Competency style interviews

Competency Style Interviews

When answering competency style questions it is best to adopt the STAR model, which will allow you to structure your answer in a logical and concise manner.

Situation – Describe the situation/problem you were faced with (try and keep your examples recent)

 Task – what did you have to do?

 Action – what action did you take and why. Were there any challenges/obstacles and how did you overcome them?

 Results – highlight the outcome

Preparing for a competency-based interview  

First of all reread your CV.

The best way to identify what competencies the organisation is likely to require is to review the job description and discuss this further with your Consultant who will be able to advise you.  For each core competency try to think of specific examples of when you have evidenced those behaviours but do not prepare specific answers prior to your interview as this is likely to mean that you provide answers that do not fully answer the question. You may find it helpful to run through some competency examples with your Consultant or perhaps with a friend prior to your interview.

Common competencies

To help you we have listed below some of the most common competencies that companies look for. Please note that these definitions may not be identical to those of a prospective employer and are just to give you an idea of what to expect.

Drive for results

This competency is trying to assess personal motivation and how you approach challenges.

Example Questions:

  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • Give me an example of a time when you have had to achieve a specific result
  • What opportunities have you identified and used to achieve success?
  • Tell me about a time when you have ‘made things happen’ for yourself/your team?


This competency is looking for the ability to communicate effectively and to influence others to act and/or commit support to one’s own goals or objectives. Many roles are looking to establish that you understand the need to adapt your communication methods depending on the situation and individuals that you are facing.

Communication methods for example can include: 1-2-1 discussions (formal and informal), group presentations, telephone, email etc. Different ‘audiences’ may include peers, subordinates, senior management, customers, suppliers.

Example Questions:

  • Can you please give a specific example of when you have had to influence a colleague to you way of thinking?
  • Tell me about a particularly difficult issue you had to communicate.

Planning and organising

This is looking to assess if and how you plan activities and/or projects. It is relevant for all levels of roles, not just managerial positions. Often it may be looking to see how you fit your plans into the project plan, for example.

Example Questions:

  • Describe a time when you have had to plan a large piece of work
  • How would you approach ensuring that you delivered results in your role.
  • It’s a busy day with conflicting priorities and deadlines, what do you do?

Customer Focus

Individuals who display this competency understand and believe in the importance of customer focus. They listen to and understand the needs of external and internal customers. They meet and exceed customer needs to ensure satisfaction.

Example Question:

  • Can you give us an example of when you have dealt with an upset or angry customer in the past?

Influencing or Persuading Others

You may have strong verbal skills but can you influence another person to change their thinking or take some action – perhaps a colleague follows your advice or a client decides to buy a service or product. At management level have you the skills to persuade and involve rather than coerce and punish? Are you ethical in your dealings with people?

Example Questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s viewpoint significantly?
  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with?

Interpersonal and Team Skills

The desire to build and maintain relationships in and beyond the workplace is critical. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams. Those who are highly collaborative and co-operative are most likely to thrive in this type of environment.

Example Questions:

  • What skills and personal qualities have you contributed to the teams you have been part of?
  • Tell me about the most difficult person you have worked with.

Problem Solving and Decision Making

How do you come to a decision? What information do you utilise and how do you break that down and filter it to ensure your decisions are sound and valid? Are you able to make decisions or do you rely too heavily on others.

Example Questions:

  • Tell me about a difficult decision that you have made.
  • Tell me about an unpopular decision you have made.


There is a useful document that you can complete that enables you to work on the competencies you need to focus on for the interview: PREPARING FOR INTERVIEW COMPETENCIES


Job search approaches

Did you know that if you hit Google with job search tips, you will get about 150,000 responses! (perhaps if you are reading this, you did). Landing the job you really want as the next step is often challenging whether you are a new graduate or someone with many year’s experience.  It’s worth bearing in mind a few principles when you are starting the search, even if some you already know and a bit obvious, worthy of reiterating.

The other element of job search is to reflect on both the practical and psychological elements of the search. The practical ones are indeed important; a job search strategy, networking, signing up to sites and the like. However, the psychological elements of a job search are just as important; how do you keep your resilience and confidence when you have another rejection from an interview, or not even been shortlisted for the job you were really passionate about?

