Dealing with competency based interviews


A competency interview is used to evaluate a candidate’s ability when relevant experience is not applicable, and suitability cannot be judged on CVs alone. These interviews are also known as situational and behavioural interviews and give important insights into an individual's preferred working style and general attitude.

Competency interviews are most commonly used for graduate schemes. Standard job interviews often focus on an applicant's previous industry experience, but this is ineffective with graduates as they are not expected to have any experience. Interviewers will instead ask the candidates to show that they have the necessary skills (competencies) that the company requires.

Candidates will be asked to demonstrate this by giving examples from their life experiences, which will illustrate their personality and general ability. In addition to this, as they may also be asked how much they know about their prospective employer. It is therefore very important for candidates to research the business before their interview, as a good level of knowledge will demonstrate how motivated they are to work for that particular company.

A typical competency interview will last for one hour and all candidates applying for the same job will be asked the same questions. It is very important to know what for candidates to know what they are being asked to show, and to know what their competencies are.

A competency is a specific quality that a company has decided it is desirable for its employees to have. They are used as benchmarks to rate and evaluate candidates. A firm will usually have several key competencies that they will ask their candidates about, and candidates will be graded as to how they answered their questions.

The following are the most common key competencies in firms across the board:

• Career motivation
• Commercial awareness
• Commitment
• Communication
• Decision making
• Ethics
• Leadership
• Organisation
• Problem solving
• Responsibility
• Teamwork
• Trustworthiness

If you are asked to attend a competency interview, the best way to prepare is by reading as many interview questions and answers as possible. These can be found online through Google. If you are applying through a recruitment agency, they will also be able to guide you.

Questions in these interviews often refer to school or university activities that display one or more of their key competencies. For instance, you may be asked to demonstrate where you have been part of a team, and how this led to the successful completion of a task.

The main aim of these interviews is for candidates to use their life experience as a way to show that they are capable of doing the job. You will need to prove that you are motivated and committed with examples, not just by saying that you possess these qualities. You will not lose marks for taking your time, so make sure that you think about the question before answering and explain clearly and concisely.

Research is the best preparation for any interview, but especially competency ones. You need to identify the main skills that are required (often found in the job advert itself), research the company and try to think of genuine examples where you have used such skills.

Find out more about how to succeed in a job interview.  Or if you need some friendly advice, contact us today.