Factors about Competency Based Interview Questions examples
So you have applied to a prestigious firm for your dream job. If you get the job, you know you will get a definite head start on your career. And then, after days of waiting for your patience is finally rewarded. You feel on top of the world on receiving the coveted Competency Based Interview Questions examples call.
You start preparing for the interview Competency Based Interview Questions examples in right earnest. Right from brushing up your domain knowledge, leafing through class project reports, reading up on current affairs, and generally working towards making a favorable impression, you don’t leave any stone unturned.
But I am a Fresher! What kind of questions will I have to face in the interview?
As a fresher though, you don’t have too many references to draw from, or past experiences to guide you as to how your interview will turn out. You also realize unlike experienced persons who have past career records to fall back on, you have precious little in terms of actual work experience on which interview questions can be formulated. So, how will you prepare for, and what can you expect in the job interview?
While interviewing candidates with job experience, interviewers use their past experiences and records to verify merit, but such an approach is not possible for fresh-out-of-college candidates. In traditional unstructured interviews, the format is more like a one-to-one discussion where you are asked certain questions and your suitability is judged on the basis of your answers. This format has been found to be faulty as there is no scientific basis for judgment being applied here. Most questions are hypothetical and so are the answers.
For example, “How will you handle an upset customer?” or “What strategy will you use in such and such case?”
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A more rational approach can be applied in the form of a competency-based interview. In such competency-based interviews questions, the interviewer tries to find out how candidates have actually performed in various situations in the past, which help in revealing individual competencies (see definition below).
To cut a long story short, it means they use past behavior to predict future performance.
What are Competencies?
Let us first understand what competency-based interview actually means.
Competency = Skills + Ability + Motivation
To give an example, Company A requires a person for handling the job of a Sales Officer in a branch office. In addition to the requisite skills and qualifications needed for the job profile, the company has identified certain performance-related behaviors that are critical to performing the job effectively. These behaviors or “competencies” are traits that have elevated job performance in the past and are likely to be the basis of successful job performance in the future as well. Company A lists such behaviors as key job competencies and formats their selection processes on these.
Some key competencies that form the basis of a
a competency-based interview may be:
- Negotiation skills
- Risk Taking
- Results orientation
- Conflict handling
- Handling cross-cultural diversity
The above list is just indicative and may be a part of an exhaustive competency manual prepared by company HR for individual jobs.
Welcome to Competency Based Interview Questions examples
Most companies these days prefer to use a competency-based interview to test candidate ability and potential. Also called behavioral or situational interviews, these interviews assess past demonstration of specific behavioral competencies in particular situations.
For the past couple of decades, competency based interview questions examples have become popular in corporate selection and training processes. Used either in personal interview formats or as the basis for conducting assessment center tests, competencies help in the selection of new recruits, staff development programs, and career planning programs.
Advantages over traditional interview formats:
The reason why competency-based interview has become so popular is that rather than depending on individual judgment and subsequent bias of the interviewer for selecting a suitable candidate for a post, these are centered on tried and tested behavioral competencies.
The logic is simple. These competencies have proven to be critical to optimizing job performance in the past, therefore, these are likely to be the make-or-break factor in future job performance as well. Of course, it goes without saying that competencies need to be upgraded and modified with time as corporate realities keep changing.
The Competency-based Interview Structure:
Since each job profile comes with its list of key competencies, the role of the interviewer is to detect such competencies in the potential candidate. Competency-based interview questions goad you to reveal how you have displayed certain skills, abilities, and behavior in handling tasks and challenges in your past.
I have given some examples below:
Competency being assessed: Team Work
A typical competency based interview question would be like:
“Can you give me an example of how you worked in a team and achieved success?”
(The idea is to find out evidence of team-spirit as demonstrated in past behavior.)
A good way to answer this question is to cite an example from your college or school life when you had been a part of a crucial team and put in your efforts for team success.
Further questions would be asked after you have described the incident, to probe your role in particular. For example:
“Were there any problems that occurred between you and your teammates?”
“How did you handle differences of opinion?”
“What did you do then?”
“What steps did you take?”
Some competency based interview questions examples are listed below. You need to answer such questions as accurately as possible, being specific and giving relevant details.
Competency being assessed: Resource optimization
“Describe a situation when you had to work with limited resources.”
You can describe a college trip or event you had organized, where resources were meager, yet you managed to make things happen. Keep details minimal, and emphasize your efforts, resourcefulness, and commitment to see the event through. Focus on how you economized on resources but did not compromise on results.
Competency being assessed: Leadership
“Tell me about a time when you led a group. What were the challenges and how did you handle them?”
Remember the time when you were the leader of your college drama club/environment action group/football team? This is the opportunity to describe the time when you led your team successfully in the face of all problems. Describe one challenge you had to face, and how you tackled it. (If you were not very successful in handling tough challenges, don’t brag otherwise. You are only human, and can be allowed to fail sometimes.)