  1. Creating a Job Search Plan

Obvious in a way; when you are planning something new, you create some sort of project plan? I don’t know that that many people actually sit down and plan a JOB SEARCH PLAN opting instead for using a ‘shotgun’ approach that involves blasting CVs and job applications to any job title that sounds appealing and hope something hits the mark. Instead, research the types of careers that fit the transferrable skills that make up your key skills as an individual.If you prefer a more shorthand, visual version of a job search plan on one page, try this Job search plan VISUAL

Getting a job offer is a mix of hard power strengths (i.e., degrees, internships, and skills) and soft power ability (i.e., networking, personal branding, and communications agility). You can’t focus on one and neglect the other.

This simple Job search template is designed to get you started on the “job search road”, using a mixture of coordinating any work you have done to date on Career review exercises, along with creating a structured approach to looking for a new job. Add any elements that you find helpful.

  1. Update and tailor your CV

Sending a tailored covering letter is a well-known job hunting tip, but are you doing this with your CV? Relevance is crucial when applying for any job. Your CV is most likely targeted towards one profession or industry, but no two jobs will be exactly the same.

Whenever you apply for a role, take a few minutes to check your CV against the job advert and look for any potential improvements you can make. For example, if you are hiding a crucial qualification at the bottom of your CV, move it to the top and make it prominent. Tailoring your CV for every application may take a little more effort, but it’s better use of time than making 10 generic applications that may not attract the attention you need (more CV tips here)

  1. Keep your resilience

You could be in for a wait, and have to hunker down (a recent example was someone who took 9 months to get a job in the sector she wanted to work in after many applications). In today’s jobs market, employers have plenty of candidates to choose from and they often receive hundreds of applications per vacancy. So the odds of applying for just one job and securing it are slim to none. Applying for several jobs at once, and getting your CV in front of as many hiring managers as possible, will maximise your chances. You still need to be selective about the roles you apply for, but scout out as many suitable opportunities as you can. Set a daily or weekly application target, track the vacancies, and make timely follow-ups. Find ways of holding onto your resilience, whether that be through support from trusted friends, mindfulness or regular exercise.

  1. Focus on Networking

If you’re spending hours cruising job boards and filling out endless online applications, think about varying things. Get out from behind the computer and go network. It depends on what statistics you look at, but it is claimed that around 70 percent of jobs are obtained through networking; whilst this might be an exaggeration it’s fair to say don’t underestimate the power of networking.

Online job applications work best if you have a near perfect match to key words in the job listing, but this might not always be the case. As well as job applications, focus on networking and marketing activities that can help flush out hidden gems that are rarely publically advertised. Plus, networking shows you have initiative and drive.

  1. Using Technology Wisely

Technology has certainly made our lives easier. Mobile apps are available to aid in job searches, and social media platforms are also helpful for making connections. The most obvious business networking site is Linked in. Still, technology is only as good as the person using it, so you’ll need to spend time keeping your social media profiles updated with current experience and connections. And set a goal to make at least five new connections every week during your job search.

Comprehensive job sites and networks such as MonsterLinkedInGlassdoor and, yes, even Craigslist can be invaluable resources for jobseekers — but the competition for listings posted on these sites can be downright overwhelming. If you’re looking for a job in a specific industry, consider researching job boards that focus on a particular niche.

  1. Speculative approaches

Sometimes called the “speculative approach”, this involves proactively making contact with companies to offer your services.  The success of this approach depends on the following factors:

  • Targeting companies that are likely to require someone with your specific skills and expertise
  • Writing a persuasive letter and CV that matches a particular need they have at that time
  • Understanding the employer’s needs and being flexible enough to think on the spot about how you can help meet those challenges
  • Ideally having a contact whose name you can use as an introduction into the company

How do you decide which companies to target?

  • Other people may have good suggestions so use your connections
  • Choose companies where you know they could genuinely do with your skills e.g. an underperforming company that needs your business development expertise
  • Companies selling similar products or services or in an associated industry
  • Suppliers, customers, or partners of your current or previous employers
  • Those which have recruited colleagues or bosses from your organisation
  • Scan the local and trade press for company news such as new contracts won, relocations, consolidations, senior management changes. These changes could mean new staff requirements
  • Organisations for whom you are genuinely interested in working
  • Smaller or less well-known organisations in the relevant field who typically receive fewer approaches from job-seekers than more high-profile companies

Useful sites:

Top tips for interviews

You rarely get a second chance to create a good first impression, so use these tips to get prepared.

Before the interview

Be prepared and know your CV. Review your CV before the interview; be ready to talk about any aspect of your career to date and your interests.

