10 Tips To Passing Your Next Competency-Based Job Interview

Competency-based job interviews are becoming widely used during the job interview process, as they provide employers with greater accuracy to what you’re really like as a person and more importantly, an employee.

Competency-based interviews use your past performance in specific situations as a guide to how you will perform in the workplace. From the answers your provide, hiring managers get a better view of what you’re going to be like as a team member and whether you’re going to fit into both the role and the company culture.

Preparation Is Key

Being successful in a competency-based interview is very difficult as you’re unlikely to know what competencies the employer is looking for, or what specifics within each question they want to hear.

Your competency-based interview could also just be one small part of a traditional interview, or could be a separate interview altogether. What we do know if you want to be successful, you’ll need to prepare for both types of job interviews. Below are ten great tips to help you be successful in your next competency-based interview.

Plan and Prepare

Most people will have great answers to simple questions, but competency-based interview questions are designed to challenge you by making your think about problems and successes in the workplace. Typically in a competency-based job interview, there will be around twenty questions of which the majority, you’re likely to not know the answer, or only have an understanding, but cannot be considered to be an expert in that topic.

It’s much easier to have a successful job interview if you have prepared answers before you enter the interviewing room. The idea to prepare answers to the easy questions that come up in every competency-based job interview, but also develop scenarios that could be adopted for different questions that may come up during your interview.

Research the Role

Read the Job description at least five times and try to think about the keywords in the job description as this will give you an idea about what are the likely competencies that you’ll be tested on during your job interview.

As an example, the job description might mention talk about building or managing teams and working with external groups. This means that a reasonable question will be around maintaining good working relationships or conflict management and give you two good topics to prepare example situations before your job interview.

You should also research in detail the company and gather as much information on their culture, strategy, and what type of people they like. While the questions about the job description and company are unlikely to come up during a competency-based interview, by working out what keywords they want to hear, you can structure your answers.

Think of Examples

Examples are crucial within a competency-based interview. You need to prepare cases for each competency that you will be tested on before the interview starts.

This way you’re unlikely to have that “brain freeze moment”, where your mind goes blank, and you cannot think of an answer. Below you’ll will find a list of key competencies that you could be tested on if the company will not provide you with them.

  • Adaptability
  • Compliance
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Decisiveness
  • Delegation
  • External awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Independence
  • Influencing
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Organisational awareness
  • Resilience and tenacity
  • Risk taking
  • Sensitivity to others
  • Team work

Mock Interviews

An old phrase, “practice makes perfect”, and it really applies to competency-based job interviews. In my experience candidates often perform better on their second competency-based interview than there first, simply because they have some practice.

With the candidates that I coach, I make it a rule that if they’re going to a competency-based interview, they have a demonstration interview beforehand either with a career coach or with me.

Learn the STAR or SAR Approach

Both are very simple communication techniques that allow you to structure your answers to competency-based interview questions. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result and SAR stands for Scene, Action, and Result.

Whilst there are slight differences between the STAR approach and the SAR approach, effectively both approaches ensure that you set the scene, tell the interviewer what you did and what the result was, in a clear natural style.

Talk About “I” as Much as Possible

There is no “I” in team, however in a competency base interviews, “I” really counts. Interviewers want to know what you did and what you were responsible for.

“I” is especially important in any leadership or managerial questions as you’re trying to show what you were responsible for, not what the team did. Make you use “I”, but not, “I told” as you really don’t want to sound like a dictator.

Watch out for Those Interviewers

Hiring managers are human, but at the end of the day they’re doing a job and are likely to have been trained to follow a script and show little or no emotion. They may also have a large number of questions to get through in a short period of time, and therefore have no time for rapport or any time wasting.

Whatever you do, don’t let this put you off your stride. Building rapport with an interviewer is important, but if you cannot, don’t worry and move on.

Watch Out for Those Odd-Ball Questions

Search in Google for “Competency-Based Interview Questions”, and you can find a list of almost every question that will/could ever come up in an interview. Interviewers are clocking onto this and throwing in a few oddball questions.

Watch out for these oddball questions as they’re designed put you off your game and get you worried. There really is no right or wrong answer, but my advice is always to stay positive. An example – What’s your favourite colour? Choose blue, because it’s a positive colour…!!

Ask For Feed-Back at the End of Your Interview

Even if the interview went really well, you need to ask for feedback on your interview performance. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best candidate that gets the job. While you have the interviewer in front of you, it’s a great idea to ask them how you did.

Constructive feedback is vital to improve your future job interview performance and can help you avoid making similar mistakes in your next competency interview. If you perform poorly during your competency-based job interview, this can be a great time to get some feedback on where to improve from someone who is trained to give competency-based job interviews. Personally, I had a horrific competency-based interview very early in my career. It still haunts me to the day, but I asked for feedback and was given a lot of advice which helped in the future.

Give Real Example and Include Details

Competency-based interviewers love stories and love stories that really go into depth. In a competency interview, the interviewer is looking for the action that you took and what happened in the end. Use examples and make sure that you mention specific names, dates, places and the outcome of what you achieved.

To do this, you need to make sure that you use real examples that have actually taken place rather than a theoretical example. You will find it much easier to provide an exciting example and provide real detail if your answer is based on a real situation. Competency-based interviewers hear both real and manufactured situation. Unless your interviewer is a complete beginner, they will be able to spot the difference.

Final Thoughts

Competency based interviews are difficult, but as long as you prepare, stay calm and focus on answering the question, you will be able to make it a success.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below and I will do my best answer it.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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