In the modern management paradigm performance is most often measured against a set of pre-determined requisites called competencies. As a result hiring managers are keeping these competencies front of mind during the recruitment process and this is evident in the way the modern interview is structured.
‘Competency based interviews’ can feel very different to a more conversational or relaxed interview which may have been more common in the past. I’ve written this post as a little preparation to the uninitiated and a re-fresher for those that may be a little rusty. I hope you’ll learn:
• What competency based interviews are and why we use them
• How to best prepare
• A specific and useful format for structuring your answers
What is a competency based interview?
The format is designed to assess compatibility to a profile your interviewer and/or their organisation feel is the ideal type for the job you’ve applied for. This profile is built as a rough heuristic to reduce error in the hiring process, it can consist of a wide variety of characteristics however in my opinion the main body of the profile will likely be built from 5 key elements required to do the job:
• Vocational skills
• Theoretical knowledge
• Communication Styles
So the idea is you will be asked to select and describe an experience - ideally but not necessarily exclusively vocational - which demonstrates an instance where you have embodied the competency required. For example, if delivery through people was important for success in the job you may be asked:
’Describe a time when you enabled a colleague or employee to contribute to the success of a team through your mentoring/coaching and empowerment of that person.’
If your caught off guard these questions can be quite difficult to answer with great detail as they require a high level reflection which is difficult to achieve under pressure and on cue.
· Study the job profile and other information you have gathered about the opportunity. Ideally the job specification will list the key competencies and if not don’t be afraid to ask the recruitment consultant or internal talent manager supporting you in the process. - they want you to succeed as much as you do.
· Think back over the last 12/18 months. Think of 2 or 3 situations where you have demonstrated a high level of achievement against some if not all of the key competencies. Avoid using older examples as it is unlikely you will be able to remember them in sufficient detail and if anything may highlight the fact you haven’t had a recent experience to draw upon however if it is a key competency run with what you have. For example if a key competency is experience implementing a specific system it is likely this is essential so use any example you can.
· Occasionally, the best examples you may relate to your activities outside of work. If, therefore, your present job does not give you much opportunity to display some of the competencies sought, think about which, if any, of your other activities do.
Preparing STAR answers
When you give your answers, the interviewer is looking for you ti outline a Situation, Task, Action and the Result:
S Detail the specific SITUATION you are referring to.
T Talk about the TASK, responsibility or challenge you faced.
A Give clear indication of the ACTION you undertook, try to incorporate your behaviour in the situation and your thoughts.
R Don't forget to describe the RESULTS of your action. Did you complete it successfully? What happened? Detail things that went right and wrong and your learning outcomes.
A common error many people make is failing to differentiate between concerted group efforts and individual achievements and the impact this can have on the hiring manager(s) opinion. The interviewer wants to hear about what YOU did and therefore ensure that you focus on what was specifically your own in the situation described and what was an achievement of the team or other members, you should therefore talk about “I” not “we”. Beyond leaving your account open to interpretation failing to properly distinguish your success from others and giving credit where its due can negatively impact perspectives on your communication styles and ability to work in a team.
I hope that this post has helped clarify some of the key points about the modern interview process and better yet offered advice that helps you clinch your next job offer. We’ve scratched the surface here and as a business we are always happy to help with further advice so don’t hesitate to ask.
If you'd like to talk about our Engineering & Manufacturing roles in Consumer Goods, Medical Supply or Pharmaceutical, please call me on 0161220 1941. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively you can contact any of the team on 0161 832 1378 to discuss Engineering and Manufacturing Role, Purchasing & Supply Chain Roles or Construction Roles.
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