How to Prepare for Competency-Based Interviews

Although competency based interviews have been about for some time, many candidates remain in the dark about how to excel in this environment.

Here we take a look at why employers use this approach and how candidates can become competency based interview ready.

Preparing for competency-based interviews

Why a competency-based interview?

The purpose of a competency based interview is to find out whether you have the skills to match the job requirements – testing these out in a real work context.

The types of questions asked will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your competence by giving specific examples of when you have previously used your skills to undertake tasks, face challenges and manage problems.

Expect a structured approach

Unlike a more traditional interview where the panel and prospective employee engage in a conversation with a purpose, the competency based interview follows a very structured format.

Each competency required for the role will be explored with the candidate expected to provide individual examples for each one. It is important that you anticipate this style of approach and plan your responses accordingly- structured questions require structured answers.

Which competencies?

The first essential step in preparing for a competency based interview is to find out which competencies are being assessed. These should be included in the job advertisement or person specification supplied by the company- if not you should contact the company and ask for them.

Common competency groups include analytical competencies (innovation, problem-solving etc.), interpersonal competencies (team-working, collaboration) and motivational competencies (drive, energy, being focused on results).

If you do not understand any of the competencies listed then do some research to find out more- either online or by contacting an organisation which specialises in interview preparation.

Leading questions

Panel members often start the ball rolling with opening questions which ask the candidate to describe a time when they have demonstrated a particular competency such as leading a team, dealing with conflict or implementing change.

The candidate’s response should be to tell the story of what they did in a structured way using specific examples as supporting evidence. If you can prepare a handful of examples you can apply during the interview, this can really help you out.

Preparing answers

The key to excelling at competency based interview is to come up with specific examples of previous tasks undertaken/situations dealt with which are linked to the particular competencies required of this job. This part of the preparation can take time, but it is a worthwhile investment.

Conduct some personal brainstorming to help identify a range of examples relevant to the job you are being interviewed for. Write these examples down and then select those which can be most closely linked to the specific competencies. Think carefully about examples which best demonstrate your skills and attitude and which are most likely to impress the panel.

Be a ‘STAR’

Now we all like to shine at interviews, but this star reference is all about the structure of your answers- not how sparkly you are! STAR is a useful acronym which will help you remember the points to cover in each answer-

(S) ituation briefly describe the situation/problem/challenge

(T) ask – highlight what had to be done to achieve the goal

(A) ction state what you personally did and how this contributed to the successful outcome

(R) esult Thoroughly describe the result focusing on the positive result achieved

Follow this structure through when preparing answers for each competency and practice delivering these as much as possible beforehand. So when thinking of specific past examples, ensure you know how to break it down with the STAR approach.

Make your own luck by preparing comprehensively for the great opportunity which your interview presents, using this guide and more expert information available from Interview Skills Consulting.

Interview Skills Competency Based Interviews