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Seb Anthony

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competency based interview questions


My concern is that I should not be stating what a 'model' answer is. Isn't it down to the manager who is recruiting for the position to determine how good the responses are? I do not have the specific,relevant experience that the manger has. However my HR manager is stating that as I am reviewing the job profiles and designing the questions I should be in a position to guide the managers as to what the interviewees responses should look like. The HR manager is saying that to ensure consistency we should be telling the managers. I'm really not convinced the HR manager is right. Any help or guidance would be appreciated - even if you think I'm wrong.
nigel barnes

8 Responses

  1. Misinterpretation

    Your HR manager is correct although I think your misunderstanding is down to misinterpretation more than anything else.

    You dont define the candidate’s answer – that would be impossible – what you are able to do is define what excellence is within each competency. You dont write specific examples, you write the incremental elements of the competency that you would expect to observe and rate.

    There are competency books on the market that define competencies and their incrementals.

    From your description you seem to have blurred the distinction between the competency and the example, you dont need specific industry relevant experience to be able to rate a competency – this may be an area for you to expand your knowledge.

  2. Measuring competencies
    Hi Nigel,
    The previous response is certainly one way to look at the problem. My perspective is a little different. I think the problem with competencies is measurability. Behaviours can be measured. To identify model answers as a guideline for the interview process depends upon the behaviour expected for each role. For example you may expect a manger to lead meetings whereas the expectation of someone less senior may be to contribute at meetings. Who is best able to define the behaviours? It may be worthwhile creating a draft with your thoughts and discussing the draft with your boss and the individual managers. A joint effort may prove to be more successful, which is presumably what the organisation is trying to achieve.

    These are just my thoughts. If you wish to discuss matter further by all means contact me at [email protected]

    Good luck

  3. Competency Based Interview Questions
    This should be a joint venture b/w you and the manager. You should read as much info on this subject through the web and be prepared. You should work with the manager to create these questions. As far as evaluating the responses, this should also be a joint venture. Record the responses and meet with the manager to discuss. Create an assessment checklist to rate the responses.

    Core Competencies

    Tell me about a time when you had to change your point of view or your plans to take into account new information or changing priorities.

    Client Focus

    Give an example of how you provided service to a client/stakeholder beyond their expectations. How did you identify the need? How did you respond?


    Describe a situation you were involved in that required a multi-dimensional communication strategy.

    Organizational Awareness

    Describe the culture of your organization and give an example of how you work within this culture to achieve a goal.

    Tell me about a time when you used your knowledge of the organization to get what you needed.

    Problem Solving and Judgment

    Tell me about a time when you had to identify the underlying causes to a problem.

    Results Orientation

    Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a goal.

    Tell me about a time when you improved the way things were typically done on the job.


    Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as a member of a team.

    Describe a situation in which you were a member (not a leader) of a team, and a conflict arose within the team. What did you do?

    Role Specific Competencies
    Developing Others

    Tell me about a time when you coached someone to help them improve their skills or job performance. What did you do?

    Give me an example of a time when you recognized that a member of your team had a performance difficulty/deficiency. What did you do?


    Describe something you have done that was new and different for your organization, that improved performance and/or productivity.

    Impact and Influence

    Describe a recent situation in which you convinced an individual or a group to do something.


    Tell me about a time when you had to lead a group to achieve an objective.

    Describe a situation where you inspired others to meet a common goal.

    Relationship Building

    Describe a situation in which you developed an effective win/win relationship with a stakeholder or client. How did you go about building the relationship?

    Resource Management

    Describe a situation in which you took a creative approach to resourcing to achieve a goal.


    Describe a time when you were in a high pressure situation.

    Strategic Thinking

    Describe a challenge or opportunity you identified based on your industry knowledge and how you developed a strategy to respond to it.

  4. thanks for replies
    thank you to those that have replied. I don’t think I put my original post correctly. What has happened is that I have already designed the competency questions. This I did using the job profiles to ensure they would be relevant to the positions (and the level of positions -they go from office admin to senior manager). What I was then told is that I should write what the model answers would be. I understand that there are different levels of competency and there can be terms and phrases to describe these and make them appropriate to the job. However, what I’m not sure about and what concerns me is that the way it has been put to me is that we/I need to give specific answers for each question for each role as we can’t rely on the interviewers to be consistent. My thought is that the interviewer (who will be the manager for the role) should be able to use their knowledge and experience to decide how well the interviewee demonstrated the competencies asked for. I’m fine with giving examples of rating different levels of competence, but I’m not keen on giving very specific ‘ideal’ answers when I do not have the in-depth knowledge of the position being interviewed for. I hope I’m making sense!

  5. Agree with you

    Thank you for clarifying your objectives. Now that you have stated you can both write the competency and rate the competency I totally agree with your perspective.
    There is no such thing as a model answer. Each candidate will answer with responses referring to his/her particular individual work experience – they will all be different – its then for the interviewer to match these against the competency indicators. It is therefore impossible to guess what is an ideal answer as everyone is different – it just doesnt work like that and your HR manager is wrong.
    What is required is for those conducting the interview to understand how and if the competencies and skills identified within the answers are actually transferable to your industry, but as I say that depends on the individual answers/examples given and the depth contained within them.

    Futhermore if you interviewers are ‘inconsistent’ then your recruitment processes are seriously compromised and I would have major concerns about the objectivity, legality and fairness of any interviews they held.

    The solution here appears to be training the interviwers or having HR attend the interviws or outsourcing etc. Your business is exposed to risk on this. Is your manager afraid of tackling the issue or the recruiting managers?

  6. General Rating
    I agree model answers are the wrong way to go ….. the way we currently do it at the company I work at is to have a rating system 1-4 with 4 being something around many strong examples …. to 1 being very weak examples ….if you would like the exact definitions we use e-mail me back and I’ll get them to you. The system tends to work well and certainly if you can have the same manager doing all the interviews this will go a long was to ensuring consistency.

  7. The HR manager is right
    Problem is – equality legislation! Setting model answers, weighting them and assigning scores to each part of the answer is the safest method of selecting. You are right about not knowing what the managers do and there is also an accepted criticism that this system makes automotons of the managers but hey! that’s the way Tribunals like it. What I do is, get the managers together before the evnt and set the answers with them. that way everone inputs and owns the process. I hope this helps.

  8. reply for Des
    If you can reply with what your ratings were I’d be grateful. I used a 4 rating system in a previous job but I don’t appear to have got any of that information. thanks


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