Employer perspective on competency interviews

Posted by S Donaldson on 10 November 2015


Image from studio tdes

I recently chaired an event at UCL on competency interviews. Competency interviews aim to assess a candidate’s key skills, usually by asking for examples of where skills have been previously displayed. If you’ve used a competency well in the past you can do it again for your employer in the future.

Two representatives from the consumer goods company Unilever and one from the law firm RPC gave their perspectives on what is currently the most common form of interview. The take home messages were:

  • Use a model to frame your answer. The speakers from Unilever recommend the popular STAR model, which stands for Situation (set the scene), Task (what was the problem?), Action (what did you do?), and Result (did it work?). RPC prefers the BACK model, which stands for Background (set the scene), Action (what did you do?), Consequences (what happened?), and Knowledge (what did you learn? What would you do differently next time?). This model gives you more space to reflect and show improvement.
  • Use ‘I’ not ‘we’ in your answers. It’s you going for the job, not you and your friends. That doesn’t mean you should have completed a whole group project on your own – but they want to hear about your contribution to the project.
  • Have a few examples prepared for each competency the employer cares about, as they may ask you about one skill a few times, or in different ways. And if you’ve already answered competency-based questions in an application form, you may be asked for more examples displaying the same skill in the interview. Bring new examples!

More advice on interviews

Topics: employability skills, law, Interviews

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