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Internships and other work experiences
Internships and other work experiences

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2.1 Competency-based questions

Competency-based questions, sometimes known as behavioural questions, have been used by employers for years. They usually start with something like ‘tell us about a time when you … ’ and require you to recount an example of when you’ve used a specific skill that is of interest to them. For example, ‘Tell us about a time when you demonstrated excellent customer service in a difficult situation.’ Basically, they are trying to determine your future potential from your past experience.

Watch this video from manufacturing company Saint Gobain, which explains why employers use competency-based questions and how you should prepare for them.

Video 4
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Now have a go yourself.

Activity 2 Time to try the technique

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity

Draft your answer to this typical interview question about adaptability in the box below.

Describe a situation when you had to change the way you worked because of changing circumstances. How did you adapt?

Remember to use the STAR model, i.e. situation, task, action, result. Your emphasis should be on the action you took.

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Sample answer:

Situation: My employer introduced a new IT system at very short notice, which fundamentally changed my daily activities.

Task: I was tasked with training my team to ensure that they could work with it efficiently.

Action: Despite my initial reservations, I quickly researched the system and identified colleagues within my sector who were already using it. I was reassured by my conversations with them that it would lead to significant improvements for us. I invited one of my contacts to come and talk to the team, which was very well received, and I took a small group to visit their premises to see exactly how the system worked for them.

I involved myself closely with the team who came to install the system, ensuring that I had a good overview of how it worked and knew who to contact if I had any problems.

Result: There were a few hiccups along the way, but the system was installed on time and my team were enthusiastic about using it. By the time it was up and running, we all felt confident about the key elements of the system and how it would fit in with our work.

Next you’ll look at strengths-based questions.