Competency based interviews
How to break down competency-based interviews into manageable steps

Q: Of late I’ve been hearing a lot about competency-based interviews. Indeed, you have referred to them on a few occasions. I hadn’t done gone for a new job for years until this summer and the whole interview world has changed. All tips would be appreciated. (FG, email).

A: Yes, there has been a huge growth in competency-based interviews in recent years. The theory of the competency-based interview is that one well-told story should have the impact of persuading an interview panel of a candidate’s expertise in a particular area.

As I’ve said here before, it thrives on the ‘mile deep not mile wide’ approach. If you are preparing for an upcoming competency-based interview, your main job is to identify stories that illustrate your competencies in an effective manner.

START method

Firstly, the word competencies can throw people, but it means skills, expertise, capacity, proficiency and so on.

The long-established building block of a competency-based answer is the STAR method, and at Slí Nua Careers, we have added a T at the end to make it START. This acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and Them. Over the next few weeks, I will elaborate on all five elements of the START method to help you prepare good examples for upcoming interviews.

S, as outlined above, is for Situation. In my experience, candidates often rush through this part. This is where you set the scene by telling the interview panel where you are working, studying or perhaps managing a sports team in your personal life.

Take your time. Let the interview panel see the setting clearly. Think of it as a piece of drama: give the audience a chance to figure out where things are happening.

Think biographically

Typical lines to establish the Situation include “when I managed nine people in the position of” or “I was hired to conduct a full audit of the inventory management system in…”

For Situation, think biographically. The start method is a storytelling tool, nothing more than that. And a story benefits from starting with establishing where you were.

Candidates tend to rush through this because they presume everybody else knows their career history as well as they do. But in an interview, you cannot presume that the panel is fully up to speed with every twist and turn of your career. If you want them to know that you oversaw the new building project at such and such, tell them.

Perhaps tell them the year. Tell them how many people were working for you. Tell them why you were chosen to take on this project – or why you volunteered.

Tús maith, leath na hoibre as the Irish saying goes – a good start is half the battle. Remember that an interview panel cannot absorb everything you throw at them so you must take them logically through the steps.

Situation is not the most elaborate part of the answer, but without it, your stories will struggle to land punches. In the modern world, where attention spans are such fragile things, you’ve got to work hard to lead your audience through your story. Don’t so much think that you might lose your audience, but that they’re already half lost and your job is to retrieve them.

A steady, sequential start will set you off on the right foot.


Need interview training? Go HERE for all types of interview

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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