general questions about yourself and your background. These will be followed up with some questions about the key competencies. These questions often begin with:
“Tell me about a time when…”
“Describe an occasion when …”
“When has it been important to …”
Remember the interviewer is interested in finding of you and what you have achieved, not about your team, project or manager's achievements. It’s important that you talk about yourself and your achievements/contributions. These initial questions may then be followed by further questions to enable the interviewer to get a complete picture of events and as much detailed evidence as possible.
You should answer the questions as specifically and spontaneously as you can. It’s acceptable to have notes to remind you of your examples but don’t read from a script. If the interviewer stops you from expanding on a particular point do not be put off. This is to ensure that you have the opportunity to concentrate on the areas of greatest interest to the interviewer.
At the end of the interview, there will be a chance for you to add any information that you feel is relevant that hasn’t been covered and to ask any outstanding questions you may have.
Sample interview questions
What differing approaches have you employed in communicating with different types of clients? Give an example. How do you evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches?
Describe an incident in which you disagreed with your superior. How was it settled? Have you had to go against traditions or policies to accomplish a goal? Explain.
Can you think of a recent problem in which old solutions wouldn’t work? How did you solve the problem? Have you participated in a reorganization of your work situation? If so talk about your contribution.
Have you found any way to make your job easier or more rewarding?
What was the best idea you ever sold to your superior/peer/subordinate? Why did they buy it? Describe your most satisfying and most disappointing experience in presenting to and gaining the support of top management for an idea or proposal.
Talk about a new policy or new idea which was considerably different from the standard procedure that you recently implemented. What approach did you take to get your associates to go along with the idea?
Talk about a situation where you have been part of a group working toward a specific goal. What was your role in the group?
What was the last business decision you faced? How long did it take for you to make up your mind about what to do? How do you determine problems in your work area? How do you determine priority for action?
I see that you have moved several times. What has turned out to be the most difficult problem you have faced in moving?
On a time, pressured assignment, how have you made sure that the job is done within budget, without compromising on the quality of work? When dealing with a difficult client whose indecisiveness is slowing your team’s work, how do you manage the situation?
If you prepare anecdotal answers to the questions above, you should have most bases covered. When answering the “tell me about a situation when…” questions you should keep in mind the formula: situation, task, action & result (useful acronym: STAR). A good interviewer will dig for all points of the answer, but a good candidate will give all four as a matter of course. Remarkably, the aspect of an answer most people forget to expand upon is the result of the action they took. Naturally, it is better to use an anecdote with a positive outcome, but if this isn’t possible explain what you learnt from the situation, and how you would do it differently.