Competency-based questions

Most interviews nowadays consist of competency based questions. Competency based questions are questions where you are asked to provide real-life examples and describe a situation where you demonstrated something in, like finishing project, or using your initiative, or negotiating effectively. By putting pointers of these in your CV or application form, you have already provided the basis for these answers. So make sure you revise what you have written, as the questions will be likely to be based on the scenarios you gave.

Remember to practise. And take a notebook and pen with you. Some questions have numerous stages to them. Some interviewers will advise you to write down the question so you do not forget the previous stages.

Some competency based questions are:
• Tell me about your employment history.
• Why our company? What attracted you to this position?
• Give me an example of a time you worked in a team.
• What is your biggest achievement to date?
• Name three of your strengths.
• Name three of your weaknesses.
• Describe yourself in three words.
• What makes you different from the other candidates?
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
• Can you tell me about a time when you had to resolve an issue?
• Can you tell me about a time when you had to communicate a challenging piece of news?
• Describe a time when you had to work on your own initiative.
• Describe a time when you had to meet a strict deadline.
• What qualities do you think you have to succeed in this job?
• How would you cope with taking on an urgent task in the middle of your other duties?

To think of an answer, it is useful to break this down into stages, what is known as the STARS approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Skills). Describe the situation you were in, the task involved, what you did to complete the task, the result of the task, and the specific skills used. An example could be:

“Describe a time when you had to meet a strict deadline and the difficulties that arose.”

Situation – An example is in the company I work for currently as an admin assistant in a local accounts office, carrying out admin and finance-related skills. I’m having difficulty in collating information within the appropriate timescales.
Task – As part of my role, I have to ensure that all staff complete their timesheets by Friday, 5pm. This can be an extremely difficult task as sometimes I need to track down members of staff that are absent and manually fill in their timesheets for them, resulting in me not achieving a 100% capacity within timescale.
Action – I spoke with my line manager about this, and we implemented a monitoring process whereby I recorded incomplete timesheets. If timesheets were not individually completed by the deadline, my manager explained to our team that because this could have a detrimental impact on
the department’s figures, disciplinary action would be processed against those individuals who failed to complete this task.
Result – I can now manage this more effectively and members of staff are more organised. This has resulted in our office having a 100% completion rate.

Take a few scenarios and write them out beforehand to help you practise. By using the STAR method, it shows that you have put a lot of thought into your answers by using a methodical process.

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