The Competency Interview

Examples. Examples. Examples.

Competency interviews can be a daunting prospect if you have never encountered them before. However, with a bit of preparation and lots of examples in mind they are very manageable.

Competency interviews can be entirely focused on a role’s competencies or employers may include them along with other more standard interview questions. Either way the focus will be on the key skills and abilities required for the position. Employers find them useful as it allows them to use your past performance to predict your likely future performance in the role they are hiring for. It also make it easier for them to directly compare various candidates. Rather than asking you specific questions, you may simply be asked to describe an example of an occasion where you displayed a particular competency. For example, an interviewer might say:

‘I am now going to move on to the competency component of the interview. The first competency I would like you to deal with is problem solving

In order to answer this type of question it is necessary to describe in detail an example of a time when you displayed the relevant competency. Preparation is really important for competency questions. If you prepare your competency examples in advance you will have a much better chance of dealing with them effectively on the day. Remember that employers are not looking to hear general statements such as ‘I am great at solving problems’. Instead, they want to hear a real example of a time you showed that skill and what you actually did.

Occasionally, interviewers will provide a list of competencies in advance. However, they can mostly be found within the candidate requirements of the job specification. Study this section carefully as it will help you understand what the employer is looking for.

The STAR technique

One of the most useful ways of preparing for a competency-based interview is to consider the STAR technique. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

When using this method you need to describe the situation that occurred, what task you carried out, what action you took, and the result or outcome.

Here is a simple example for the competency problem solving:

The situation: ‘I had just taken on a new position as office manager when I noticed that staff were spending a lot of time dealing with slow and poorly performing computers.’

The task: ‘I set about pricing a range of new computers and worked out how much productivity would increase from the enhanced performance of new machines.’

The action: ‘I presented the information to the managing director and we purchased the new equipment.’

The result: ‘Staff were more productive as they were able to do their work more rapidly and there was less downtime due to IT problems.’

There are a wide range of competencies for any given position so prepare lots of examples and remember the STAR technique. It will help structure your examples and stay focused.

Some common competencies are:

    • Teamwork
    • Initiative
    • Organising & planning
    • Communication
    • Decision making
    • Motivation
    • Resilience
    • Conflict management
    • Problem solving
    • Customer-focus
    • Commercial awareness
    • Leadership
    • Adaptability
    • Analytical thinking
    • Listening
    • Influencing
    • Results/target orientation
    • Developing others
    • Relationship management