Skip to main Content
Search site

Search site

Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals

Search and filter articles

Career development

Career advice for job seekers

Handling competency based interview questions 14/11/2014

Barney Ely shares his top competency-based interviewing (CBI) tips.

Handling competency based interview questions

Click to jump to section

  1. Do your homework
  2. Demonstrate your experience clearly
  3. Use examples to illustrate your points
  4. Ask relevant questions
  5. Whatever happens - use the interview as experience

Do your homework

The interview process for senior HR professionals will vary depending on the organisation; some companies have structured processes which include assessment centres, whereas others may only conduct two interviews. If you are unsure of the process, you can ask your recruitment consultant, or the HR department if you are dealing directly with the company.

Overall, competency based interview questions is the most popular interview approach. It's based on the premise that future performance can be predicted by past behaviour. If you meet the competencies laid out in the job description, chances are you’ll be a good match for the job. Like exams, thorough preparation is the key to success. From analysing the employer’s technical and behavioural needs to researching the company, you will need to do your homework.

Demonstrate your experience clearly

Senior HR professionals will be expected to demonstrate their experience in key areas during a CBI interview. These tend to include personal skills such as communication, commercial awareness, decision-making, problem solving and leadership skills, as well as organisational skills such as bench marking. Managerial experience and your functional skills will also usually be tested, but these may vary depending on the role you are applying for. Most senior roles will require experience in areas such as strategy planning.

Use examples to illustrate your points

So, what’s the best way to prepare for competency based interview questions? Re-visit the job description and person specification before your interview and ensure that you have covered off all bases, including tasks and responsibilities. It's a good idea to look through your CV making sure you have real-life examples to back up your relevant experience. Each example should describe a particular scenario, the actions you took and the impact it had on the business. Be clear about the role you played, as the interviewer will want to see how you personally handled the situation, therefore avoid saying ‘we’ or using theoretical situations in your answers.

Questions will come in the form of, “Tell me about a time when you had to manage a challenging member of staff. What was the situation, how did you deal with it and what was the outcome?” It's important to be prepared to answer questions in a detailed but succinct manner.

Ask relevant questions

HR professionals often say they find this process difficult as they are used to asking the questions, causing them to over analyse when the roles are reversed. We suggest keeping it simple and delivering clear and precise answers, as long as you accurately describe your experience, you can’t go wrong. And remember; if difficult or awkward questions come your way during the interview, don’t be afraid to take your time to think of the right example.

It's also important to take advantage of the final minutes of the interview to ask relevant questions. Choose your topics wisely in advance and demonstrate that you are passionate about the role and company.

Whatever happens - use the interview as experience

The interview is your chance to shine so make sure you are fully prepared, that way you’ll be in a far stronger position to answer the questions as effectively as you can. Most importantly try to relax and enjoy the experience. Don’t take rejection personally and make sure you persevere in line with your career goals.

For more information and to access the latest HR jobs please visit: www.hays.co.uk/hr  

Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources

Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources

Barney is a director at Hays Human Resources