Tips for competency-based interviews

Published: 13 Aug 2009

From the moment you read the job description to leaving the interview room, your functional competencies – your ability to do the job – will have been thoroughly tested.

Competency Based Interviewing (CBI) has now become the most commonly used method of interviewing and offers employers a realistic means to establish whether or not the interviewee has the right skills and attitude to succeed in the job.

For every advertised position, there is a set of core competencies that jobseekers have to meet in order to be considered a suitable match for the job. These are typically classified as either ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’ – employers will home in on evidence-based examples as soon as they receive your CV and application form. 

Why do employers use CBI?

The logic behind this style of interview is that the applicant, and potential future employee, is more likely to succeed if they have already demonstrated the right skill sets in their previous employment – past performance is the best indicator of future success. 

An interview invitation is already a good sign of the employer’s interest:  this is their way of probing further and making sure. Questions usually take the form of: “Tell me about a situation when … ”

Commercial awareness is a core competency for many building jobs, so if you are applying for a project manager or commercial manager role, you might be asked, “What steps did you take to ensure that the job was carried out to budget and delivered on time without compromising on the quality of work?” 

The way to tackle these questions is to describe the particular scenario, the tasks and any challenges involved, the actions you took and, crucially, the cost impact on the business. Should your mind go blank, buy some time and ask the interviewer if you can come back to this particular question at the end. 

You will have already done a lot of the legwork when you submitted your original application, perhaps without realising it, so it’s really a case of rehearsing your lines.

An effective technique is to write down examples next to each competency and devise possible questions, a role reversal, as if you were the one interviewing.

Or get a friend to put you through your paces.

When the big day finally arrives, you’ll be in a far stronger position to sail through the interview, with the self-doubt removed. Remember that the interviewer is not trying to catch you out.

Answer the questions as efficiently as you can, describing all the key stages and the impact on the bottom line. 

For more information visit Hays Construction.

Photo credit: 'Egan Snow'/Flickr

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