Preparing for interviews is a subject that’s high on every candidate’s agenda. No matter whether your interview is a first interview, carried out at a distance on the likes of Skype or whether it’s face to face; there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself for a star performance. However, a competency based interview is a bit of a different animal and can often take candidates by surprise. Competency based interviews focus in on the detail of whether or not your prospective employer thinks you have the competence to do the job they need to fill.
In many instances, potential employers viewpoints are heavily weighted on what you’ve done previously in your work life and the evidence you can give to support your claims of success. However in a competency based interview, you run the risk of being tested or questioned on specific practical skills; being asked to describe how you would behave in a certain situation, or explain how you have dealt with specific scenarios in the past.
Things like teamwork, communication skills, planning and organisation capabilities are common competencies that crop up in this type of interview. So what can you do to prepare?
Demonstrating your management or people skills
This part of a competency based interview normally focuses on things like teamwork; communication; leadership skills; commercial or business awareness or problem solving. While you may already have referred to these competencies in your CV and, or covering letter, it could be that your prospective employer wants to put you on the spot during your interview, so it’s essential that you make a point of being prepared to repeat and develop what you have already stated.
Styles of questions used in competency based interviews typically include things like: “Tell me about a situation where you…”; “Describe an example of when you…” or “Share with us a time that you…”. This sort of questioning is often used to drill deeper about a particularly difficult situation you’ve faced and how you handled it or how you dealt with a dispute between a couple of members of staff. These types of questions may also be used to get you to talk in more depth about how you might deal with a hypothetical situation. Depending on your personality and characteristics you’re likely to love or hate this type of questioning. Either way, getting your approach right is what will make the difference between a great performance and a mediocre one.
Here are our Top Tips to make sure your performance is GREAT:
- Predict the competencies that you might be asked about. In any job description there’ll be a clear, if not immediately obvious list of competencies required to do the job you’re applying for. Even if specific skills aren’t referred to in the job ad or listing, make a point of researching the competencies required to do similar jobs to the job you’re applying for. This will give you a clear and workable list of things to prepare.
- Match your competence with the skills required. Once you have the list of competencies, look far and wide in your business and personal life to find examples to evidence your competence in the necessary skills and apply these to the business situation you’re applying to. TOP TIP++: Knowing the pain points and problems faced by the company you’re applying to will help you really focus your competencies on showing that you can help them find the right solutions.
- Prepare, practice and perfect your responses. Once you’ve listed the desired competencies and identified your responses, get words around them; say them out loud and in front of a mirror. If possible practice in front of someone who will be constructively critical. We recommend that you use the STAR technique to structure your answers in the interview. Star stands for:
Here’s how it works:
Think of a SITUATION where you applied the competency referred to in the question.
Explain what the TASKS were.
Describe the ACTIONS you took to fulfil those tasks.
Highlight the RESULTS that were achieved.
- Stay cool, take time to think and don’t forget to breathe!
Written or oral communication tests
If you suspect you might be likely to come up against a practical test, depending on your current skills level, you might have lots of preparation to do or pretty much none. However, if you suspect you might be asked to make a presentation or write a piece of text, these are both skills you can brush up on beforehand. Making sure you know the key elements of a great presentation or written piece of work e.g. a team briefing or a PR article is an absolute must to succeed in this task. Thereafter it’s a case of practice makes perfect.
If you think you might be asked to make a presentation, take every opportunity you can to present in front of an audience, and if there are no such opportunities open to you, make sure you at least practice in front of a mirror or a video camera. When it comes to written tests, know the structure of every type of document you might be asked to write and get creative, enabling your skills to really shine.
So, if you have a competency based interview coming up, like most things in life, the end result will rely on a whole lot of preparation and a healthy sprinkling of luck. Either way, we hope this article has helped give you the confidence you need. Good luck!