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Competency-based interviews

(27 Posts)
Kernowgal Fri 08-Mar-13 15:24:27

Just had an absolute shocker of an interview this morning. Never had a 'competency-based' interview before and it's left me reeling and feeling the opposite of competent. I did lots of prep for it as per their instructions (think of specific examples for the various points in the job spec) and they seemed to go totally leftfield, leaving me sat there feeling like a total idiot. I managed to scrape through on a few answers but overall felt like it was a disaster.

I could do with help on two fronts: one, dealing with this type of interview, and two, dealing with interviews in general. I seem to clam up and I can't think of anything at all. Even when they give me a bit of time to think it still doesn't help, I just go into panic mode. I definitely do better in unstructured interviews where it's more of a chat, I find them much more relaxing and consequently I perform better. This morning was awful and a real knock to my confidence, as I was perfectly capable of doing the job but they'll never know that from my woeful performance.

lljkk Fri 08-Mar-13 15:50:18

oh dear, I'm off to google competency interview, now.

Kernowgal Fri 08-Mar-13 19:40:39

And as an addition - I often make loads of notes while doing prep but I never take them in with me, yet I've just seen someone comment elsewhere that interviewers are generally happy for you to take notes in to refer to. Have I been a plonker here trying desperately to remember everything when in fact I could be referring to notes to prompt me??

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 08-Mar-13 19:48:41

If you google it you will get loads of tips.

The best thing to remember is STAR - situation, task, action, result.

S - what the scenario was
T - what your specific task was
A - what specific action you took
R - what the result was.

And for bonus points, how it made you feel smile

Sorry it went badly for you, it's just a technique and you can learn/get better at it.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 08-Mar-13 19:50:02

Yes to bringing notes in. I bring a whole a4 binder with examples of work (reports, research etc.)

Activ Fri 08-Mar-13 19:51:37

I love competency based interviews and hate chatty ones!

The reason is that at least you can prepare.

At the last one (when I got the job and once in the job was told that I gave the best interview the interviewer had ever experienced grin ) I basically wrote myself a script on each of the examples. I had 2-3 examples for each competency and then picked the most appropriate to the question. TBH I don't think it really matters if your example exactly fits the question because they will have a tick sheet of what the competency comprises of, so mentioning something that ticks each of those boxes is more important than actually answering the question asked iyswim. If you can get hold of the definitions for the competencies, that is incredibly helpful.

I practiced my scripts so I didn't need to read them in the interview, but I took the notes in with me, neatly presented in an A4 notebook. After each question I flicked through them to choose the most appropriate, which gave me some thinking time before answering and also acted as a comfort blanket, as I knew if my mind went blank the notes were there if I needed them.

Preparation is definitely the key. I reckon I spent about 18 hours in total on it.

Activ Fri 08-Mar-13 19:53:00

Oh and yy to STAR. Also remember to say "I" not "we", even if it was a team effort.

Kernowgal Fri 08-Mar-13 19:57:37

Wowser, that will make such a difference! blush I'm a gardener so it's difficult to bring in samples of things I've done but maybe some photos might help me back up my descriptions of what I'm capable of.

I've been out of the interview game for years because of studies to change career and then getting jobs on the basis of volunteering somewhere and being a known quantity, so this came as quite a shock. I'm hoping to have another interview for the same company at a different location so fingers crossed for a second chance.

Kernowgal Fri 08-Mar-13 19:59:49

Activ thank you so much, that is a total revelation. I now can't believe I've just winged the various interviews I've done - I have always done lots of prep but have just relied on memory (and therefore probably done myself a disservice).

Bloody nora, there I was thinking it was frowned upon to have notes! What an eejit.

lizardqueenie Fri 08-Mar-13 20:01:07

Agree totally with what everyone else has said above. STAR is the way to go, take notes in and think of 2-3 examples for each competency that you undertook in the last 2ish years.

When I had mine and i wasn't sure if i had scored highly enough, after giving one example I actually asked "does that give you enough information or would you like another example?" And they did so i felt pleased that i had the right kind of example noted down.

Definitely talk about what you did not we or the team. Typical questions they might ask about the examples you give are:
What problems did you encounter?
Did you encounter any resistance?
Would you have done anything differently?
Why did you decide to take that course of action?
How did you know what you had done was right/ you had made the right decision

Hope that helps a bit smile

Kernowgal Fri 08-Mar-13 20:05:15

Thanks lizardqueenie, that does indeed help smile

Wolfcub Fri 08-Mar-13 20:12:16

I agree you need to use star, you can really tell the difference between those applicants that use it and those who don't. you also need to have prepped two examples for every competency, the example in your application form and one other. stick to one example per answer don't try to generalise about what you do. An unsuccessful outcome is not a bad thing as long as you can show what you learned from it.

