Competency or behavioural-based interviewing requires you to draw on past experiences in order to describe incidents that demonstrate your competence in particular areas. The most effective way of answering these questions is to follow a plan of action – we recommend the “STAR” technique:
Situation — briefly outline the background of the situation
Task — specifically describe your responsibility
Action — describe what you did
Result— describe the outcome of your actions.
Ordering your responses in this way covers all bases, but keeps things succinct. Here is an excellent answer to a competency-based question:
Question: “Team work is very important in our organisation. What evidence do you have to prove that you are a good team player?”
Answer: “I have a number of examples I could share with you. In one instance, when I was working as a business analyst at Company X, the sales team was pulling together a bid for a large piece of work, and the analyst that normally helps them out with their IT information was on leave. I offered to help them and worked late every night for two weeks to ensure that they had all the information they needed. They took on my suggestions regarding technology. As it turned out, we won the bid. I was actually promoted as a result.”
You may be required to provide between one and three real-life examples to validate one particular competence, depending on the interviewer. Always be prepared for a larger conversation, and try not to be that candidate with one ‘scripted’ answer – if you do say ‘I have a number of examples’, be prepared to back it up. It is also useful to be prepared with answers and supporting examples to common HR questions, such as:
Remember that you are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody, not because they want to trip you up or embarrass you. In this sense, the interview is a conversation, as well as a ‘sales pitch’. The interviewer will be looking for your strong and weak points, but will also expect input from you as a potential, interested employee. He or she will probably probe deeply to determine your attitudes, aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity, all of which can be assessed by questions from both sides.
Here are examples of probing questions that you might ask when the opportunity arises – note how they demonstrate interest not only in getting the job, but prospering and succeeding in it: