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How to ace competency based telephone interviews

Competency based interviews are based on the idea that a person’s past behaviour is the best predictor for how they will cope with future situations.

What are competencies?

Where some interviews may concentrate on why you applied for the role, what you think you can add to the team or where your interests lie, a competency based interview will require you to describe a past experience to prove that you’re qualified for the role.
Here are some key competencies employers might be looking for and example traits of those competencies:
  • Individual competencies – knowledge, independence and personal integrity
  • Managerial competencies – leadership qualities, time management and delegation
  • Analytical competencies – decision making abilities and problem solving
  • Interpersonal competencies – social competence such as building rapport
  • Motivational competencies – initiative, drive and ambition

Answering competency based questions

As with a face-to-face competency interview, remember the STAR technique:
  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result
It’s probably worth keeping a note of this in front of you while on the phone to remind you of the order in which you should describe your example situation. If following a regular competency interview format, the interviewer will ask you to describe a time from a previous career that demonstrates how you dealt with a situation. This might be how you overcame an issue with a colleague, a mistake you made or a task you were assigned etc. You basically need to put a positive spin on a situation that could potentially be perceived as negative.
Think about what key competencies are likely to be required for the job in question. For instance if you’re going for a role that involves a lot of diary management and tight deadlines, you need to accentuate your organisational skills.

The benefit of competency based interviews over the phone

Now you know what the hiring manager is likely to ask about, you should start selecting some examples to use of when you’ve demonstrated these competencies in your past experience. The great advantage of doing a competency based interview over the phone is that you can have these examples written down in note form in front of you, at hand to refer to when you need them. This should mean your answers are clearer than if you were trying to recall a situation from memory.
Be specific, don’t use general terms because you think it sounds like it applies to more situations – employers want proof of your competency. It is also important to remember here that if you’re giving a team example, you must state what you did to help as an individual so the hiring manager can see your input to the result.
For further advice on telephone interviews, read our 10 mistakes to avoid.