Competency based interviews are increasingly popular with recruiters as by finding out what a potential candidate has done in the past they can determine how they might perform in their new job role.
A competency is essentially the ability to do something well, so the interview is an opportunity to illustrate your strengths in a range of areas, aligned to the requirements of the job.
The two key competencies we are looking at in this article are integrity and professionalism. These are relevant to many job roles and require careful thought before answering.
We will examine what these competencies mean in practice, insights into possible answers and consider how best to structure your response.
Professionalism is defined as ‘the level of excellence or competence that is expected of a professional.’ In practice, professionalism covers many attributes in the workplace including being empathic with colleagues, working hard and to high standards and demonstrating a positive attitude to the team/organisation.
In many cases, professionalism is more obvious when it is absent rather than when it is present- very often we only hear professionalism being mentioned when people remark on someone not being professional about what they do.
When asked to demonstrate your professionalism in an interview scenario, a good starting point is to think about quality. Pick an example from your past which demonstrates a good quality outcome, which was achieved because of your own personal and professional qualities.
This is the time to showcase personal attributes such as trustworthiness, respect for colleagues and managers, honesty, protection of confidentiality and if possible feedback which demonstrates that you have a reputation for professionalism –ideally from someone senior to you.
Integrity is closely aligned with professionalism and could be considered one of the strongest elements within it, but it often comes up as a separate area within an interview.
Its key focus is on strong moral and ethical values- in a business context this can mean adhering to organisational requirements and not turning a blind eye when performance falls short of these.
This is a topic which can sort the wheat from the chaff, as some candidates may fear that saying they stood firm on an issue could come across as not being prepared to toe the line.
The reality is that if a company is asking you about integrity, then this is a competency they feel is very important within their workforce.
Typical questions on integrity include being asked about a time when you took a stand or had to defend your principles. Conflicts of interest are another popular area which is often covered.
The key is to set out your position clearly and show how you maintained this despite the temptation to do otherwise or indeed pressure from elsewhere, without appearing obstructive and uncooperative. Keep organisational goals at the heart of your answer and demonstrate how your behaviour was in line with achieving these.
Professionalism and integrity may seem like abstract topics but the employer wants you to bring them to life with specific examples- as you would when answering on any other competency. It is, therefore, important to apply a sound structure to your response.
The STAR approach is a popular method which many successful interviewees use as it enables them to clearly set out the (s)ituation, (t)ask, their personal (a)ctions and the (r)esult achieved. Working with a professional interview coach can really help select and structure your examples in this way and become more comfortable with this approach.
For more competency-based interview questions, see our guide on the Interview Skills website.