THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED
INTERVIEWING
Interviewing is no...
1.	 What competency-based interviews are and why employers use them
2.	 Doing your research – Discovering the qualities yo...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
WHAT ARE COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWS AND WHY DO
EMPLOYERS USE THEM?
Co...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
COMPETENCY GROUPS
The particular skills and competencies that will be ...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEWS
1: Identify the relevant competenci...
SOME COMMON MISTAKES OTHER
STUDENTS WILL MAKE AND YOU MUSTN’T!
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
The fol...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
The following are some example answers to give you a good idea of how ...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
It’s a very competitive world out there and there is an abundance of
c...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
WHAT TO DO AND SAY ON THE BIG DAY
What to take with you
•	 Take notes/...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
•	 It is extremely important to ask strong and interesting questions a...
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Ultimate guide to interviewing for students

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Tips and advice from graduate recruiters on how to sell yourself and what not to do at interview!

This is the ultimate guide to interviewing for students and recent graduates.

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Ultimate guide to interviewing for students

  1. 1. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING Interviewing is not a skill you are either born with or without. You can learn to interview well. The key to achieving this is through preparation and practice. In this free download we use expert advice to give you the best head start possible before facing an interviewer, with a comprehensive overview of competency based interviewing and some insider tips on how to tackle it. Competency based interviewing is the format you are most likely to encounter through your graduate recruitment process. More than 90% of top graduate employers use competency-based questions to identify the skills and behaviours required for working in their companies and they use these questions as selection criteria for choosing who to employ. If you want to get hired, the advice in the next few pages is invaluable! This guide has been put together by our team of graduate recruiters who boast years of experience interviewing graduates from blue- chip companies like PwC, RBS and Vodafone. It includes everything you need to know in order to have the best chance of succeeding in your interviews.
  2. 2. 1. What competency-based interviews are and why employers use them 2. Doing your research – Discovering the qualities you need 3. Competency groups 4. How to prepare for your interviews 5. How to structure your answers: S.T.A.R. 6. Some common mistakes other students will make and you mustn’t 7. What a good answer looks like 8. How to stand out from the crowd 9. What to do and say on the big day: A summary WHAT WILL I LEARN FROM THIS GUIDE? THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING
  3. 3. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING WHAT ARE COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWS AND WHY DO EMPLOYERS USE THEM? Competency based interview questions are the most commonly utilised interview method used to judge an applicant’s suitability to a role and company and is therefore most likely to be used in your graduate interviews as part of the recruitment process. Competency-based interviews are based on the theory that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour. The interviewer’s goal is to obtain specific examples of when and how you demonstrated particular behaviours. Interview questions are carefully designed to probe specific skills, competencies and characteristics that are relevant to job success for the position you are applying for. DOING YOUR RESEARCH – DISCOVERING THE QUALITIES YOU NEED Make sure that you understand the types of competencies that are likely to be explored at interview. Think about the requirements of the specific job you are interviewing for and the key competencies that a successful candidate would be expected to demonstrate. Use the job description or person specification for this if you have access to it. If not, company websites often include a section on the values of their organisation and this can be a useful resource to guide you on what competencies may be explored at your interview. For a full list of competencies often tested for graduate roles, visit http://interviewbull.com/egquestions . Once you have identified these competencies, next step is to make sure you clearly understand each one. A definition will usually be accompanied with each competency. It is imperative that you clearly base your examples around the definition provided. There may be several elements to a particular competency. Let’s look at Teamwork and Leadership as an example. This competency is not just about taking charge and making decisions; it is also about how you collaborate in a team and whether you know how to explore other people’s opinions. In this case, you would need to ensure that you include elements or quotes that demonstrate this. Some competences can be vague and it will be up to you to figure out what exactly the employer is looking for. Take “good communication skills when dealing with clients” for example. If you’re applying for a position in customer service, a position where you will be expected to handle a significant number of complaints from customers, this competency will involve some degree of empathy/ understanding, but also the ability to be politely assertive when necessary. The same competency would mean something slightly different though if you were applying for a commercial law position. This would more likely involve the ability to explain complex matters and procedures in a simplistic manner. Understanding the requirements for a position is crucial. “Think of key competencies that a successful candidate would be expected to demonstrate in the role you’re applying for.”
