Interviews and Competency Questions

Interviews and competency questions…

Competency questions have become so popular for many interviewers that opening questions such as ‘tell me about a time’, or ‘give an example of how’, have become an almost integral part of the interview process.

Instead of being asked to speculate what they would do in certain situations, candidates are asked to provide specific examples of situations that have actually occurred, and use real-world examples to illustrate their own characteristics.

What are key competencies?

Skills that employers look for when recruiting. Some key competencies include:

  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Communication skills
  • Decision making
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Organisation
  • Goal orientation

Some Common Questions asked at competency-based interviews

Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was struggling

After all, while many companies rightly value teamwork and empathy in their staff, the cold, hard truth is that helping and caring still has to be seen to benefit to their bottom line.

The best interviewees answer this question by not only stressing how they may have supported a colleague in crisis, but also how their support translated into higher performance for the company.

Nice people are great. But it’s what they bring to the business that really counts.

 Give an example of a time you’ve had to improvise to achieve your goal

Translation: Can the candidate think on their feet?

Think of this question as a kind of hybrid between a curveball, and a classic competency question. It takes candidates out of their comfort zones and sees how they cope under pressure, whilst simultaneously asking for a real-life experience to back-up what they say.

Every answer has the potential to reveal something new about your personality. Improvisation is all about facing the chaos. If you can handle the unexpected, and overcome fear of failure to come out swinging, the way you answer becomes as important as the answer itself.

 Why are you a good fit for the company?

Let’s face it: everyone wants to be wanted.

You’re probably under no illusion in thinking that your interview is the only one the company is conducting, but those who look like they’re simply playing the field and seeing what’s out there are always less likely to impress

The way a great candidate stands out when answering this question is by not just selling themselves for the role, but also stating exactly why they’d make a perfect match for the business.

If you’ve done your homework correctly, you’ll have a blueprint of exactly what the company’s values are, then use your own skills, accomplishments and personality and tie them in with everything you’ve learned to hack together the perfect response.

 If you were offered the job, what’s the first thing you’d change?

Ah, finally a loaded question…

If the role is specifically to do a turnaround job, or the JD has given the sense that the role is focussed on making changes, highlighting some specific areas for improvement can be a shrewd move,

However, the real skill here lies in answering without completely disregarding the experience and opinions of your prospective team. You need to be tactful, the company will not be looking for bullies or know- it -alls.

A good answer should stress consultation and the need for information gathering, rather than recommending wholesale changes. Words like evolve, add, contribute and develop can be more effective than change, transform, overhaul or fix.