FadBook Fri 08-Mar-13 20:32:17

I have a fair few interview booklets with fairly common questions under each competency (communication, planning and implementing, flexibility etc) and what they're looking for (ie for communication two questions might covering the following 'checklist': speaks clearly, uses different forms of communication, checks recipient understands, creates communication mechanisms to improve comms, listens and asks further questions etc. PM me if you'd like a booklet OP smile

BikeRunSki Fri 08-Mar-13 20:34:19

My organisation does competency interviews. Over the years I have been.on both sides of the table. STAR and notes are the way to go.

trashcansinatra Sat 09-Mar-13 10:26:41

Sorry to be contradictory, but unless there was a declared disability and we were making reasonable adjustments, I wouldn't let a candidate use notes. Part of the point of an interview is to validate that the evidence in the application form is correct and can be trusted - and that they actually did it themselves. If the candidate is reading from notes, that's not so easy and you will waste alot of time waiting for them to finish the set price before probing for the actual evidence.

I also look for evidence across all the competences from each answer, so the answer to the teamwork section might mean I ask less on the communications for instance, though I tend to mention that. Eg "We've already covered some comms, so we'll not spend too much time on this, but can you give me another example of a time you had to make sure a message was understood, but perhaps where they weren't in your team?"

Exception to the notes rule is for positions where you'd like to see example of their work like creative services, web design, etc.

BikeRunSki Sat 09-Mar-13 12:45:05

Yes, but am interview is not a memory test. I don't mean pages and pages of detailed notes, I mean a few bullet points as an aide memoir. I'd still expect to give/receive a fluent and comprehensive answer to each question.

flowery Sat 09-Mar-13 15:00:36

Interviewers use competency based questions ("give me an example") rather than hypothetical ("what would you do if") because past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour.

However another reason is that it's far more difficult for a candidate to wing it, or lie, or use an answer pre prepared by someone else, if they are talking about a real situation that happened to them.

If a candidate is looking at notes to remind themselves which example they've prepared for each competency, and what they need to say about it, then that credibility is damaged.

Other than in the event of a disability or other problem, a candidate ought to be able to talk fluently about any given situation they were in without notes. The only prompt anyone should need is exactly which (say) two examples they will use for any competency. They shouldn't need anything further to be able to talk about that situation. Most people would be able to remember a list of examples without notes.

Examples of work would be appropriate in some roles, absolutely, but a candidate who keeps having to look at pre-prepared notes to answer questions loses credibility IMO.

lizardqueenie Sat 09-Mar-13 15:04:31

Yes definitely bullet points to jog your memory- I had a competency based iv where I had about 7 competencies to cover- so that's 14 examples (although some you could probably use some of the same projects/ problems for different examples if you hadn't needed it for a previous one). You shouldn't take in reams of notes but if the is interviewer worried you are making it up from your notes they can always ask tests question e.g so how many Bon bons did the company need to make per hour, if you worked in a bon bon factory of course- not relevant to your competency but will sure find out if people are making it up!

EnjoyResponsibly Sat 09-Mar-13 15:07:20

You can also throw in a humble response. One where your course of action worked, but could have been even better. So next time you'd do X as well.


Kernowgal Sun 10-Mar-13 18:42:53

Fadbook you have PM - thanks!

Great advice here, thank you all very much. On the notes front I would always hope to not have to refer to something, but I had three interviews last week and therefore struggled to prepare properly (my own fault for not organising bigger gaps between interviews), and so I would have really benefited from having prompts in the last one. But anyway, it's interesting to get both points of view. I have another interview for the same organisation (different location) and am already doing lots of prep to ensure I don't need to refer to prompts!

Also, if I can be a bit cheeky, what would you all say is the time limit for examples? As I'm a career-changer I'm struggling to find many examples from my new career, partly because I've not been doing it that long, and also because in my most recent job I was micromanaged to the point where I wasn't allowed to make any decisions whatsoever, so I'm finding it difficult to find examples! However some places seem to advise using examples from the past 12 months.

Thanks once again for your input, it's really valuable.

Kernowgal Fri 15-Mar-13 18:06:37

This'll give you a laugh: I got the job! Apparently I wasn't as incompetent as I thought. grin

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 15-Mar-13 20:12:01

shock grin

Congratulations !

wine thanks

forcookssake Fri 15-Mar-13 20:21:46

I am so pleased to have read this thread. I have an upcoming interview for a job I would love and will now prepare my examples using STAR and the rest of the great information smile

Kernowgal Fri 15-Mar-13 21:38:05

Thanks unexpected (and everyone else!), I'm still in shock.

Forcookssake there are loads of top tips here, plus I found some good info (and loads of sample questions) on Good luck!

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Fri 15-Mar-13 22:28:43

Yes, congrats from rainy Falmouth. I assume you are in/from Cornwall? smile

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