Competency Interviews

The terms 'competency' and 'competencies' focus on the personal attributes or inputs of an individual. They can be defined as the behaviours (and technical attributes where appropriate) that individuals must have, or must acquire, to perform effectively at work.

Competency interviews are therefore designed to assess your knowledge, skills and attitude. In such an interview, each question is designed to test one or more specific competency that is necessary for the job you are interviewing for. For example - you might have good interpersonal skills (skills), but will not be competent to join a company as a Vessel Operations Manager unless you possess adequate experience (knowledge) and the right temperament/behaviour (attitude). Competency interviews can help provide valuable insights into an individual's preferred style of working and help predict behaviours in future situations.

Interviewers will ask questions that require candidates to demonstrate that they possess the particular competency they are looking for. You need to be prepared to provide answers which give specific examples.

The best way to do this is by using the STAR technique which consists of:

  1. Situation – give an example of a situation where you applied the competency in question
  2. Task – explain what the task was you were looking to achieve
  3. Actions – describe what actions you took to fulfil the task. Make sure you focus on what you did personally rather than 'the team'.
  4. Results – what was the outcome

Interviewers may also then ask you what you learnt from the situation and its outcome and what you might do differently another time.

The list of skills and competencies that can be tested varies depending on the position that you are applying for. Sticking with the Vessel Operations Manager example, the skills and competencies that would be required would include communication skills; the ability to organise and prioritise; and the ability to work under pressure. For a senior manager, skills and competencies may include an ability to influence and negotiate; an ability to cope with stress and pressure; an ability to lead; and the capacity to take calculated risks.

Here are some of the more common skills and competencies that you may be asked to demonstrate:

Adaptability Analysis of data Attention to detail
Balanced decision making Communication Conceptual thinking
Conflict management Customer oriented Creativity and Innovation
Decisiveness Delegation Emotional control
Empathetic outlook Evaluating others Following directions
Frequent change Flexibility Handling stress
Influencing or persuading others Initiative Leadership
Organisational awareness Practical thinking Proactive thinking
Problem / situation analysis Problem solving Quality orientation
Risk taking Results orientation Relationship building
Self-management Strategic thinking Teamwork

Preparation is essential for you to be effective in any interview:

  1. Make sure that you understand which skills and competencies will be tested. Think about the job you are interviewing for and what the requirements are for it.
  2. Identify examples from your past experience which you can use to demonstrate that you possess the necessary skills and competencies.
  3. Learn to narrate the story using the STAR method outlined above. This means setting the scene, explaining how you handled the situation by placing the emphasis on your role, and detailing the outcome/result.

As with any interview, also be prepared to ask your own questions of the interviewer not only to ensure that the company and the job on offer are right for you but also as a way of demonstrating your genuine interest in the role.

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