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Competency based interviews


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 My husband has attended 2 competency based interviewsto transfer between police forces and marginally failed both.

The competencies are:

• Community & Customer Focus
• Effective Communication
• Personal Responsibility
• Problem Solving
• Resilience
• Respect for Race and Diversity

Each comes with a list of positive & negative indicators, but no guidance for answering.

He can provide lots of examples of the required behaviour but they don’t seem to ‘tick the boxes’ on the interviewer’s proforma and he is beginning to tear his hair out! Could anyone give any guidance for ticking the elusive boxes and proving competence?

Catherine Thornton

6 Responses

  1. Analyse the job
    As well as simply thinking of examples of competence, make sure that such examples are at the “right ” level – are they really examples of operating at the level required by the job? Have you studied the job description/person specification?
    In my experience many candidates provide examples of behaviour that are simply not at the right level for the requirements of the new role eg if the JD/Pers Spec mentions strategy, then you’ve got to come with an example of true strategy development, not short term planning.

  2. feedback and a couple of suggestions
    Hi there
    It’s interesting that you say that the answers ‘don’t seem’ to tick the boxes, I may be wrong this suggests that your husband didn’t get ‘full’ feedback. I would suggest that your husband trys to get as much feedback as possible. One of the good things about a competency-based interview is that it should record (accurately), how the questions were answered. An interviewee has the right to get full, specific feedback – it could make the difference.

    I also have a couple of suggestions, one question that your husband can ask is ‘Pecentage wise, how closely do I match what you are looking for?’ If the answer is anything less than 100%, then he should ask, ‘what’s the x amount that’s missing’. This is a nicer way of asking for feedback and one that usually works.

    Finally, to supplement your husband’s answers, he needs to show why he did what he did (the thought process or motivation), how it added value to what was expected of him, (going the extra mile) & what he learned as a result (reflection leading to new ways of working). hope that helps

  3. Competency Based Interviews
    Having trained many hundreds of interviewers, I agree with what others’ contributions. I also find that many candidates fail to give clear answers as to what they have done. Often referring to what ‘we’ did or describing a process instead of giving clear examples of what they did. When preparing for an interview it can help to write down a couple of good examples of evidence for each of the competences. Look through the positive indicators and match your evidence to where ‘I’ve done that’. Look through the negative indicators and see where you have some of those qualities and be prepared for questions that seek to find them – have some evidence available that you have dealt with those and rectified them.
    You could use the STAR mnemonic:

    S ituation – a brief description of what was happening
    T ask – what were you required to do
    A ction – what did you do
    R esult – what was the result or what did you achieve

    Be prepared for the panel to ask for contrary evidence – that is if they are getting lots of evidence that you ‘walk on water’ don’t be surprised if they ask for a time when you sank. Then answer honestly and be prepared to talk about what you learned from that situation and where you have applied that learning since or what you have done to prevent a recurrence.

    It may also be that the interview panel are not as skilled at asking questions for evidence as they might be. Listen very carefully to the questions and, if the questioner doesn’t ask for specific evidence – give it in your answer and make it clear you are giving an example of specific evidence. Listen very carefully for words like ‘would’ in the question. ‘How would you’ or ‘what would you’ invite you to look to the future for a hypothetical answer. These contain no evidence of competence so whenever possible reply with ‘I can tell about when I have actually done that’. Or find something similar and use that.

    Hope this helps.


  4. Plice competencies
    I did quite a lot of appraisal training work with one of the larger police forces last year and became familiar with their competency set but i have not been involved in their selection interview training.

    As I remember, there are 3 levels of definition for each competencey (A, B, C).
    You need to make sure that you get the job description of the position for which you are applying and see which competencies are listed on it and at what level (A, B, C). The job descriptions and competency framework should be available to you.

    At the top of the page of each competency/level there is a broad definition, followed, as you say, by postive and negative indicators.

    You should prepare for the interview by thinking up situations that you have dealt with that best illustrate your behaviour (how you went about doing what you did) relating to that particular competency. It is best to have at least two examples of situations for each in case you are asked to give more than one example. You do not necessarily need to have different situations for every competency – you may well find that some scenarios can be used to illustrate more than one competency.

    I suggest you then write down the situation, not to learn it, but to force yourself to think through it critically without your mind skipping over the difficult to explain bits.

    Then look at it critically against the
    competency positives (first) then against the negatives and be honest with yourself – imagine you are the interviewer – would you tick the boxes? – what questions would you ask to probe the detail?

    As suggested elsewhere, try to get feedback from the interviews you’ve already done, if you can. You might also consider speaking to someone in your HR or training department – they should be able to give you some guidance.

    I hope this is of some help. Good luck.


  5. Police interviews
    Hi Catherine – my husband is also a Police Officer and he seems to have cracked the ‘system’ over the years. As you know the same type of application form and competency interviews are done for promotions and transfers. The previous comments are all valid. However, it may be that the evidence he is giving is not quite what they are looking for. The best thing that my husband did was to talk to others who had gone through the processes and succeeded. He got them to look at his STAR stories and got advice about improving them to ensure they ticked all the boxes really well. These are really the script for the interview and are key to his success. He also has to look at the force website and look at mission statements latest initiatives, major problems etc.. so that he can relate positively to those in the interview. Good luck! We are in the process to transferring as we speak.

  6. Competency-based interviews
    It’s interesting that this was a transfer between forces – I would have thought that both roles were similar and that the role requirement was equally covered by the general Integrated Competency framework (ICF). That said, I endorse the comments of other contributors:
    – don’t be afraid of the ‘I’ word;
    – use specific examples (one or two and keep another in reserve);
    – make sure the example fits the wording of the performance criteria – not all candidates realise it’s not enough simply to tell a story of a job well done; they also have to say how it meets the particular competency requirement;
    – stress the degree of challenge and importance of the task;
    – highlight the difference made by your personal input.

    If interviews are timed (they sometimes are to be fair to all candidates), interviewers will need to get as much information as possible out of the candidate in short order. The written example should therefore be designed to provoke interest and conversation. If the interviewer resorts to hypothetical questions (What would you do….?) rather than actual questions (What did you do….?) then this is a bad sign. I encourage candidates to prepare for an interview by getting their partner or a close friend to come up with at least ten searching questions on each competency in order to test them. I tried this when I applied for my current job – all I can say is I’m glad my wife wasn’t on the interview panel!


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