Mar
12

Competency Based Interviews Made Easy

Have You been invited to a Competency Based Interview? Perhaps you have never heard of this type of interview before and have arrived at this page wanting to learn more about them. Maybe you have experienced a Competency Interview previously and struggled with this difficult and unfamiliar format. Whatever your experience I am pleased to share with you my knowledge and experience of Competency Based Interviews

In this article, I will give you all the detail you need so that you can fully understand what is involved and I will share with you my tips. In addition I will provide some Sample Competency Based Interview Questions and give you a great introduction into how you can prepare for and excel in your upcoming competency interview.

So Just What is a Competency Based Interview?

Competency Interviewing have been in use since the mid-1980′s when Competency Frameworks were first introduced and have now become a standard tool in the recruitment of staff. They are used increasingly in large organisations where many managers may be interviewing for the same type of position.

Originally seen as a way to measure performance and help with the training and development of existing staff, the use of Competencies are now widely used in the selection and recruitment process with many benefits including improved accuracy of selection, removal of bias from the interview process and better matching of candidates to actual duties.

Competency Based Interviews can sometimes be referred to as Structured Interviews, Evidence Based Interviews or even Behavioural Interviews. The key outcome is to discover whether the job applicant matches the requirements of the job and this is achieved through the use of specifically targeted competency questions.

How is a Competency Based Interview Different From a Traditional Job Interview?

In many ways a Competency Based Interview and a Traditional Interview are very alike. The location, setting and seating will all be the same, the use of a panel of interviewers will be the same. Looking in from the outside you would not notice any difference at all. However once the interview starts and in fact with the very first question, you will realise that the format is in fact, very different.

Whereas a traditional interview could be seen as an exploratory conversation which is fluid with a great deal of interchange between the interviewer and candidate, the Competency Interview is highly structured with the same set of questions asked of each candidate in the same order and in the same way.

Why Employers Use Competency Interviewing?

Traditional interviewing has always been prone to the risk of making a decision made on some arbitrary element such as how the interviewer ‘feels’ about a candidate. Rather than making a choice based on the actual capabilities of the applicant the recruiter offers the job based on their gut instincts. Quite often this can be correct however in many cases a wrong decision is made resulting in a costly rehiring process for the employer.

By using Competency Interview techniques the employer is more assured that the decision made is based on the applicant’s abilities. There is very limited room for bias and as a result, less risk of discrimination

Advantages of a Competency Based Interview

  • More accurate recruitment decision
  • Standardised recruitment throughout an organisation
  • Less risk of bias or discrimination

Disadvantages of a Competency Based Interview

  • Can be difficult for candidates to express themselves
  • Less chance for candidates to ask questions
  • Can be seen as ‘too rigid’

What Are Competency Based Interview Questions?

Competency Based Interview questions are used in an effort to make the interview process as standard and as fair as possible and there are two common approaches; one is to ask a series of questions, targeted at each of the core competencies, while the other involves in-depth probing questions with the interviewer actively listening for clues which provide evidence that the candidate possess the necessary skills.

As mentioned above the key difference lies in the way that the interview questions are phrased. For example a traditional interviewe might have asked “How good would you say your communication skills are?” A response might have been “Excellent“, however without further evidence there is no way for the employer to know just how accurate this is.

The aim of Competency Interview Questions is to gather this evidence. This is done by asking the candidate to describe specific situations and to give actual examples of when they used specific skills.

Something to be aware of; even if your interview is not described as such, it is very likely in today’s recruitment market that you will be asked Competency Interview Questions.

Examples of Common Competencies

The word competency is widely used in business environments and refers to the skills that are necessary to achieve an effective performance level in the job. Every job will have a set of key
competencies, some of which are essential and others desired and all are required to do the job properly.

  • Communication skills
  • Delivering Results
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Use of Initiative
  • Planning and Organising
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Building relationships
  • Developing Others
  • Team Work

When preparing for a Competency Interview the experienced interviewer will draw up a list of questions relating to each competency and all directed towards discovering if the candidate has the necessary skills.

Sample Competency Based Interview Questions

Competency Interview questions are used as a tool to discover how your behaviour in a previous role or situation can contribute to your performance in the job being recruited for. Hence they are also known as
Behavioural interview questions or Situational interview questions.

These will usually start with phrases such as:

- Tell me about a time when you….
- Give an example of a situation where….
- Describe a scenario….

Here are 12 tough sample Competency Based Interview questions. Take a moment and see how would you answer them:

1: ‘Tell me about a time when you successfully conveyed your ideas to an individual or group so that they were able to understand and retain the message. (Communication)
2: ‘Tell me about a time when you had to deliver bad news. What was the situation and what actions did you take?’
3: ‘Describe for me a situation where you were required to gather a large amount of data, to analyse it objectively and to make a decision or a recommendation based on the results.’
4: ‘Talk me through a time when you had to implement challenging and measurable goals for your team.’
5: ‘Provide an example of a time when you did something exceptional.’
6: ‘Describe a situation when you were required to use your initiative to complete a complex task.’
7: Give me an example of a time when you led a group of people to deliver a particularly difficult task. (Leadership)
8: Tell us about a time when you showed leadership. What did you learn from the experience? (Leadership)
9: Can you give me an example of a time when you have had to convince a person to do something that they were initially reluctant to do? (Persuading)
10: Tell me about a time when you had to consider conflicting workloads, when planning a task or project. (Planning and Organising)
11: Talk through a situation where you had to develop a solution to a complex problem which could not be resolved by using existing methods. (Problem Solving)
12: Tell me about a time you had to persuade your team to implement an unpopular policy or procedure. (Persuading)

How To Prepare For a Competency Based Interview

The key to preparing for a Competency Interview is firstly to study the Job Description and Person Specification in detail to discover the competencies required and secondly to prepare examples of situations you have been in where you demonstrated each of those competencies.

So for example, if Communication is an essential competency, then jot down your recollection of when you completed a task where excellent communication skills were required. Ask yourself, what was involved, what did you do, what part did you play, why do you choose those actions and what was the outcome of your actions.

All of this is essential when answering competency questions. You will be able to arrive with the information fresh and you will be able to deliver your answers clearly and succinctly. After all what the interviewer wants is for you to prove to them that you can do the job better than any other candidate. And how do you prove you are the best candidate for the job? You give a strong confident relevant example which demonstrates each competency required.

Learn How to Succeed in Your Competency Interview

Competency Based Interviews can be notoriously difficult for the unprepared candidate however with proper preparation and practice they can be easily mastered. InterviewGold for Competency Interviews is the leading online interview skills training system. Dealing especially with Competency Interviewing, InterviewGold will quickly and easily teach you how to excel and win the job.

Not only will you learn all the skills to succeed in any Competency Based Interview, you will also learn how to answer any interview question with 100% confidence.

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About the Author |
Interview Coach and skilled HR professional. Contributor to our BlueSky Interviews and InterviewGold web sites. Google+