Best Way to Handle a Competency Based Interview
There are many types of interviews, from the free flowing to the formal, but one that you are likely to come up against at some point is the competency based interview.
They’re designed to make the job application process as objective as possible, removing any conscious or subconscious bias by the interviewer by asking each candidate the same questions. Some people feel this type of interview is more artificial – there can be less opportunity to build rapport. However, they are very common, especially in large organisations and the public sector, so it’s worth refining your technique.
The questions will be driven by a know-how framework that’s required for the job. For example, an Insurance Account Executive may require problem-solving skills, or a Personal Lines Account Manager may require conflict management skills.
The interview questions tend to start with a variation of, “Tell me about a time when…” This may sound simple but, in the moment, it’s easy to give an shapeless answer or miss out key details.
One way of avoiding this is by using the STAR system to structure your response. Here is an example of how to use it: A candidate for a business development role might be asked: “Tell me about a time that you solved a problem with a tight deadline.” Here’s how you could organization your response:
Set the context for your story. For example, “We were due to be delivering a presentation to a group of 30 interested brokers on our new product and Wendy, who was spear heading the presentation, got stuck in traffic due to a unexpected bad weather.”
What was required of you? For example, “It was my responsibility to find an alternative so it didn’t reflect badly on the company and we didn’t waste the opportunity.”
What you actually did. For example, “I spoke to the event organisers to find out if they could change the running order. They agreed so we bought ourselves some time. I contacted Brian, another member of the team, who in a pinch could step in. He agreed to drop what he was doing and head to the event.”
How well the situation played out. For example, “Wendy didn’t make the meeting on time but we explained the problem to the delegates and Brian’s presentation went well – a bit rough around the edges but it was warmly received. Wendy managed to get there for the last 15 minutes to answer questions. As a result we were able to launch a new product in five brokerages. Based on new sales, it’s has been well received in the market.”
There are a few things to note with this response: it’s important to speak in specific rather than general terms and quantify your success.
In this example, we mentioned 30 interested brokers, the names of the people involved and quantified five brokerage commenced distribution for the new product. From a listener’s perspective, this makes the story more interesting and they are more able to gauge your success. Nameless figures and undefined successes can make the answer less feel less convincing. Secondly, as there are likely to be many questions and interviewers have short attention spans, it’s important to keep your answers concise: convey the maximum achievement in the minimum time. Finally, it’s important to finish on a positive note so the overall impression is strong.