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Career Advice

What are Competency Based Interviews?

In business there are many different types and styles of interviews: from the free flowing to the formal; and the more impersonal (group based) to the personal. A recent addition to this list is the Competency-Based Interview (CBI); which is becoming especially common in large organisations and the public sector. If you intend to work in Health Care then CBI’s are a style of interview technique that you will most likely come up against soon.

Firstly, what exactly defines a CBI? The main objective of a CBI is to pinpoint the right candidate for the post through collecting information to responses of specifically-asked questions, based on the candidate’s actual lived experience. Furthermore, the psychological aspect of this behavioral-based interview technique comes into focus when the interviewer looks specifically at a candidate’s past reactions and behaviors; oftentimes to challenging situations. These elements are known to be the best predictor of future reactions and behaviors, which in turn allow the assessment of how well a particular candidate’s knowledge, skill set, experience and aptitude match the post.

Tanya Humphries: a Services Project Manager at Macmillan, who has experience of both passing CBI's and preparing them for interviewees; had the following to say when asked about her experience: 

"In competency-based interviews, employers want to hear specific examples that show how a candidate meets the required criteria for the role. They include questions such as: “Can you give us an example of when you delegated an important task successfully”, or “Describe a time when you considered the needs of a customer either internally or externally when making a decision”. What really is important is to prepare well - you can find long lists of competency-based interview questions on the Internet. When I am preparing for a CBI, I write down answers to as many questions as I can. That way, the information is fresh in my mind. It also gives me the opportunity to pick the best examples for the role and I can take my time to elaborate on them."

Preparing for a Competency-Based Interview

Now that you have an understanding of the kinds of questions to be asked, how do you answer these questions to reflect the best of your personal skill-set?

1. Start by listing the competencies required for the specific job/s that you have applied for. The following list highlights important qualities, such as:

- Teamwork

- Responsibility

- Communication skills

- Decision making

- Leadership

- Problem-solving

- Organisation

- Goal orientation

- Time Management

2. Next, examine your CV for two examples of the necessary competencies for each attribute required. If you see that finding relevant examples of said competencies becomes too difficult; that can be a strong indicator that the job may not in fact be suited to you. Identify examples from past experiences where you can demonstrate that you possess the skills and competencies that you are being asked for. You do not have to find overly complicated examples of these things; what matters most is that the role you played in reaching past relevant outcomes was influential in some way.

3. Practice your probable answers by using the STAR method (see below). This essentially means telling a structured story by setting the scene, explaining how you handled the situation (remember to place emphasis on your specific role) and detailing the outcome/result by summarising what was achieved. 

The ‘STAR’ Method

If you are not used to answering CBI questions then the STAR method is a useful way of communicating key points clearly and concisely:

  • The Situation / Task: Describe the situation that you were personally involved in, or the task that needed to be accomplished. Make it contextual, yet concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. 
  • The Action: This is arguably the most important section of the STAR approach as it is where you as an individual need to highlight personal skills and attributes in relation to the question asked.
  • The Result: Explain how the situation was ultimately resolved. You can also use this opportunity to describe what you personally accomplished, as well as what you learnt from that particular situation for better or for worse.

 

In this age of the personal approach the emphasis is firmly placed on individuals being autonomous figures in the work place. CBI’s play a key-role in finding suitable candidates and are not a standard type of interview that focuses on generic questions and non-specific answers; but operate on a more personal level. Remember to be yourself when answering competency based questions and use real life and relatable examples. Ultimately, these specific and focused questions are designed to create the best match between an individual and an organization. With preparation in place it will become quickly apparent that CBI’s represent a unique and fresh opportunity to describe some of your greatest professional moments to an interested audience.

Now that you’ve learnt all about the competency-based interviews, take a look at the interview questions you should be ready for when applying for an NHS/Healthcare role. If you feel that it’s time for you to apply for a new non-medical role within the healthcare, search for your next opportunity here!  

Written by Laura Tomlinson, Marketing Assistant at GoToJobBoard. 


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