Why are Competency Questions used in Interviews?

 In Careers advice

Interviewers use competency questions in order to reveal how a candidate has reacted in real life experiences. By prodding the candidate to reveal this information, you are able to get a feel an individuals personality and traits. Identifying the candidate’s traits is a great help for the Recruiter who is trying to map out the individual to a specific company/environment.

The process involves isolating key competencies that we believe suitable employees should possess and will ask competency based questions to pull the candidate’s hand into revealing their skills in areas the employer wishes to focus on.

Key competency questions will revolve around one of the following, Teamwork, Responsibility, Delegation, Decision making, Communication, Leadership, Ambition, Commercial Awareness and Career Motivations.

How to Answer Competency Questions

A typical competency interview question is:

Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time, despite intending to do so?

In your response, your interviewer will want to find out how you manage your time during difficult tasks and the reasoning behind why you failed to meet the deadline.

Competency questions are likely to probe for additional information in your response. If you find yourself straying away from your initial answer you are most likely giving the interview information he or she had hoped for. Always make sure you provide concise, highly specific answers that are well explained, thought out and detailed.

You may think employers are keen to hear about all your greatest achievements but in fact, they are just as keen to hear about all your greatest failures – which is fine. However, you must

Tips for answering competency based interview questions

When answering competency questions you can:

  • Give examples from work, study or personal life, but make sure you give a wide variety of examples and a different example to answer each question.
  • Don’t go into too much background detail. Your interviewer only wants to know about your past behaviours. Further detail is redundant.
  • Never make your answers up! Your interviewer will find this very easy to spot.

Techniques for Answering Competency Questions

There are several ways to answer competency questions in an interview.

The STAR Technique

This is also sometimes known as SOAR, where “Task” is replaced by “Objective”.

  • Situation: Describe the situation.
  • Task: Describe what task was required of you.
  • Action: Tell the interviewer what action you took.
  • Result: Conclude by describing the result of that action.

The CAR Approach

One way of dealing with this type of question is to use the CAR approach. CAR stands for Context, Action, and Result. It helps you to structure your answer like a mini-essay.

“Context” is your introduction, where you describe the scenario you faced, date and place. The “Action” forms the main body and should be the longest part of your answer. The “Result” is the conclusion and like the introduction, should be quite short.

  • Context: Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
  • Action: How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.
  • Result: What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience?

Examples of Competency Interview Questions and Answers

Competency Question: Give an example of when you’ve led a team.

  • Answer: I have led a team on a number of occasions, for example, when I was coach of my university football league. Not only do I believe that I am an efficient leader I also believe that I work well as part of a team and can also take instructions and work simultaneously with other people or colleagues. I have the ability to communicate amongst different team members effectively ensuring that the message I am trying to put across to members is done so with clarity. This ultimately enables me to be an effective and successful team leader. Providing direction, support and guidance is the key to success.

Competency Question: Give an example of when you’ve overcome a problem at work.

  • Answer: I have not really encountered many problems with work as this will be my first time in full time work, though I do have deadlines to meet both at work in my part time job and also in college. At college I have deadlines to meet and have tasks that need to be completed these are often challenging, these things I enjoy so plan my time around and also do what I can to deliver the best and highest quality work.

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