Competency based interview questions – public sector

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  • Competency based interview questions – public sector
  • hels
    Member

    So, a friend has a job interview tomorrow – public sector, middle management.

    Anybody done this kind of interview recently ? What did they ask ?

    He is preparing for questions about Stakeholders, dealing with challenging situations etc.

    (oops sorry wrong forum…)

    boblo
    Member

    Good luck and God help him. ‘Competency’ and ‘Public Sector’, words not usually seen in the same sentence :-\

    hels
    Member

    Competency – not competence – good thing you aren’t doing the interview boblo !

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Subscriber

    I have some stuff I can share, mail me via the forum.

    HTH

    hels
    Member

    Hi rick – I have no idea how to do that but your email is in your profile.

    boblo
    Member

    🙂 I know, I know. It was a play on words. Good luck to your chum, hopefully he won’t get it 😉

    hilldodger
    Member

    There will be a list of key competencies with titles such as Seeing the Big Picture, Making Effective Decisions, Building Capability for All, Collaborating and Partnering, Delivering at Pace & Delivering Value for Money – these are actually taken from the Civil servcie learning website.
    The candidate will be expected to provide examples of previous achievements using these heading.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash
    Subscriber

    Presumably they have already filled in the dreaded competency based application form?

    They will basically repeat the questions on the form “tell us about a time when…..”, so they need to not forget what they put down. Alternative examples as a back up may be useful. If they don’t think you have quite given them what they were asking, they will give you a couple of leading questions to get you on track.

    I’m pretty sure that the Civil Service job site has examples of what level of competency they are looking for at each level, EO/HEO etc, should be findable via the website or a Google search.

    Loads of people on here slag off the public sector for being cushy and too protected, and it is in some ways, but very few are prepared to go and do the job for the pay and ever reducing benefits that we get.

    (Don’t show your friend my recent posting history btw, don’t want to put them off)

    Premier Icon FuzzyWuzzy
    Subscriber

    In the current climate I’d be prepared for questions asking about experience with budget management and cost-cutting initiatives.

    Premier Icon BoomBip
    Subscriber

    Varies wildly in terms of which/how the questions are asked though they should be based around demonstrating the relevant bits of the Civil Service Competency Framework that were asked for in the application form.

    Typical approach would be something like ‘Can you give an example of a time when you had to manage a wide group of stakeholders over a period of time to achieve a positive outcome?’ or however the competency is phrased. Then usually some supplementary questions to dig into specific bits/draw out complexity, etc.

    I have heard of more old school questioning though like ‘Tell us why you’d be suited to a job in … ‘ though, if they’re sticking the the Framework, shouldn’t really happen.

    Generally the interviewee is OK using the same examples they gave on the application form though usually worth having a couple of others in the back pocket.

    All of this is only in my experience by the way – could be totally different for other departments.

    Premier Icon Rio
    Subscriber

    Mrs R has had the misfortune to go through this recently. As said by others, the questions will be based on the competencies defined for the job and it seems you can just repeat what’s on your application although the outcome can be random – in Mrs R’s case she didn’t get any steers from the interviewers when she supposedly didn’t answer a question correctly even though she’d just repeated stuff on her application that had scored highly on their initial assessment.

    The process seems to be designed both to test your understanding of the Civil Service competency framework (plenty of info on line but if your friend’s got as far as an interview they must know this) and to make sure no-one can individually be held responsible if the wrong person is selected for the job. Good luck.

    sprocker
    Member

    I was successful in promotion in the civil service through this process recently. As above they need to know the competency framework and then relate that to things they have done which demonstrate the required competency for the role.

    They will need specific examples and must focus on what they did and the positive result at the end. It is tempting to embellish a bit but if the interviewer is decent they will probe and test their examples.

    Good luck to your friend, the endless tea breaks and gold plated pension await !!!

    Premier Icon rickmeister
    Subscriber

    Hels,

    rickDOThDOTharrisonATgmailDOTcom

    Premier Icon spawnofyorkshire
    Subscriber

    Everyone seems to have jumped to conclusion that it’s a Civil Service interview. Big difference between that, Local Authority or University. I’ve been through all three and been successful (but turned down Civil Service job)

    Agreed as above about the knowledge of competencies and examples for each. What your friend needs to do though is differentiate them self from the other candidates. Everyone has to be asked the same questions in the interviews and speaking to my colleagues who recruited me, I got the job because i was able to get my personality across in the interview. I even took the piss out of M&E Engineers, when one of the panel was the head of M&E and he was creasing himself.
    The other one is to make sure you have some good follow up questions, again i stood out because i managed to engage them in a ten minute conversation about budget management.

    hels
    Member

    Thanks all – it is LA, but I am sure all the above will apply.

    I have always thought that if you get to interview they think you can do the job, after that it is about who they like the most (as long as you can answer the questions reasonably).

    And having been on the other side of the desk on numerous occasions, definitely throw in a few jokes.

    ransos
    Member

    Thanks all – it is LA, but I am sure all the above will apply.

    I have always thought that if you get to interview they think you can do the job, after that it is about who they like the most (as long as you can answer the questions reasonably).

