With more employers using competency-based interviews when interviewing applicants for new jobs, it’s essential to prepare and practice your responses make sure they see your EQ.

At Randstad we’ve seen a steady rise in the level of testing at interviews over the past five years. Nearly a third of application processes now involve a psychometric, technical or aptitude test. And there are far more competency-based interviews, designed to check whether you have all the skills and behaviours on the interviewer’s checklist of essentials. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that competency-based interviews are now used 78% of the time.

Succeeding in competency based job interviews

A competency-based interview may feel like a conversational encounter – but it is very structured and aims to be thoroughly objective. Your interviewer will ask you to describe a time you showed you have a particular ability (competency). Your answers will be scored for positives (eg: is able to compromise) and negatives (eg: used inappropriate strategies), and your total score makes it easy to compare you to other candidates. Every candidate is asked the same questions, to keep the scoring fair, and every question tests a competency required for the role.

You can see why you don’t want to be fumbling for examples or struggling to remember events as you are relating them. For competency-based interviews, preparation and practice is essential if you want to shine.

The questions you get asked will depend on which handful of competencies are essential to the role you are applying for, and you should read the job description carefully to work out what these are. Your Randstad consultant will be an excellent source of feedback to make sure you’re thinking on the right track.

Examples of competency based questions:

  • Give me an example of something complex you had to explain to a colleague or client.
  • Describe a time when you had to delegate.
  • Have you ever been in a team and made a positive contribution you were really pleased with?
  • Tell me how you have dealt with an angry customer or co-worker.
  • Can you give me an example of something you did that improved the way your job was done?
  • What’s the most difficult decision you have made in the past six months?

The STAR model for answering questions

STAR is a very effective strategy for preparing your answers. The Office of Fair Trading says it will help you ‘provide a meaningful and complete answer to questions asking for examples’ if you follow the four simple steps:

  1. SITUATION: Set the scene in context. Make it concise and informative.
  2. TASK: Describe the task.
  3. ACTION: Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it. Be personal and go into detail. This is where you can communicate important skills. Steer clear of technical info unless it’s crucial.
  4. RESULT: Explain how it all ended and what you accomplished and learned. Use this opportunity to highlight additional skills.

There’s a very good chance your interview will be competency-based, and even if it isn’t this preparation will help enormously. So make sure you understand the core skills needed for the post, and think through what you would ask someone to reveal those skills. Use the STAR technique to prepare engaging and memorable answers – then practice, to get your answers short but detailed – and firmly embedded in your memory, enabling you to really shine at your interview!