Understanding Competency-Based Interviews

Competency-based interviews (CBI) are the most commonly used interview format so as you prepare for your next job interview, it might be useful to know what they are, why they are used and how to best prepare for them.

In this context, 'competency' is a '90s word for skill. The hiring firm will have pre-determined what skills are required for the role that they want to fill. The interviewers will ask questions to understand the level of skills that the candidate has that feature on their wishlist.

Hiring firms use CBIs for a number of reasons: 

  • They hope to reduce subjectivity in the process by focussing on facts to illustrate the candidate’s competence. It allows for a level of standardisation in the hiring process that allows them to demonstrate that the hiring process was fair and transparent. This can greatly work to your advantage; one of my coaching clients was in an internal competition for a senior role within her firm. All candidates were given the interview questions a few days before the interviews took place, allowing us apply time to prepare – she won the job. 
  • They are using past performance as a predictor of future success because they have concluded that success will be determined by being able to perform specific functions well.
  • The structure of CBIs allows the interview to start with fairly broad and open questions and then unerringly drill into the fine detail. This in itself allows the candidate less room for manoeuvre in 'romancing' their career experiences.

How to prepare for CBIs:

  • Know what competencies the interviewer will be looking for ahead of time. This can be found by reading the job spec or job ad, or talking to the recruiter. Failing this, intelligent guess work and anticipation also goes a long way.
  • Prepare examples that will demonstrate the range of skills that you think will come up. For each example, explain the context, the problem to be resolved or task to be achieved, what you did and the result of your efforts.  
  • Ensure that you include details, such as the name of the firm, when it happened and any relevant metrics, such as money saved or produced. For example, “by introducing this system, I was able to save the firm X hours of work, making a budget saving of Y”. 
  • Remember that they are interested in what youachieved and whilst that may have been in the context of a team effort, they want to hear about yourskills and the impact they had on adding value to the firm.

Do you have any questions relating to CBIs? If so, get in touch.