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Competency based interviews

Competency-based interviews, also known as situational or behavioural interviews, are a style of interview designed to allow the candidate to discuss a situation where they previously faced a particular type of challenge or situation, and how they approached solving that problem.

Whereas unstructured interviews are more of a conversation between interviewer and interviewee, competency-based interviews are more systematic. Each question targets a specific skill or competency. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples to provide evidence of their experience and abilities.

The answer is then matched against pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly.

Competences To Test

Key competencies regularly sought include:

  • Developing client relationships
  • Influencing & communication
  • Using data
  • Developing strategy
  • Adaptability
  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Deciding action
  • Independence
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Organisation
  • Resilience
  • Teamwork
  • Delivering results

Example Questions & Scoring

Competency – Influencing

Question: Give me an example of when you had to influence a particularly resistant strategic partner or stakeholder.

This an example of how a candidate could structure an answer and are also follow-up questions you might ask for clarification.

  • The candidate should set the context of the situation and what they needed to do.
  • What was the source of their resistance?
  • How did they approach this?
  • What arguments and counter-arguments did they use?
  • How did they adapt their influencing strategies to deliver a win-win outcome?
  • How did they tailor their approach to different people? What was the outcome?

Example Scoring Structure: Communicating & Influence

Competency – Leadership

Question: Tell me about a time when you had to deliver a challenging objective through others. How did you empower them and gain their commitment to work towards the specific output?

This is an example of how a candidate could structure an answer:

  • What the situation was
  • How they went about getting buy-in/commitment from the team
  • How they maintained momentum during the challenging times
  • What remedial action they needed to take
  • How they knew their approach was successful
  • What they learned from this situation that has enabled them to be a better leader in the future

Example Scoring Structure: Leadership

Competency – Deciding Action

Question: Outline a decision the candidate made that has impacted other functions across the organisation.

This is an example of how a candidate could structure an answer:

  • What decision needed to be made
  • What broader factors they considered
  • What the impact was across the business
  • How they explained/embedded your plan with their colleagues and stakeholders
  • How they managed the impact on other teams

Example Scoring Structure: Deciding Action

Competency – Developing strategy

Question: Tell me about a time when you developed a new strategy for your business /business unit.

This is an example of how a candidate could structure an answer:

  • How they developed or created this strategy
  • Who they involved
  • How they mobilised their ideas and put them into practice
  • What the impact was in terms of improvements in business or bottom-line performance
  • What they learned from this experience

Scoring Structure: Developing Strategy