This type of interview seems to be in vogue today. Employers have started digging deeper into what you really know and how you handle important situations. It’s part of a trend that calls for less risk on their part, ensuring that a new hire will perform well, and stay with the job for as long as needed.
Employers really want to know if you’re “competent” in certain areas, and so, during that all-important interview, they may ask a series of questions about how you, in your previous job(s) and general work experience, handle certain different types of situations. If you’re not prepared for this type of questioning in an interview, it can be stressful, it can be devastating, and the off-the-cuff answers you give, if they’re not adequate, can disqualify you then and there.
The best way to handle such types of questions, it goes without saying, is to prep for them, ahead of time. It’s smart to do this type of preparation before you even get to your first interview. A good way to do this is to make a good long, exhaustive list of the competencies required for the type of job you’re going after, based on your personal knowledge. And, if you don’t know what those competencies are because you’ve never been asked about them, or given any thought to them, be motivated to do it because it’s the best time to begin researching them.
Consider this quest for the competencies inherent in the type of job you’re after as a personal research project. And, if you think about it, you may be astonished to learn that an important part of any job search is research.
Researching by networking, where you can ask questions about what competencies are required in the field you’re interested in working in, is a really excellent way to compile this list. In doing this, you’ll be both building your network and learning about the latest things happening in your industry or field. Sitting in on the interplay between the Q and A offered in industry and special interest groups on an internet website, like Linkedin.com, is another good way to complete your list of competencies. Adding comments and getting others in the field to comment about what you’ve said is also a great way to build your knowledge. Reading up on the latest, newest happenings in your field in industry publications is still another way to help you compile this list.
Once you’ve gotten this list together, you need to prioritize each competency in order of its importance, as well as the possibility that you will be asked about it.
Here are some examples, taken at random, of the type of questions that might be asked in such an interview:
- Operations. “Tell us about how you shortened the time between installation and invoicing to increase cash flow.”
- Sales. “What steps did you take to make the biggest sale in your territory last year?”
- Accounting. “How would you help a client prepare for an upcoming IRS audit.”
- Call Center Management. “How would you handle an employee who consistently made fewer calls than required every hour?”
- Architect. “If you were presented with an existing space that had less square footage than normally needed, what would you look at first, second, and third to fit in all the offices specified?”
- Art Director. “Tell us about a time when you developed an entirely different approach to solve a problematic ad, and how did you present it to the client?”
- Project Manager. “Here’s a situation for you. Your project is late and over-budget and you’re short of resources. In sequences, tell us what actions you’d take to get it back on track.”
- General questions. “What was the biggest challenge you faced in your last job?” “What steps do you usually take when you have determined that an employee isn’t doing their job and has to be let go?” “What’s your approach, as a manager, to handling decision-making?”
For each of the competencies that you’ve come up, as part of your research, after you’ve put them into an order that makes sense to you, you need to develop a short, crisp response. A response that cuts to the chase. A response that doesn’t ramble. A response that hits the nail on the head.
I like to think of this type of response as a story, because that’s what it is. If you can learn to create a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying conclusion to what you tell the interviewer, I believe he or she will remember it. So, not only show your competence, but make it into a short verbal story.
Here’s an example of a simple, straight-forward story:
“I had just such a person at the Call Center. She wasn’t making enough calls, and I suspect she was talking to people she knew in-between calls. So I called her in, told her what was expected, told her we’d track what she was doing closely, told her we’d hired her because she appeared able to do the job, and assured her that we wanted her to succeed, and began monitoring her calls. Well, her numbers went up, and she actually became one of our best employees after a couple of months.”
Stories like this can stick in interviewers’ minds. They demonstrate your competency in the best possible way.
NOTE: Please don’t forget the value of networking, mentioned above. If you include the question “What competencies are required in that kind of job?” you will be doing two things – gaining information and networking successfully. The value of networking in this job market is so great, it’s so important, I can’t stress how important it is that every job seeker do it that I’ve devoted a number of articles to it. It has been proven, time and again, that it is the way many people get chosen for that all-important first interview in which those competency questions will be asked.