Q:           I’ve just been invited to attend a competency based interview but I’m a little unsure as to what they are and how I should prepare. Do you have any tips you can give me?

A:            This is a question I am asked a lot and in most cases people don’t like competency based interviews. This is because they don’t understand them or what they are trying to achieve, so firstly let me define what a competency based interview is.

A competency based interview is a style of interviewing often used to evaluate an individual’s competence, particularly when it is hard to select for a role on the basis of technical merit. As a hiring manager if I have a shortlist of four candidates who are all well qualified then I need a method by which I can fairly judge one individual against another. This is where competency based interviews come into their own as they  can give valuable insights into an
individual’s preferred style of working and help predict behaviours in future situations.

In competency based interviews candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate’s behaviour or skills.

There are a number of competencies that an employer can be looking for in an individual.  Personally I like to do competency based interviews in conjunction with a psychometric test which also highlights an individual’s preferred working style. This can then be cross referenced with the competency based interview to ensure clarity between what a candidate is telling me and how that relates to their psychological profile.

Below is a list of the main competencies which my clients look for. I would like to point out that this list is not exhaustive and some organisations call them different names but on the whole they are the main competencies which organisations look to assess.

  • Leadership
  • Influencing
  • Team Working
  • Decision Making
  • Change Management
  • Organisation
  • Dealing with Pressure
  • Motivation

Now we know what a competency based interview is and why they are used we can deal with the second part of the question; how to prepare for them. As with any interview the most important rule is DO NOT LIE! You would be surprised how many people break this cardinal rule and it nearly always comes back to bite you in the ass. So don’t do it. (End of rant!).

Moving on to interview preparation, the best thing to do is write out on a sheet of paper the following three statements; facts about you, accomplishments and benefits. I call this my interview preparation list and I get all candidates who go for interviews to do this. Go through each major project you have worked on over the last three to five years and write down the facts, what you accomplished and what benefits this could mean to a potential employer. Also a handy tip here is READ MY LAST BLOG POST AND MATCH THE SKILLS AND PROJECTS OF THE JOB SPECIFICATION TO PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON!

Below is an example an example of what your interview preparation list might look like:

Facts – about yourself

Identified costly, labour intensive office duties which were inefficient & costing approx 350 man hours per week at an average cost of £20 per hr. Total weekly cost was £7,000. Totally automated, installed and trained staff to utilise a computerised system.

Accomplishments – significant measurable results you have achieved for current or past employers.

This has saved the company approximately 350 man hours per week or £28,000 per month. In addition, the accuracy and reporting function has dramatically improved.

Benefits – what can you offer a prospective employer based on your previous accomplishments.

I have a proven track record in cost savings and can bring that knowledge to you and your company.

Now that you have done the above, write out my list of competencies on a separate sheet of paper and write down which competencies you demonstrated for each project mentioned on your interview preparation list. What you will find is that you have demonstrated numerous competencies on each project.

By doing the above you should have created yourself a number of projects which you can talk about in interview and demonstrate how they can help you in the job you are applying for. Last week I told you to match the skills you have to the job specification and this week I’m telling you to match the skills you have to the job specification by demonstrating your competencies. Make it easy for the hiring manager to hire you by demonstrating to them you have the skills and competencies they are asking for!