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Competency based interviewing

A candidate's overview

Competency Based Interviewing (CBI) is a style of interviewing that determines how relevant your competencies are to a role. By asking the candidate to give examples of his or her behaviour in work-related, real-life situations, it is believed that the candidate will demonstrate where their given competencies are, thereby indicating how suited they are to the job.

Competency based interviewing is increasingly part of the recruitment process, particularly within treasury as the vacancies tend to be in large organisations with formalised HR processes.

What to expect

Questions should be based around a competency framework; this sets out the criteria by which you will be assessed.  Each role will hold a set of competencies that will be weighted in importance (e.g. essential, desirable) for a particular position. Your answers will be marked as you demonstrate behaviours that fit specific competencies. A Treasury Manager might be required to demonstrate strong evidence of: ‘analytical thinking’, ‘integrity’ and ‘communication skills’.   Those that are also able to demonstrate: ‘change management’, ‘leadership’ and ‘problem solving’ are likely to be positioning themselves towards the top of the interview pile.

Interview questions will be based on you recounting real situations that demonstrate the competences listed against the job.  This will tend to be in the format of a broad opening question e.g. “Describe a situation where you had to influence different stakeholders with differing agendas.”  This will be followed up with supplementary questions to assist you in providing the information required, e.g.  “Whom did you have to influence?” “What tact did you take?” “What objections did you encounter and how did you manage these?”


The job specification is likely to be in two parts.  ‘Duties and Responsibilities’ or ‘The Job’ and ‘Skills and Experience’ or ‘The Candidate’.  Go through each point, in ‘The Job’ to align the technical areas outlined with your experience, understanding the projects that you have worked on.  You do not necessarily need experience in all areas but you should be able describe where you feel you would be able to add value, or highlight your ‘areas for your development’ for each function.

In ‘The Candidate’ section there is likely to be a list of ‘soft skills’ or ‘behavioural competencies’.  Go through these and think of specific situational examples in which you have demonstrated the required behaviours - e.g. when you met that impossible deadline by pushing your team to the limit.  To make the story flow in the actual interview, remind yourself of the detail and dates involved.

During the Interview

Once you have completed the preparation you will know what the interviewer is looking for and where, from your vast pool of experience, this can be demonstrated.  All you need to do is get it across. Key points to remember in the interview are:

  • Answer the question that is asked of you, there is no benefit of giving your best example if it is not relevant.
  • Use real examples and avoid the temptation to embellish the storey, it’s unlikely to go unnoticed if you do.
  • Always use ‘I’ not ‘we’.  ‘We’ will draw in to question your actual involvement in the project.
  • Be specific, do not answer with general examples
  • STAR is a universally recognised answering technique that allows you to provide a succinct and meaningful answer.   Star is an acronym: Situation, Task, Action, Result.  When answering the question if you keep to this format it should allow you to give a full and succinct answer.  It is a reasonably intuitive way of relaying an event so the delivery should not distract from the contact


Describe the situation, this gives a frame of reference to the following narrative.


What needed to be accomplished? Set the scene with all relevant Information.


This is the key area, demonstrate the competencies that the interviewer is looking for.  Explain what you did, how you and why you did it.  Stay away from irrelevant or overly complex information unless it is useful to the story but go in to detail so that the interviewer understands how this played out and your thought processes.  This is where you can sell yourself and differentiate your experience from the other applicants.


What was the outcome,?  How did you feel and what did you learn. The result need not be perfect for it to be an effective example and this is a good area to demonstrate your ability to learn and outline what you might do differently in the future.

Good Luck

Although some specific preparation will provide you with a solid platform to interview from, the principles are the same as with any other interview.  Be open, honest and present your best side to a company that you have thoroughly researched and for who you can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for working with.  Once you have done that there’s just the small matter of the salary negotiation and the new job will be yours!

James Crichton is a Senior Business Manager on the Hays Treasury Team.
t: 0118 9591751

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