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Competency-based interviews

How to make the best of them

What exactly is competency-based interviewing (CBI), and what's the best way to prepare for these interviews?

Chris McCarthy, Director at Hays Senior Finance, the leading recruiting expert, comments:

“Competency-based interviewing (CBI) is the most popular interview approach used by employers. It is based on the premise that future performance can be predicted by your current and past achievements during a face-to-face interview. If you meet the competencies laid out in the job and person description, the chances are you’ll be a good match for the role. Thorough preparation is the key to success for a candidate and this should include an analysis of the employer’s technical and behavioural needs as well as extensive research on the company.

So, what’s the best way to prepare for CBIs? Re-visit the job description and person specification before your interview and ensure that you have covered off all bases, including the tasks and responsibilities, ensuring you can comfortably provide an example for each competency. It is a good idea to review your CV and memorise examples to demonstrate your capability to perform the tasks listed in the job specification and are able to describe a particular scenario, the actions you took and the impact on the business.

For example, professionals applying for a business partnering accountant role will need to be good influencers and therefore may be asked to give an example of a time when they managed to influence the MD to implement their idea or strategy. Alternatively, with legislation and regulation becoming so important these jobseekers could also be asked to describe how they keep abreast of changes to accounting standards.

You are likely to have already done a lot of the legwork when you submitted your original application, perhaps without realising it, so it’s really a case of making sure you have relevant examples and rehearsing your lines. An effective technique is to write down your best example next to each competency and devising possible questions by reversing the roles, thinking as if you are the one interviewing. Better still get someone else to put you through your paces. If you have the time and technology, video recording yourself answering a specific question and then reviewing it afterwards with a partner is a good idea. Watching it back can highlight areas of improvement, for example if you are talking too quickly when under pressure, being too animated or just not answering a specific question in as much detail as you could.

When the big day finally arrives, you’ll be in a far stronger position to ensure the interview goes well for both parties. We are all nervous on the day but preparation allows you to articulate your relevant expertise, motivation and reasons why you are the ideal candidate. Remember that an interview is your opportunity to bring your career to life and relaying your achievements allows you to show you have the skills to do the job. Simply be prepared, answer the questions as efficiently as you can, be sure to show an interest and demonstrate how you will add value to the company.”

This article first appeared in Accountancy published by CCH  a Wolters Kluwer business.

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