    If your friend has been shortlisted, then that means (on paper) he has demonstrated that he meets the “essential” criteria, which are usually a mix of competencies and experience. The interview will also be structured around these (plus some desirable criteria), and may also involve a test. For example I often ask candidates to turn some raw data into a presentation for managers – demonstrating numeracy, IT skills and ability to present to a non-technical audience.

    The interview panel is likely to be three people, who will be furiously scribbling everything down, as they need to keep a record of why the candidate was selected or rejected.

    boblo
    Member

    @ransos That’s interesting. I was once unexpectedly asked to produce a training and deployment plan during an interview. They gave me a brief, a PC with Office/Project on it, an empty room and 20 mins. This was for Govt.

    The point was really about basic maths, the logistics of doing the ‘thing’ and being able to demonstrate the ability to react under pressure. The brief was so brief, I made a load of assumptions and just stated them during the opening salvo of my presentation.

    Bullshit obviously baffles brains as I was offered the role.:-)

    Premier Icon Sundayjumper
    Subscriber

    I was due to have an interview today for a Civil Service job. The process went like this:

    Phone call to discuss job, and salary range. All good. Submit CV.

    After reviewing my CV they downgraded my application to a role with a salary range £5k lower.

    I fill out very detailed application form.

    Invited in for interview, but interview location is not the same as job location, it’s near Bristol, which is a 2 hour drive from home. They also further downgraded my application to another role, supposedly same salary range.

    Two days before the interview, a phone call to tell me two things – 1) salary is now another £5k lower, and 2) they have changed the interview time from 13:30 to 09:00. Knowing that I have a long drive, and that I have to be there 45 mins before the interview in order to fill out even more forms and for them to do background / employment check.

    There was supposedly still an £8k site allowance attached to the job that would just about make it worthwhile but given everything that had happened up to that point I was fully expecting that to vanish too, but only after making me waste an entire day and half a tank of fuel going to see them.

    I don’t know if this is Civil Service organisational incompetence, or active cost cutting to ensure they only interview people that are absolutely desperate for a job. Could easily be either.

    Oh, and in the interview pack it says they have no visitor parking and advise that you will have to make your own arrangements offsite ! Absurd.

    I withdrew my application.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash
    Subscriber

    I don’t know if this is Civil Service organisational incompetence

    Probably

    no visitor parking and advise that you will have to make your own arrangements offsite

    Perfectly normal at a lot of sites now due to reductions in the estate so we don’t waste any more of your taxes on empty parking spaces 😉

    Had one this week. Not public sector but doesn’t matter – its supposed to be a common format of interview. As above they will be asking for specific evidence against a key competency – so they’ll be setting some sort of situation or scenario and ask if they have demonstrated that competency before – doesn’t have to be a work example – can be anything – say if you run a club or something, those examples are just as valid as they demonstrate you have actually performed a competency at a specific level.

    they should either have been provided a list of 10 or so key competencies and the level they are looking for against each competancy and will be asked questions about 4 or 5. They should provide the competencies before the interview, and if not, provide them if asked. The way I prepare for them is to think of two or three examples against each competency – but don’t be too specific with your examples as they way they phrase the question can sometimes mean your specific examples might not be a good fit, then you’re into panicked thinking on your feet mode, which is never good during an interview.

    Personally I don’t like them. I find them pretty restrictive and don’t give you an opportunity to demonstrate your entire breadth of experience and skills.

    Not sure about the civil service incompetence thing. The private sector can be just as chaotic.

    Demonstrate incompetence and he/she should fit in perfectly

    On a more serious note, there is a specific technique for this tyro of interview that need to be prepared and practicesd. It’s the STAR technique. – google is your friend.

    what teamhurtmore says.

    competency based interviews are common stuff.
    The critical thing is providing concise answers in the situation/task, action (I took), results (STAR) format.

    e.g. for an entry-level graduate position it might go like this:
    I’d like to ask you about innovation. We define that as the ability to identify and apply new thinking, ideas, technology and practice that created business value for the organisation.

    The question we need to answer is to what extent do you think beyond existing frameworks and processes?

    Please tell me about a new idea you have implemented and how you have monitored its progress and measured its success.

    the ideal answer goes like:
    I have a few examples. Let me tell you about the time I [summary of answer]. The situation was… The action I took was… The result was…

    If you can give the answer in 4 short sentences that’s ideal. The interviewer can ask more probing questions about aspects of your answer. Or they can ask you to give another example if needed.

    The basis of these questions is to find out what the candidate has done. Much more relevant and interesting than hypotheticals. It is important to be prepared. Know your examples thoroughly. Know how to use different aspects of them to support different competencies. Have several examples for each competency (depending on seniority of the role).

    The ‘core’ question differs according to the seniority/experience of the role being interviewed for. e.g. an exec role would have a core question along the lines of ‘to what extent does this person have a strategic approach to innovation and influence people inside and outside the company to make that happen?’

    If you can give the answer in 4 short sentences that’s ideal. The interviewer can ask more probing questions about aspects of your answer. Or they can ask you to give another example if needed.

    Spot on, this is the key and takes some practice not just 24 hours I’m afraid

    In the interview invite pack I’d expect the competencies to be listed, described, and the structure of the interview and likely interviewers to be identified. If the competency descriptions haven’t been supplied beforehand it’s likely to be no fun for anyone.

    how did it go?

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