How to show your best self in competency-based interviews

Frankly, for me the most difficult task during an interview is not trying to figure out what the other side wants, but to give my best no matter what the situation is.


When I just entered the job market, I very much wanted to join a multinational company’s Management Trainee Program. After many rounds of interviews, during the AC the company was measuring competencies. I did everything possible to be prepared for various questions and scenarios, gathered all the necessary information I could find. I tried so hard to show a perfect version of myself — who the management and the HR team could be looking for — that at the end I did not feel like myself. It resulted in an enormous failure.

That was when I learned to show my best self in such a situation and not to try reading the minds of people sitting in front of me.

Now that I have a few years of experience — and a few competency-based interviews behind me — I would like to share the most important lesson I learned. When I had the courage to show the real me, there was a greater chance I would be chosen because of my strengths and I could flourish in my new job with a lot of positive energy.

Usually, during an interview the HR team will ask about your previous employments and background. In a competency-based interview they will try to put you into a familiar situation to see your reactions to it. They might pose questions like:


‘Tell us about a conflict situation with your manager/colleague/customer that you handled successfully. If it were to happen today, what would you do differently?’ ‘What was the greatest change you had to get accustomed to? How did you manage it? What lesson for the future did you learn?’


When preparing for your next interview, try the following!


1. Do not focus on trying to read other’s minds! Focus on your answers and yourself!

Most of the time it is easy to guess what competency wants to be measured. Unless you are a ‘professional recruiter’, it can be tricky. Moreover, if you are asked to record a video interview, you will not be able to read the other person’s body language. Trust yourself and focus on your strengths.


2. Stick to the facts!

To win over the recruiters, it is important to go into details and stick to the facts.


3. Be a star by using the S.T.A.R. model!

Situation: describe the exact situation that you handled.

Task: describe that task you were charged with in details.

Action: describe what you did exactly and how you did it.

Result: describe what the situation resulted in.


4. Stress the most important factors!

Especially during video interviews usually there is a time limit you have to fill. Manage and use your time well.


5. Describe ‘what actually happened’ not ‘what could have happened’!

The people in front of you are skilled in recognizing if you are telling the truth or making things up.


6. No one is perfect.

If you did not handle a situation in the past perfectly, share the experience and the lessons you learned as well.


7. Be yourself!

Again, no one is perfect and no one expects perfection. You can show your weaknesses as well, they might come in handy. This just makes you look confident in yourself and your abilities. It also shows that you are willing to change and improve.

The employers today take a chance on the people they hire. Thomas John Wattson, first CEO of IBM once said:

Someone asked me if I would fire an employee, who caused a 600 000 dollars loss to his company. I just spent the same amount on his training, why would I let another company take an advantage on this?- I responded.

What they will think about you and your abilities will be derived from the quality of your responses.


Be proud of who you are and your professional background as well! Show everyone what you can do!

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