How to Answer Competency Based Questions
Competency based interviews are very popular so it’s critical that you have scenarios and answers prepared. The following are some of the most popular competencies looked at in interviews:
- Problem solving
- Developing others
- Achieving Excellence
- Building trust & understanding
- Influencing others
- Adherence to processes & procedures
- Attention to detail
- Planning & Organising
- Managing change (Senior level)
- Managing performance (Senior level)
- Negotiation (Senior level)
- Strategic thinking (Senior level)
- Leadership and ability to manage a team (Senior level)
- Strategic & operational management (Senior level)
Examples of competency based questions can be:
1. Tell me about a time when you have had to work as part of a team to achieve a result?
2. Describe a time when you have had to demonstrate a high level of resilience
3. Tell me about a time when you have had difficulties with your team accepting new ideas or objectives? How did you overcomes these difficulties?
4. Describe a time when you have managed or been involved in a complex financial project? What where your deadlines and what was the outcome?
5. Talk me through your last budget setting exercise and how you monitored performance throughout the year?
6. Describe a time when you have had to build a collaborative relationship in your department to achieve a particular goal? What steps did you take to ensure this was a success?
Recently we have discovered that some negative or conflict related competency based questions have been creeping into interview processes. This can throw individuals as often all the examples prepared have been positive rather than negative. Examples of these can be:
1. Tell me about a time when you have been involved in something that didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What did you learn from it and how did you ensure it would never happen again?
2. Tell me about a time when you and a colleague didn’t agree? Why did you disagree? How did you resolve the situation and ensure that their opinion was still valued?
The STAR Method
A very successful method to adopt when answering competency based questions is STAR (situation – task – action – result). STAR is effective as it breaks down your answer in a structured manner and helps you to cover the main aspects of the question.
When answering a competency based questions you must pick a particular day, project or situation to answer the question – do not fall into the trap of answering by giving an example of how you apply this competency every day.
S – SITUATION
This is about painting the picture of the example you are about to provide, for example:
- “Our business was using Sage, however a decision to implement an ERP was made by the senior management team based on my recommendation to increase efficiency, visibility and extract data from different departments. As a result, I offered to champion and manage the project implementation.”
T – TASK
This is about highlighting the key tasks that had to be carried out to ensure success, for example:
- How did you get your colleagues on-board?
- Did you colleagues understand the benefit to them?
- Did the senior management understand the long-term benefits to the business?
- What were the timescales that were decided?
- How would you monitor progression to ensure that the project was on plan for delivery date?
- How did you ensure adhere to compliance, processes, procedures and controls?
- How did you ensure customer service was not affected or sacrificed?
A – ACTIONS
This is about explaining your role and what you did to make this happen or ensure success. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “my team did” or “my line manager did” the actions are all about what you did, for example:
- I offered to champion the project/implementation
- I became the super user of the ERP system and provided support and training to other users
- I ran a Q&A session with the staff before and after the implementation
- I stayed late a few nights of the week to allow me to fit in the implementation work
R – RESULT
The result is without a doubt the most important part of the STAR structure as it demonstrated what you achieved. The result should be provided from four different points of view to ensure a commercial and 360˚ style:
The first point of view should be your point of view
- It made my job easier
- It saved me time
- It upskilled me by ____
- It improved my relationship with my colleagues
- It gave me exposure to external stakeholders
- It gave me direct exposure to senior management
- It allowed me to supervise staff and provide training
The second point of view should be your colleagues e.g. it benefited my colleagues by:
- Making their job easier
- Saving them time
- Upskilling them
- Improved their relationship with other departments
The third point of view is the businesses/organisation you worked for e.g. the business benefited by:
- Reducing costs which increased profit
- Reduced risk
- Increased brand exposure
- Increased visibility allowing decisions to be made quicker and based on fact rather than gut feel
- Saving money
- Saved time by extracting departmental figures automatically
- Ensure adherence to processes, procedures and controls
- Allowed a more natural interaction with our customers/clients resulting in a better level of service
The fourth and last point of view is that of the customer/clients. Although your example might not have a direct impact on the customer/client there is still a likelihood that it will affect them indirectly:
- Better level of service
- Easier to interact with our business
- Saved time as everything automated
Remember, it’s a two-way process
A job advert can only tell you so much about a position or company so make sure that that you utilise your interview to gather as much information as possible. The interview is the perfect way to sensor check the opportunity is right for you and see what gut feeling you receive from the offices, people, culture and the interview itself.
Most importantly Good Luck!