​How to be a star in competency-based interviews

Over the past couple of weeks, three things have had me thinking more and more about interview preparation.

One of my candidates thanked me for sending them the Charity People interview guide. I also had a really enjoyable pre-interview preparation session with another candidate. And finally, I came across a tweet about some brilliant TED talks to get you in the right mood for an interview.

Nobody does (or should) interview regularly. It’s one of the reasons why interviews can leave you feeling nervous. Even for super-talented fundraisers, interviews can still hold terrors all of their own. Whilst your day job will often involving building rapport and pitching to panels, you will be more used to selling your cause not yourself

Interviewing can be a daunting prospect. Especially when it’s a job and cause that means a lot to you. There is some interview specific jargon around, which can be unfamiliar, so this blog is designed to demystify the process.

Competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews, also known as behavioural interviews, feature questions designed to gauge your ability to handle the job and deal with specific situations. This type of interview generally requires you to demonstrate that you have the skills the employer is looking for by providing examples of situations you’ve faced in the past and what you did in those situations. For example, you may be asked to discuss past projects that have succeeded and failed, how you’ve dealt with challenging situations or a time when you took a risk. Answering these questions gives the interviewer an idea of how you will fit into the team and handle the job. Competency-based interviews are designed to test past behaviour and success.  The theory is that it will be a good indicator of future performance. 

I have heard some candidates say that it is tough to build rapport and to get your personality across when the process is so heavily structured.  If all you do is to try to map your pre-prepared examples to their pre-prepared questions, then the conversation is bound to seem a little stilted.

So don’t let the structure control your performance. You need to have some fantastic examples ready to show your skills and experience in the very best light. Think of this as building a compelling case for supporting yourself – just as you would when encouraging donors to support your cause. 

Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you do with your cause.  Be a #proudfundraiser. If you were speaking to potential donors, then you would be concentrating on bringing your charity to life – to show them the value of investing their time and their money. You need to do just the same with your potential employer.

This is all about story-telling – the bread and butter of fundraising. What are the brilliant anecdotes that highlight your successes, experience and skills? How can you tell them in a clear and meaningful way?

STAR technique

Use the STAR technique to create some amazing personal cases for support:

  • Situation

  • Task

  • Action

  • Results

You will have multiple strands of stories and will need to weave them all together to make a compelling case on the big day.  However, don’t forget that your stories must be clear and succinct to give them real impact and meaning.  Great storytelling is all about making every detail count and to do this you have to be selective. 

Can you think of several good-quality examples so that you have plenty to choose from when presented with the interview questions? And you don’t have to use them all. A well-stocked arsenal allows you to give a better demonstration of your experience, because your answers will have direct relevance.

Start with impressive figures, achievements and wins. Make sure that you have the correct numbers in your head. And then work through the challenges you have faced and how you have managed key projects.

Just like any great charity, you will hopefully have tons of cases for support just waiting to be discovered and told in the right way. As with your day job, it takes time to find them, to tease out the detail, and create something compelling. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time and practice telling the stories.

What questions can you expect?

Use the job description and person specification as your guide. They should highlight competencies that the organisation believes are vital for the job. At very least, you need stories that show you match each of these capabilities.

Make sure you don’t just have lots and lots of stories that say same things about you. You need to find a good variety that demonstrate the different areas of your experience and skills.

Once you have your cases for support ready, think about how you’ll deliver them. Once again, there are parallels between your day job and the interviewing process. When you’re conveying your charity’s amazing stories every day, you hopefully allow your personality to shine through, so that your stories are believable and personal. I expect you will be thoroughly in your comfort zone telling stories in your very own style. 

Why should it be any different with an interview panel? You can be confident, clear and concise, whilst delivering your case in a persuasive and meaningful way.

Finally, take the time to listen carefully to your own stories, whether in your head, or recorded on your phone. Preparing properly for an interview will give you a real confidence boost. Simply hearing yourself describe all the brilliant things that you achieved and the difference you will you have made will you in a winning frame of mind. 

Take the time to think about your relationships with donors, beneficiaries and fellow fundraisers as well as the money you have raised in support of a terrific cause. You can acknowledge the value in your skills and experience.

If that doesn’t put a confident smile on your face, then I don’t know what will!

We are always happy to spend time with our candidates to help you to prepare. It’s all part of the service and we’re happy to be that challenging sounding board.

Good Luck!

You can find more information about preparing for interviews on the Charity People website (including a blog with some ideas for questions you should be asking!) or feel free to give us a call for a chat.