The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Archive for August 2012

Guide to job hunting – The truth behind Competency Based Interviews

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I am often surprised by how the prospect of a Competency Based Interview can rattle even the most seasoned of sales professionals looking to change jobs. In fact, it seems that some would prefer to do a presentation, rather than this style of  interview. However, it really should not be a daunting prospect at all – Nothing at all like doing a presentation!

What is a Competency Based Interview?

They are simply a way for you to demonstrate that you are capable, competent and suited to the job by giving real-life, situational examples from your professional or personal experience.

In most recruitment processes, the expected competencies required to be successful in the role will be defined when the job description is written. Candidates are usually selected for interview about how strongly their CVs represent their skills against the competencies. So it is common sense that, especially at second interview stage, these competencies are explored to make sure you can actually do what they think you can, based on your CV and the outcome of the first interview.

So a Competency Based Interview will most likely consist of a series of situational questions based on the competencies. As the expectation is that your past performance is likely to predict how you will perform in future, the questions will probably explore your past experience by asking you to give examples of past experiences, what you did, and what the outcome of your actions were.

You may not have any experience in a particular industry, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot demonstrate your transferable skills earned in the industry you are familiar with.

Always ensure that you are using the most relevant example for this competency, for example, if you are asked about a time that you have worked under pressure give an example of when you were under pressure but continued to succeed in your work. Remember; an interview is your chance to shine.

How to prepare

Although you do not know what the questions will be beforehand, it is possible to prepare for an interview like this by looking at the competencies required on the job spec. Think about potential scenarios, both positive and negative, in which you found yourself in the past that might reflect on your performance in each area. This will help you refresh your memory so that, even if you are asked a totally left of centre question, you will have some ideas to draw on to help you formulate a concise and constructive answer.

Showcase yourself

Never use the same example for more than one competency. This is your chance to show the breadth and depth of your experience.

  • Listen carefully before you answer. The questions are likely to be complex, multi-part affairs. Ask for clarification if you are unsure, and make notes of the question if neccesary
  • Be honest. If you are asked about a time when you have failed to achieve a goal, explain why you did not achieve your goal and what you would do differently in the future. A little humility can be a good thing, if it is prompted.
  • Take your time and structure your answers. Explain what happened, why it happened, what you did about it and what the outcome was. If your answers are easy to follow then the interviewer will come away with a lot more knowledge of your capabilities.
  • Ensure you use real-life answers. It will be blatantly obvious if you are making it up.
  • Use ‘I’ and not ‘we’. The interviewer is interested in what you have done, not your colleagues.

Believe in yourself

Don’t forget to close to interview. We often spend so much time worrying about the interview itself that we don’t plan how to close it. Think about some questions that you would like to ask, but don’t ask them for the sake of it. If the interviewer has answered all of your questions before you have the chance to ask them explain this to them. Leave positively – express your interest in the role. Show that you are grateful for their time by thanking them for seeing you.

Interviews are a chance for you to gain experience, demonstrate your competence and potentially get the job of your dreams. Go in to an interview with a positive attitude and you are far more likely to succeed. Believe in yourself and be prepared, and don’t forget you wouldn’t have got to interview stage if there wasn’t something on your CV that made you stand out in the first place.

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