Competency-Based Interviews: Our Advice

Competency-Based Interviews: Our Advice and Guidance

Great job, you’ve landed yourself an interview! But how do you ensure you give yourself the best chance of success? The answer is preparation!

In this blog we want to give you an overview of competency-based interviews, give you some advice on how to structure your answers and let you know what competencies we consider to be important to be successful at NHS Professionals.

What is a competency-based interview?

A competency-based interview is not only designed to assess your suitability for the role you’re being considered for but also how well you will fit into the organisation. Where other interviews may be more focused on your qualifications or previous experience, a competency-based interview is designed to show the interviewer how you have dealt with real-life work situations in your career: if you behaved in a certain way in a previous role, it is likely that you will respond in a similar way in the future.

A competency-based question normally begins with ‘Give us an example of...” or ‘Tell me about a time when...”.

How to prepare for a competency-based interview

Firstly, familiarise yourself with some of the key competencies stated in the job description and advert. This will give you an idea of the types of skills the interviewer is looking for.

Next, jot down a few examples in which you have demonstrated these skills well. What was the situation? What actions did you take? What was the result?

Lastly, practise your answers. While it’s difficult to predict which questions you will be asked, it’s worth taking the time to practise how you would respond to some common interview questions. The key to a good response is being clear and concise.

How to answer competency-based interview questions

A good way to structure your response is to use the STAR method.

S – Situation. Briefly describe the situation or background to your example
T – Task. Explain the task. What did you need to achieve?
A – Action. Outline the action you took.
R – Result. Summarise the result.

The action section of your answer is the most important part: focusing on what you did in the situation gives the interviewer the evidence they are looking for. And remember to talk about what “I” did, not what “we” did.

Here’s how the STAR method can be used to answer the question ‘Give an example of when you have demonstrated strong customer service skills’,

‘I demonstrated strong customer service skills when I worked at [x] and was dealing with a very disgruntled customer.

Situation: The customer was trying to return a mobile phone without proof of purchase and expected a full refund after receiving incorrect information about our returns policy. The customer was visibly frustrated, talking loudly and their behaviour was having a negative impact on other customers.

Task: While adhering to the store’s returns policy, I needed to deescalate the situation and try to find a positive solution for the customer.

Action: I listened carefully to the customer’s frustrations, ensuring that I remained calm throughout the conversation. Once the customer had finished explaining what had happened, I carefully went through our returns policy. I advised the customer that although we were unable to offer a full refund without proof of purchase, I was able to offer them store credit in the form of a gift card.

Result: The customer became calmer throughout the exchange as they felt that their frustrations were being listened to. They accepted store credit and when leaving the customer apologised for their rudeness, explaining that they had had a difficult day.

Our Competencies  

Own your future
Actively seeks development opportunities, giving and receiving feedback, learning from experiences, 
coaching and supporting others. 
Pioneering Change
Understands the impact change has on people, managing own reactions, supporting others through change, 
encouraging change in support of progress and looking for ways to improve.

Understands business plans, developing plans, setting expectations, organising time, setting objectives, 
monitoring performance, taking action to address performance issues.

Commercial Judgement

Understands our sector and the services we offer, looks for ways to deliver the service more efficiently, ensures value for money, 
looks for opportunities to develop and grow the service we offer

Service Excellence

Understands customers’ needs, tailoring solutions, managing expectations, building relationships, working in partnership, 
recognising the importance of excellent customer service.

Collaborative Working

Works as part of a team, and the wider organisation, understanding, supporting and respecting others, 
sharing knowledge and experience, trusting others to deliver.

Communication and Influence

Communicates with others, amending communication approach to meet customer needs, listening, building rapport, 
influencing others to achieve the required outcome.