How to handle Competency-Based Interview Questions

Published: 29 Sep 2015 By Niall Murray

Competency-based interview (CBI). Sounds intimidating, right? Wrong! 

Put simply, this style of interview is grounded in the idea that a candidate’s past behaviour is the best predictor of their future behaviour.

Most questions will start with something along the lines of: “Tell me about a time when you…”, or “Describe to me a situation where…” The great thing about CBI questions is that many can be anticipated, allowing you plenty of time to plan answers in advance. Here are some vital dos and don’ts.

1.     Be a STAR:

This might sound cheesy, but STAR actually refers to the most effective technique for answering CBI questions. STAR stands for:

Situation – describe the situation you’ve come across.

Task – explain what task was required of you.

Action – describe the action you took and how you overcame any obstacles.

Results – highlight the outcome of your action.

Using this framework gives you the all-important structure needed in your answers and will sound natural to the interviewer – there’s nothing worse than long-winded or irrelevant answers.

Put extra focus on the action and results sections of your answer as these are the most important to the employer. Use the STAR technique and you’ll shine (OK… that was cheesy)!

Interview Handshake

2.     Keep it real:

It should go without saying, but lies in your answers during a CBI will be easily detected by interviewers; so don’t do it! There should be no need given that you have the option of using examples from work, study and your personal life. Choose positive real-life examples that convey how you felt and reacted to certain challenging situations. Be yourself!

3.     Concisely will do nicely:

You’ll be asked numerous questions in a CBI interview, so it’s vital that you answer succinctly and effectively. Interviewers have a short attention span; therefore it’s your mission to fully express your success in the shortest amount of time. Extra tip: finish on a positive note to leave a strong overall impression.

4.     Variety for the win:

You want to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate and the best way to do this is through using different examples for each question. Your answers could comprise of experiences from university, work experience, volunteering as well as a club or society. Don’t come across as a one-trick pony!

5.     Specific is terrific:

There’s nothing worse than giving vague answers, particularly in a CBI interview. Including details such as names and numbers not only makes it easier for the person across from you to gauge your success, but also makes your answers more interesting. Conversely, answers given in general terms rather than specifics can make you appear less convincing to employers. You have been warned!

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