  4. 4. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING COMPETENCY GROUPS The particular skills and competencies that will be tested during an interview will vary depending on the position you’re applying for. There are, however, some general guidelines for groups of different competences. If you can’t identify the specific competencies that will be tested, it will be useful instead to think more generally about the competency groups that are most relevant. Individual competencies - your personal attributes: flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, independence, risk taking, personal integrity Managerial competencies - taking charge of other people: leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, corporate sensitivity, project management, management control Analytical competencies - the elements of decision making: innovation, analytical skills, numerical problem solving, problem solving, practical learning, detail consciousness Interpersonal competencies - dealing with other people: communication, impact, persuasiveness, personal awareness, teamwork, openness Motivational competencies - the things that drive you: resilience, energy, motivation, achievement orientation, initiative, focus on quality
  5. 5. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEWS 1: Identify the relevant competencies for the roles you are applying for as explained above. A full list of competencies and common questions is available on the Interview Bull website at http://interviewbull.com/egquestions. 2: You should download or write down some sample questions for each of the relevant competencies. Analyse your CV for past experiences in university, societies or sports clubs and think of times when you’ve demonstrated each of the competencies necessary for the position. 3: Prepare 3 or 4 examples for each competency (not for every possible question), covering as many aspects as possible. This will give you a wide selection to draw upon if you are asked a question that is not anticipated. Remember, competencies are not separate entities and often an example will demonstrate one or two competencies. It is important to choose your examples wisely and to think carefully if it clearly displays the behaviours outlined in the competency. 4: Look over your examples as a whole and ensure they are diverse and taken from various environments; not just one internship that you did last summer, no matter how impressive it was! Employers are usually happy to accept both non-work and work related examples. Work examples can add more weight as you have demonstrated the behaviour in a business environment but non-work examples are an opportunity to demonstrate that you are an interesting and rounded individual so try to ensure you have a mix of both. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR ANSWERS: S.T.A.R. The STAR technique (as illustrated below) provides a structure to your answers and clearly outlines your role within a situation. Using it correctly can make the difference between a confused and fluffy answer and a structured, logical answer that wows any interviewer! Provide context to the example; explain the role you played in the scenario. Clearly state the objective you or your team had. This is all about what you did. Use first person pronouns and verbs to specify what you did towards achieving the tasks you mentioned previously. You should spend the majority of your answer on this section. Mention the outcome, ideally quantitatively, referring to the tasks you or your team set. Even in failure you can talk about what you have learned and what you would do to be successful next time. T - Task S - Situation A - Action R - Result
  6. 6. SOME COMMON MISTAKES OTHER STUDENTS WILL MAKE AND YOU MUSTN’T! THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING The following list are common mistakes our interviewers see day-in day-out from graduates and making sure you stay away from them is a must. • A common mistake is to talk too much about the Situation and Task you were undertaking and not enough about the Action part (what you personally did). The Situation and Task need to be brief and to the point. The Action is the part that provides the evidence and is where you should focus. The Result completes the example and demonstrates the outcome. • Ensure that you do NOT talk generically about the Action. E.g. Leadership/Team Work – “I had a discussion and then we agreed what to do.” Bring this to life by saying for example, “I said to the team, why don’t we talk about the areas one by one and write down the pros and cons?”. This shows the interviewer that you were actually in the situation. Bringing specific detail to your answers also keeps the interviewer engaged in your story and “paints a picture” of what happened. • Don’t use “we”. Always use “I said, I did etc”, as this shows what you personally were doing as opposed to “we got the team together”. This is confusing as it doesn’t clearly define what YOU did and can be interpreted as you not playing a leading role in the situation, when in fact it you may well have been solely responsible. This is a very common mistake and is easy to avoid by practice. • Never use jargon in an interview and explain any acronyms you use. You may know what you are talking about but do not assume that the interviewer does. Making the interviewer feel stupid is not a good move. Sounds obvious doesn’t it?! “Don’t use “we”, always use “I said” and “I did” to show exactly how you have contributed and what actions you personally took.”
  7. 7. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING The following are some example answers to give you a good idea of how you should be structuring your answers. Pay close attention! Q: “Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together.” SITUATION and TASK: “During my third year in University we were assigned a group project as a part of our Economics course work. We met as a group after our lecture to discuss the workload, however two weeks before the deadline we still hadn’t managed to meet up to decide on the subject we would cover for this project. This is where I decided to take the initiative, taking charge of the group to make sure the project was completed on time. ACTION: “I obtained contact details of each student through the economics office and got in touch with each member to arrange to a group meeting. I booked a group study room in the library and asked each person to prepare some thoughts for the project and to outline their timetables for the following two weeks. After a schedule was in place, I allocated different sections of the project to group