If we asked if you have heard of a telephone or group interview, the answer would probably be yes. But, if we asked if you knew what a competency-based interview was, you may not be so sure. Here at Agile Recruit, our team of consultants aim to help our candidates be as prepared for the interview as they can be, so you must be aware of all of the different types of interviews you may face.

Here is our quick guide to Competency-Based Interviews (CBI):

What is a competency-based interview?

In competency-based interviews, the interviewer will ask a set of questions based on a specific skill the company is looking for, with the candidate’s answer being graded against a particular set of predetermined criteria.

Many recruiters like CBIs as they are a great way to find out how the candidate has used the specific skills they are looking for and how the candidate usually approaches problems, tasks and challenges. CBIs are also a fair way to assess candidates as they remove emotional elements that can cloud the interviewer’s judgement. Instead, there is a focus on scoring each candidate in a way that can be compared against other candidates directly and against the competencies required for the role.

On the other hand, candidates are not so keen on CBIs as they can sometimes feel like more of an interrogation than a conversational interview. It is important to remember that a structured interview like this can help you to keep to the point.

The key competencies that most recruiters will tend to look for in a CBI include:

  • Adaptability
  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Decisiveness
  • Independence
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Organisation
  • Problem-solving
  • Resilience
  • Teamwork

Examples of competency-based interview questions

Obviously, the type of CBI questions you will be asked will depend on the role you are applying for, but some common themes tend to run through this type of questioning.

The interviewer may use very specific questions with no follow-up, such as, “Describe an occasion where you achieved a goalwhat steps did you take to get there?” Once you have answered this question, they may carry on the interview with further questions focused on the key competencies.

The other approach an interviewer might take is to ask more open questions such as, “What has been your most significant achievement?” They will then note the competencies you mention in your answer and may also ask follow-up questions to enable you to elaborate further on your skills. The challenge here is to answer the questions as fully as possible without waffling or spending too much time describing the task.

Any good interviewer aims to discover exactly what you have learnt from your experiences, including what you might have done differently. Be prepared to reflect on your past performance.

How to answer competency-based interview questions

The best way to answer CBI questions is to use the STAR model to structure your reply, which will help you give clear and concise answers. The STAR model is:

  • Situation: Briefly describe the task you had to complete and give background to your example, e.g., “I led a group of colleagues in a presentation to potential clients.”
  • Task: Explain the task or activity
  • Action: Outline the action you took to complete the task (the how and why), e.g.” I delegated sections of the presentation to each team member, making sure we discussed our ideas in a series of meetings.”
  • Result: Summarise the result of your action, e.g. “As a result of the team effort and hard work, we won the business!”

As you can see, the Situation and Task elements of the STAR model often roll into one another and so should be kept fairly brief. The critical section is the action section, so you should keep it personal, talking about yourself and not the rest of the team. The interviewer may not guess what you mean, so explain precisely what you did, how you did it and why.

How to prepare for a competency-based interview

As with any interview, the key to providing successful answers in a CBI is all in the preparation – and the good news for you is that preparation is fairly easy. Just follow the steps outlined below:

  • Closely study the company’s website to glean the competencies they deem important – brand values and mission statements are great places to start.
  • Ask the company if you can have details of the competencies ahead of the interview.
  • Analyse the job description and person specification in depth so you know what the employer is looking for.
  • Pull a list of the competencies you identified in the previous three steps.
  • Review your CV to find two examples for each competency.
  • Write bullet points for each competency based on the STAR model outlined above.
  • Practice your answers with a friend who will give you helpful feedback.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you find your next data specialist role, or if you have a data specialist role you would like to fill, please get in touch by email at info@agilerecruit.com.

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