Competency being assessed: Ethical integrity
“Describe a situation when you had to face a problem of ethics.”
Ethics and integrity are values that are becoming critical in corporations these days. You need to answer this question truthfully, mentioning a situation where you had faced a temptation to act unethically or were in a moral dilemma. Again, stick to facts. Don’t cook up incidents for the sake of sounding impressive. If you have never faced such a situation, mention it. In that case, say what you are likely to do if faced with such a situation in future.
Competency being assessed: Conflict Handling
“Have you faced a situation when you had to deal with conflicts and opposition? Did you manage to handle the conflict satisfactorily?”
Right from our childhood, we face conflicts and struggle. So you need to be careful about the situation you will mention here. Stick to professional conflicts such as opposition from authorities, or rivalry between batch mates to achieve a target, or describe a situation when you met with stiff opposition to your plans. You can describe the outcome of the conflict, highlighting your efforts and conflict handling strategies.
Competency being assessed: Handling Failure
“Tell us about a time when you had failed to achieve what you set out to do.”
This is a delicate one, where you have to reveal your failings, but in a manner that ultimately showcases your maturity and learning from the failure.
How will I prepare for competency-based interviews?
competency based interview questions examples Preparation takes a bit of effort from your end, but you don’t need to press the panic button yet!
Read the job description carefully and note down the specific requirements of skills and abilities listed in the advertisement. Examples may be:
“Candidate must possess good communication skills, must be a go-getter and be able to work under pressure”.
“Strong analytical skills required, with the ability to work in teams and meet deadlines.”
Both the above job advertisements give you a fair idea of what the advertiser considers important for doing the job well.
So now you have found some key competencies required for the position. Make a list of these, along with some other related ones that you think might be required for the job.
Communication skills, leadership, personal drive, motivation, interpersonal effectiveness, convincing ability
Teamwork, negotiation skills, problem-solving, conflict management, handling diversity, goal setting
In this manner, you can draw up a list of competencies for preparing for your forthcoming interview. Now go ahead, sharpen your arsenal!
Think about at least two situations in the past, where you have displayed your strengths in a particular competency to achieve positive results.
If you have been unable to succeed every time, there is no need to worry. You can also cite your attempts and efforts as good examples. Don’t shy away from mentioning negative outcomes, or failures. What is important is that you had put in your best and that you have learned from the experience.
The interviewer prefers truthfulness in the competency-based interview, rather than cooked up incidents. Remember, even if you bluff your way through the first round, experts can easily detect discrepancies through later tests (like psychometric and ability tests).
Is there any preferred technique for answering competency based interview questions examples?
Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) technique to prepare for the competency based interview questions examples.
The following steps can be followed:
Describe a situation where you had applied the desired competency:
Give the context of the situation, explaining the background. Don’t go too much into detail, be concise, and stick to relevant facts.
Explain what tasks were involved:
Briefly touch upon the tasks that needed to be done. Concentrate on what you had to do if you were part of a team.
Focus on the action or the steps you had taken:
Explain the whats and the whys of your action. Here you can highlight how your skills and abilities contributed to the result. You can also explain the rationale behind your action.
For example, if you are describing a situation highlighting your competency in decision making, you can say:
“In my third semester, I was asked to represent the class in the college committee on revising the examination schedule. The last date for submitting suggestions was close. It was a time when classes were off, and most students could not be contacted as they had left for their native towns. I had to take a decision on their behalf, and it was a great responsibility. However, considering the urgency, I did not delay the matter and gave in my suggestions. I knew that I was acting arbitrarily, but it was necessary, so I did not hesitate.”
State the results of your action:
Here, describe what eventually happened, focusing on the results that your action helped achieve. If the result was negative, describe your learning from it. To continue with the earlier example, you could say:
“Later, when the dates for the examinations were notified to the class, my batch mates grumbled and blamed me for acting without considering their suggestions. I explained why I did that but had to face their ire. I learned that you need to take people along while taking unpleasant decisions so that they can eventually accept the decision better.”
See how you have explained the outcome as not pleasant, yet you have managed to showcase your other competencies, i.e., your willingness to listen and take people along, and your ability to learn from negativity.
The interviewer looks forward to such maturity and composure from interviewees in a competency-based interview.
Points to Remember:
- Prepare at least two incidents beforehand for each competency, as your interviewer may ask you to cite a supporting incident
- Be concise and to-the-point, don’t give unnecessary background details of the incident
- Focus on your role, but also acknowledge the contribution of others in past successes
- Be calm and answer probing questions with a cool head
Therefore, we can conclude that the key to tackling competency based interview questions examples is thorough preparation and presence of mind.
Think. Compose. Emphasize. You can nail it!