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I just love Competency Based Interviews

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I have not completed any formal research on “The World’s Greatest Fears” but I would guesstimate the greatest fears are in the following order – Death, Public Speaking and then Competency Based Interviews. There is normally a greater fear of Competency Based Interviews over the traditional interview (glorified chat about anything other than the job) but this is really down to lack of knowledge and understanding. Personally I love Competency Based Interviews.

You can learn to love them too …..

As with anything in life knowledge and preparation can help reduce fear/nerves. This article goes beyond the STAR Technique as you can get this information on any of a million websites. I am assuming that you know how to structure your answers using the STAR Technique and want to highlight some other key pointers to help you prepare and deliver …..

Your examples – Most jobseekers do not put enough time into example selection and quite often use the first example that comes to mind. I find when I brainstorm with my clients that they have many other hidden gems which are often more relevant. Put more effort into the example choices. Ensure that your examples highlight evidence of the behaviours underpinning the competency. And finally ensure that you have backup examples for each competency just in case.

Forget friendly smiles – On the day expect a cold experience with little small talk (Competency Interviews can seem a bit like the scary interview pictures we visualise). The whole nature of Competency Interviews is to remove subjectivity from decision-making. Therefore it really is a case of get the candidate in, grill the candidate, getting candidate back out again and repeat. The interviewers really are genuinely nice people in disguise for the duration of the interview. You should also expect the interviewers to be writing frantically during interview. This is very much part of the assessment process. Lack of smiles and writing may throw the other candidates and impact their performance but you have been forewarned.

It is not about the “X Factor” – When doing a competency interview it is all about the “I Factor”. Many jobseekers find it difficult to use the word I. Why? This could be because throughout our early development we were continually told that talking about ourselves was being big headed and boastful. You have to get over this!! If the interviewer hears the word “we” they can’t assess your contribution/behaviour.

Probing questions – The interviewers may ask probing questions during the Competency Based Interview. Embrace them. The interviewer is not being difficult or trying to trick you out. The opposite is true and the interviewer is actually being helpful. Probing questions mean the interviewer has not heard evidence and is giving you another chance to deliver. For example you may have been using “We” during your answer instead of “I”.

Then end of the road – Expect to be asked about results at the end of your examples BUT the interviewer may probe further with questions like “What went wrong?” or “What you would do differently next time?” Ensure you prepare for these questions too.

Final point – As with most areas in life some interviewers are not fully trained to execute Competency Interviews and therefore can dilute the objectivity of the interview. With this in mind concentrate on delivering your answers with energy and enthusiasm during the interview.

This really is the final point – Expect the unexpected. I have many examples where jobseekers prepared for Competency Based Interviews as they were told to expect this and guess what ….

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4 thoughts on “I just love Competency Based Interviews”

  1. Hi Paul

    I have been invited to a competency based interview which stated it was ‘based on the job description’. Another article I read advises to ask what competencies are being assessed and some will tell, some wont. Based on the what the company’s hr dept have already told me, do you think I could dig a bit deeper and ask them which competencies or should I just stick with the job descript?
    Thanks Olivia

  2. I would always advise to ask the employer. The worst they can say is no. Great if the provide you competency titles and definitions because others may not have been proactive and asked. If the don’t review the job spec to identify what you think are the competencies. If you are unfamiliar with what competencies are they ask a friend to help.


  3. I went for a Competency based interview recently and despite having a blinding interview failed – I found out later because I was marked down for using the word ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. Public sector is new to me and unless you know the rules it can be fustrating place. But, to fail an interview because I used ‘we’ when refering to ‘my team & I’ ‘y compnay and I’. I come from a culture where using the word ‘I’ was frowned upon becuase it reflected someone who was not a team – player.

    Who was responsible for devloping the concept of CBIs and using ‘I’

    Are there any forums where I can discuss this topic further to get it off my chest.



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