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Competency-based interview questions – guide

Written by Andrew Arkley

Competency-based interview questions tend to vary widely between each sector and are used to determine and evaluate a candidate's competence. Competency-based interview questions are often used when it is difficult to select candidates on the basis of technical merit. An example of this would be selecting a candidate for a graduate scheme or job where relevant experience is less important, or not a requirement.

Many employers find that using competency-based interview questions can give valuable insights into an individual and their preferred style of working. Employers also find that by using these questions, they can help predict the employee's behaviours in future situations. An example of a competency-based interview question would be: Which change of job did you find the most difficult to make? This question falls under the adaptability section of competence-based interview questions.

A technique that can be used when asking or receiving competency-based interview questions, is known as S.T.A.R. This stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result and is well-known as a universally recognised communication technique. Here is a step-by-step guide to the S.T.A.R system and how it is used when dealing with competence-based interview questions.

Step 1 Situation or Task:

Here, you are asked to describe the situation you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished. Here, answers must be concise and informative, aimed solely on what is useful to the question being asked. An example of where this step can be used is if you were in a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person. Here, you should explain how you came to meet the individual and why they were being difficult. If the question asks you to demonstrate an example of teamwork, explain a task where you had to work as part of a team.

Step 2 Action:

This step is the most important in the S.T.A.R approach as here you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that are tested by the question. Here, the following points should be considered:

        Be personal, talking about you, not the rest of the team

        Go in some detail and don't assume that the interviewer will guess what you mean

        Unless it is crucial to your example, steer clear of technical information

        Explain what you did, how you did it and why you did it

The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to each situation. Here is an ideal opportunity to sell some important skills. Here, you can describe how your teamwork helped achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills effectively to keep everyone updated on the progress of the task at hand.

The interviewers will also want to know why you completed a certain task and how you dealt with a task under pressure. For example, an effective method of dealing with conflict in the workplace would be to say: I could sense that my colleague was irritated and I asked him to gently tell me what the problem was. I gave him the opportunity to calm down by allowing him to vent his feelings and anger. I then explained my own point of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was to find a mutual solution to the problem.

Step 3 Result:

The final step in the S.T.A.R method is the result of your actions. Here, interviewers will want to know the outcome of a situation that you were in. Here, you will explain what happened in the end and use the opportunity to describe what you learnt and what you accomplished. Here, you can make the answer personal and highlight any key skills you have learnt. This step is the most crucial part of your answer as interviewers want to know that you are using a variety of generic skills to achieve your objectives. Here, you should demonstrate in your answer how you took specific actions to achieve a specific objective.

So here you have it. Your step-by-step guide to answering and understanding competency-based interview questions. This blog was provided by PurpleCV, a leading provider of CV Writing Services in the UK. To have your CV professional written for as little as £25 check out our CV Writing Service page for more information or Contact Us, we are are available 24/7.

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