members and coordinated further group meetings. RESULT: As a result, our group submitted the assignment 2 days early and we later received an A grade.” Q: “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.” (To get the hang of it, try to split the example below into the S.T.A.R. format. What are your observations on this answer?) A: “When I was 15, I was News Editor on my weekly school newspaper. The overall Editor of the paper wanted to run a front page story about a student who had been caught cheating and was expelled. I thought that it was too personal to the student, and would expose him more than was necessary; he had already been punished. My editor believed that in the interests of freedom of journalism, it was important to name the student given the seriousness of the situation and that our readers would want to know about it.” “I explained to my Editor that whilst I understood his concerns, it was better to lead with a positive story about how our school hockey team had won a county championship. I reminded him that the teachers may also not want negative publicity about the cheating and in the end he came around to my way of thinking and we lead with the story about hockey. It was really hard to actively challenge his leadership, but I was convinced I did the right thing, and by acting calmly, providing an alternative and giving rational reasons I gained his support.” WHAT DOES A GOOD ANSWER LOOKS LIKE?
  8. 8. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING It’s a very competitive world out there and there is an abundance of candidates with equally good academics and work experience on paper so employers can be really choosy about whom they want to work for them. You need to stand out from everybody else and your interview is the golden opportunity for you to do this. So don’t let it slip by! Make sure you research the company thoroughly and that you understand the products and services they provide. Look at their competitors as this insight could be utilised in an interview situation, particularly if you’re asked about commercial awareness. Keep abreast of what is happening in the industry and be prepared to talk about current business issues. Have an opinion. You may like to take a piece of work with you to your interview that you are particularly proud. This is not arrogant and is likely to show enthusiasm as well as demonstrating what you have achieved. HOW TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
  9. 9. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING WHAT TO DO AND SAY ON THE BIG DAY What to take with you • Take notes/examples into the interview and ask if you can refer to these before the interview starts. The answer will rarely be no. This will help to keep your focus as well as demonstrate that you are well prepared. • Bring self-belief and confidence, but steer clear of arrogance. You have done your preparation and now is your chance to demonstrate this. This is what you have been waiting for. What to remember when answering questions • Think about your communication skills. You need to build a rapport with the interviewer. This is more difficult over the telephone but there are still things you can do. Make sure you are polite at all times and reinforce your understanding of a question by saying “hmm, ok, yes” etc. • Listen very carefully to the question and think before you start answering. When you answer, evaluate what you’ve learnt from the last example you spoke about. Did you get any non-verbal feedback from the interviewer’s reaction? Don’t make the same mistake twice. Employers are interested to know that you are constantly learning and developing yourself • If you haven’t got an example for a question, be honest. Ask if it is possible to move onto the next question or ask for some more time to think of a good example. This is better than trying to make one up on the spot. Clearly, don’t do this too many times though! Be positive and enthusiastic • Show passion and enthusiasm in the reasons you give for your choice of career. You must be able to articulate what it is about the job that attracts you and why you think you are a good fit. Again, do not answer these generically such as “I like working with people.” Most jobs involve working with people so think about exactly why you like the aspects of the job well in advance of the interview. • Talk about what you will bring to the company and not just about what you will gain. It is fine to mention what the programme or scheme means to you, but by adding in what you can bring, you fully demonstrate your value. • Even when answering questions about your weaknesses, make sure that you turn them into a positive trait or attribute. E.g. “I’m not good at just working on one task as my mind tends to wander. I am much more comfortable juggling lots of tasks as I am good at prioritising and I enjoy being busy.” This fits well if the company wants somebody who can multi-task.
  10. 10. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEWING • It is extremely important to ask strong and interesting questions at the end of the interview. Whatever you do, when you are asked at the end whether you have any questions, do NOT say “No”. Prepare your questions well in advance and, again, do not be generic. Remember you need to be remembered. Demonstrate a genuine interest in the company with your question. • It is always worth trying to get feedback from interviews where possible, be that by asking at the end of the interview or later as part of a thank you email. • Keep adding examples to your list of commonly asked competencies, particularly if you are applying to different companies in the same industry. Keep a ‘database’ of examples that you can use each time you have an interview and replace with better examples as you learn what works and what doesn’t. WHAT TO DO AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR INTERVIEW SKILLS? Do you need more help with your interview preparation? Best of luck with your preparation! • For a FREE bank of past interview questions, visit: http://interviewbull.com/interview-questions/ • To arrange a personalised and affordable interview coaching session with an experienced graduate recruiter, tailored to the industry or company you are interested in applying to, visit: http://interviewbull.com/online-interview-coaching/ Thanks to IB I was offered an internship with Deloitte Glen University College London

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