The most effective way to identify the way in which someone will react when they are in a situation is by identifying the way in which they reacted the last time that they were in a similar situation.
Competency based interviews (CBIs) come into play to ensure that answers are not theoretical and to avoid, where possible, an interviewee making up an ideal scenario to show how they would deal with a situation. Typically, questions will be phrased as “Give me an example of a time in which you…”, “Tell me about a time when…” or “When have you demonstrated…”.
“Tell me about a time when you have been unable to achieve your target and what you did to turn this around”
Where asked correctly, CBIs should make sure that your answer is focused towards a time in which you were in a situation that displays a competency which is relevant to the job. In some instances, particularly in larger organisations, competency answers will be marked against a scoring mechanism and so mean that the answer that you give and the way in which you add detail it is of huge importance. There is an acronym called the STAR Technique which will help you in structuring your answer.
Here you will describe any relevant background as to why this situation existed and so you will outline everything that brought you to your involvement. It is worth noting that other than outlining a background and ensuring relevance to the question there isn’t really a scoring for this part of the answer. The reason for this is that the situation itself would exist with or without you, the area that you need to focus on as part of your answer is still to come.
“While I worked at [company name] a situation arose whereby the business deadline could not be achieved, the businesses focus was towards service level agreements (or relevant) that focus on call waiting times for our customers. At this point, there was a higher than normal call volume meaning that agents were unable to keep the SLAs required…”
Here is where you will start to show your responsibility for the situation and what is required from you as part of your position or project. At this stage, having ensured the relevance of the situation itself you have the opportunity to show everything that you do as part of it. Ensure that the focus is on you remembering it is about “I” and not “we”, whatever your colleagues did as part of the example doesn’t hold weight so far as this scoring area.
“My responsibility was to ensure delivery of the SLA both for myself and the team. I would analyse this on a regular basis and ensure that feedback was provided where required…”
Here is where you gain the majority of your points. At this stage, you will talk through all of your actions and why you did them. These actions will take you all the way from where the example starts out to it’the end result. Remember, the person that is interviewing you is unlikely to know your job and the day to day duties, so you want to ensure that you do not miss anything out, no matter how menial the task may seem. You will spend the majority of your time in this section of the answer so you need to make sure that you stick to the correct timeline so that you answer isn’t jumping all over the place. Don’t be afraid to reference having done the wrong thing along the way, it is important that you show where you have learned lessons so that you can show how you develop and what you would do next time you are in that situation. As with Task, remember to ensure that you stick to what you specifically did using “I” as it isn’t relevant what “we” did.
“My initial response was to talk to senior members of my team to understand the severity of the situation and forecast a resolution within an hour. At this stage, I proposed that I spend the next few minutes completing an internal communication that would ensure that all advisors were on the same page and with the same expectation to streamline efforts. I set a new target for wrap time, ensuring that notes could be kept accurately but that it ensured that my team reacted as quickly as possible to the next call to minimise the disruption to the customer. I set a focus with the team that calls needed to be closed within a reasonable timeframe but ensured the importance of the message that call quality was still the most important SLA to achieve in line with business expectations. I made sure that I worked in line with this expectation and reviewed this in line with the initial proposal…”
Here you will conclude the example. This is an important element of the answer, however as a result of the actions taken this should be fairly quick to summarise. As referenced, you will have learned things along the way, you may choose to do something differently the next time around and as such you will be able to evidence these here. A result does not always have to be positive, however ending on a negative or non-achievement is a risky move and can backfire if you are unable to evidence that you did everything possible along the way.
“As a result of the work that I completed, the SLA was brought back to an acceptable level within the proposed hour. I shared my learning with the other senior members of the team to ensure that this was an optional solution going forward and discussed this with my senior manager who was pleased with my fast thought and problem management skills.”
Please note, the examples shown are to give a slight insight into the structure of your answer however it lacks detail which needs to be evident in your answer.
Your interviewer will want to know that you can handle the situations that typically arise as a result of your potential job, with a strong enough response, you will have demonstrated your capability which will lead you to the final element of the competency based interview, additional questions.
Additional questions will come from your interviewer who wants to explore further into certain elements of your answer. They will typically come where someone wants to dig deeper into a certain element of what you have said and will lean towards an area that is most relevant to them and therefore it is important to remember everything you have achieved to get to this stage in regards to how to answer the question and ensure that you add depth to your answer. At this stage you are looking for an interviewer to be satisfied as in some instances additional questions may not be asked and as such you want to ensure that you offered as much as possible before getting to this stage.
Spend some time before your interview thinking of examples which show you at your best and which feel relevant to your understanding of the role. Spend some time with a recruiter or third party going through your examples, a second opinion will ensure that you aren’t missing parts out and will only strengthen your case.
At LDRC we work with candidates to enable them to portray themselves in the best possible way, interview preparation should not be an instance of being talked at and told how to answer questions, instead focused towards coaching you to give your answers in the most effective way.
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Contributor: Tristan Law