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Surviving Competency Questions

A colleague said he has a brother who was going for grad interview and asked me to recommend questions to him that might come up. I would have to go with Grad Ireland – see what you think: http://gradireland.com/careers-advice/interviews-and-tests/interview-questions

I think this is a sensible list, for both Grads and experienced interviewees. I especially like that it is devoid of the type of “how many windows in Manhattan” type questions that I’ve long ridiculed, and that Google recently abandoned. If you have any that you would like to add to this, please comment below.

I’m more of a believer in competency-based questions. In my Microsoft days, when we had a specialized toolkit for organisational development and talent acquisition that was developed by MIT. Recognizing that MIT is full of clever minds, I’ve adopted it and used it as my own since, occasionally refining to my own needs. I also reigned in some of the questions (for example there is one particularly horrendously long question about problem solving that goes like this):

Please tell me about a time you solved a problem, what was the issue and the outcome, who did you involve and what would you do differently if you had it to do again.

I’m sure you’ll agree, this is overly verbose, however the theory behind competency questions is generally acknowledged as valid and they are widely used in all industries, so candidates would do well to watch and prepare for them. Key signs are the words competency or aptitudes in a job spec, followed by lists of soft-skills. If so, expect scenario-based questions of the kind of above, (but perhaps shorter) which, when you reduce them down to their basic elements translate to “tell me about your skills in X”. In which case have a story ready where you demonstrated that skill. Equally important, when answering, use the first person (“I”) rather than “we”, as it is a peculiarity of the competency system that you cannot score well unless you speak about your own personal achievement rather than that of your team/group or company as a whole.

My favorite question has always been “what do you see as the biggest challenge to you in this role if you were hired”. Whats yours?

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