This week’s article includes advice for preparing for the Stress and the Competency Interviews
Sep 3, 2010
The Stress Interview
This interview is designed to test you psychological stability and your ability to remain calm under pressure. During the interview the recruiter can put you in uncomfortable situations, ask you irrelevant or unexpected questions or even not listen to you. There are different tactics they might use: they could try to catch you off guard with unexpected behavior (taking their shoes off in the middle of the interview); they could ask you direct and uncomfortable questions (sometimes professional but also personal); they could have an aggressive attitude and literally scream at you for the color or your shirt; or they could ask you puzzling questions such as “How many devils fit on the tip of a pin?”. This interview aims to see if you can handle pressure, demanding clients or unpleasant situations with dignity. As this is not an easy interview to pass, and you would not be warned in advance what to expect, we would advise that:
• You go highly prepared for the interview. During a Stress interview, the recruiter could be interrupting you repeatedly, so you need to know what you want to say and how.
• You ignore the theatre and focus on the factual presentation of your skills and assets so that you can best answer the questions.
• You have your Unique Selling Points (your strongest assets) very clearly defined. Do not miss the chance to put them on the table, even in a stress situation.
• You make sure you understand the question and ask for sufficient clarifications before you answer. This will both give you some time to think and also it is often exactly what is expected of you.
• You remember it is not personal, it is only theatre; thus, take it with calm and cold-blooded professionalism – you should not respond harshly or defensively.
The Competency Interview
A competency, or behavioral, interview will study closely your actions to identify patterns in your professional behavior. Competencies are not a substitute for technical knowledge. They are behavioral traits that have been identified as essential for success at the job. The questions that usually come out on such interviews ask you to explain specific situations from your previous professional (or academic) life and define how you have dealt with them. They would usually start with “Tell me about a time that… ”. The recruiters would ask you to describe situations when you displayed attitude, actions, and knowledge required at the position at stake. The theory behind competency-based interviewing is that you are highly likely to repeat past behaviors, both in a professional and in a personal environment. Based on your answer, the recruiter is trying to infer how effectively you would handle future problems if they were to offer you a job.
Some of the common key competencies that you might be asked to talk about include: teamwork, responsibility, commitment to career, decision making, leadership, problem solving, organizational skills, etc.
In order to best perform during a Competency Interview, we would advise you to keep in mind the following things:
• Study well the job offer you are applying to. Identify the competencies that the offer requires and be ready to give examples of your past experience where you displayed these specific competences.
• Prepare at least two personal examples per competency. It is very important that the situations you are describing are related to you and are not the experience of someone else. The interviewer is interested in your abilities, not those of your team, your manager, your company, etc. Thus, even if you are describing a team situation, make sure that you state very clearly what role you played in the team’s achievements, what was your added value to the project’s results and how you have supported your manager and the Business through the achievement of your goals.
• Recruiters would drill down all the details from the story you are telling. Be ready to talk about your examples in very much detail. Be very specific in describing the situation, the timing, the sector, the reason, the solution, etc.
• Do not worry if when asked a competency question you need a couple of minutes to formulate a smooth answer. It is normal to ask the recruiter for a few moments to think and once you are ready with a good example, tell the story.
• A competency interview gives you the unique opportunity to directly relate and explain how your already proven competencies and experience match the particular requirements of the job.
• Although you can use experiences both from your personal and professional life, we would strongly recommend that you remain on the employment (or academic) level.
The Growinfinance.com Team
How to do a qualified job search
How to Follow Up on Your Job Application
First company contact
How to prepare for your first interview – Part I
What to expect during the different types of interviews you could encounter – Part II
What to expect during the Open Interview and the Structured Interview – Part III
What to expect during the Stress Interview and the Competency Interview – Part IV