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Transition Toolkit: A guide to Competency Based Interviewing


Competency-Based Interviewing (CBI) is a style of questioning developed to help interviewers decipher if the candidate has practical experience of the skills that they require. The questions will always ask you to refer to a real-life example where you were able to use a particular skill and in order to assess your answer, the interviewer will be looking for a structured response.

Top tip:        

Interviewers will often warn you that the next question or section of the interview will be ‘competency-based’ but if they don’t, look out for questions which start with phrases like; ‘tell me about a time when…’, ‘describe an event where…’ or ‘give an example of when…’ as indicators, they may well be looking for a structured answer.

It’s important to remember that the interviewer is trying to get an idea of how you work and your thought processes when faced with a task or challenge. You can prepare yourself for most CBI questions by having a bank of 3-4 examples of times (preferably in the workplace) where you have faced a significant challenge, period of change or task which required skill/effort beyond your job description. Practise explaining these scenarios in around two minutes using the STAR technique below to prevent ‘waffling’ on the day.

The STAR Technique

Any interviewer asking a CBI question will be looking for a response which roughly follows the below structure (or the very similar CAR technique of Context/Action/Result). This allows them to understand the role you played at every stage:

Situation: Provide context to the example you’re about to give. This should include what role you held at the time, where it took place (geographically and in terms of the company/unit) and any other challenging factors outside of the task you are focussing on (manpower issues, morale, politics etc)

Task at Hand: What task was specifically required of you/the team you managed?

Action: Describe the action you personally took to resolve the task. It’s easy to slip into explaining what the team as a whole did, or what you were asked to do, but try to focus on your own steps towards a resolution. Be sure to explain your thinking behind any decisions you made.

Result: What was the result of the action you took to resolve the task? Where possible, try to include actual figures in your conclusion, whether it’s in money/time saved, income earned or an increase in productivity. Particularly when translating your military experience for a civilian employer, this will give them something to relate to.

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