  • In particular make sure you can talk through aspects of your experience which will be of benefit to your potential new employer.
  • Ensure you have a full job description, and are aware of the format that the interview will take.
  • Do some research of the organisation As a minimum, read the organisation’s website and familiarise yourself with the main ‘business’ and structure.
  • Have some questions prepared: A minimum of 5 should help give your Q and A time some structure and ensure that your find out what matters to you about the organisation and the job on offer.

On the day

Dress smartly/appropriately Well groomed and appropriate dress is essential to create a good impression. This will not only aid your self-presentation directly, but may also make you more relaxed – knowing that you’ve hit the sartorial mark.

Arrive on time 15 minutes early is preferable. Before you set out, plan your route and give yourself at least half an hour’s leeway. Have a contact telephone number just in case. If you get there too early, have a glass of water, settle yourself and get used to the environment.

Be polite to all staff you meet – you never know, they could well influence the recruitment process Once there, turn your mobile phone/messenger off!

The interview

The interview is a two-way process and an opportunity to ensure that the job and the  company are right for you, as well as impress the interview panel.

  • Smile; ensure you come across as friendly, approachable and enthusiastic. • Listen carefully to questions and allow the interviewer to finish speaking before responding
  • Don’t worry about pausing before you answer a question as this shows you are considering it seriously.
  • Where possible, give practical evidence of any statements you make
  • Never criticise former employers
  • Maintain eye contact, relax and show interest in what the interviewer
  • If you do not know an answer, say so.
  • Be yourself, when you get the job you might disappoint if you cannot live up to the “tiger” you presented at interview.
  • Attempt to “close” the interview. At the end of an interview to try to find out how the interviewer thought it went and whether they have any reservations regarding your application as this is the best time to counter them.

Be prepared for questions such as:

  •  What do you know about our organisation?
  •  What interests you most about the role?
  • Why should we appoint you?
  • What is important to you in a role?
  • What was your greatest success in your last position?
  • How would your Manager or colleagues describe you?

If you want a fuller set of questions to practice a mock interview, take a look at these detailed question; Sample Interview Questions 2017

You will usually have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview – think about what is important to you, but some questions might be:

  •  What training and development can I expect on joining your organisation?
  •  How many candidates are you interviewing for this role?
  •  When will you be making a decision?

Prepare for surprises, interviewers can slot into roles, there may be a devil’s advocate, an inquisitor, a soul searcher for example. You may be judged more on how you deal with the curve ball questions than your actual answer. Often it’s not so much what you say but how you respond.



Make sure you have confirmed your interest in the job. • Conclude the interview with a handshake, remembering to thank the interviewer for their time.

Sources for these tips:

Behaviour change

Behaviour Change

*Also take a look at behaviour change theories

“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables” (old Spanish proverb)

The alarm goes off at 6.45am every morning, apart from the weekend. This is so I get 30 minutes to get up and do exercise every morning, but probably like hundreds of other people around the world, with good intentions, the temptation to hit the snooze button, turn over and have another 15-20 minutes is so strong! Continue reading

7 Steps to facilitating change

7 Steps to Facilitating Change


There continues to be fundamental and seismic changes in today’s organisations in all sectors. The change factors in today’s world are at times bewildering in their pace and momentum; external changes include economic crises, globalisation leading to increased competition, changing legislation, and ever changing technology. Within organisations the impact shows itself through downsizing and restructuring, change of business direction, power changes of influence within the organisation, and quite often a sustained lack of clarity for operational people in what their job actually is.

Career change

Career Change

As I write this, many organisations are currently facing pressure to cut costs; downsizing employee numbers, increasing workloads, doing more with less. People within those organisations, especially a Public sector organisation I am working currently on a set of Career Review programme for staff, are recognising that things are changing, jobs aren’t secure  any longer, and individuals need to actively manage their future career. Continue reading

Managing Change

Managing change

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of” Jim Rohn

Many organisations are currently facing pressure to cut costs; downsizing employee numbers, increasing workloads, and doing more with less. Managers are the ones who have to drive and deliver the changes that are unpopular. One of the hardest challenges is to respond well to the human consequences of such activity and Managers can feel they are carrying that particular burden alone.

Change needs to be looked at through a structural lens; how do we go about managing change in organisations and teams? What are the foundation stones of managing change?; things like consultation, involvement and sound project management.

However, we all know that change has a huge impact psychologically on us, so its important to understand why we find change so hard, and how we can develop the resilience to cope well.

Please select the resources you are interested in from the menu on the right hand side.