Competency based interview

Besides programming skills and technical capabilities, companies want to hire developers who are flexible, adapt quickly to fast changing environment and get stuff done under tight deadlines.

Competency-based interviewing assesses candidate’s culture fit and is based on the principle that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. Behavioral-based questions generally start with “Tell me about a time when you…”. Recruiters and hiring managers look for past projects and accomplishments that you can explain using the S-A-R formula (S-A-R stands for **situation, action and result**). My recommendation is to quickly outline the situation or a task and then concentrate the bulk of your answer in the action part. Focus on specific actions you took to resolve the situation, and wrap up with a result — how you learned from it.

Questions that can be thrown at you in the course of an interview might be tough and tricky. Thus it is essential not to show your discouragement if the interview appears to be going poorly. It could merely be an interview tactic to test your self-confidence by putting you under stress.
 If you need time to think trough the question it’s OKAY to say “That’s a good question: i want to be sure I understand.” I have never thought about that. “Could you please explain it again?” or “Let me think about that for a moment..” alternatively “Could you help me with that?”

I was amongst people who had an opportunity to interview at Amazon.

I will address some of the most common questions and give you some ideas for example answers.

**Tell me about yourself / Tell me a little bit about your background / Walk me through your resume**

This question is very likely to come up at any interview and if you are able to articulate who you are and how you could improve the probability of company’s success, you stand out from the crowd:-).

Good morning/afternoon, thank you for having me, I appreciate this opportunity and I’d love to tell you about my background.

*less formal*: I am a junior software engineer, passionate about developing amazing user experiences with JavaScript, HTML & CSS and the MEAN stack. Prior to Ironhack i worked in xxxx..

*more formal*: I hold a degree in computer science from xxxx University in xxxx, and I have about xxxx years working experience, the majority of which has been spent working in xxxx.

As for qualifications I would like to highlight 3 key competencies: first of all my ability to xxxx. Secondly, I have excellent xxxx skills which I gained throughout my xxxx (e.g. studies, internship and/or training). I further developed this qualification through my professional experiences where I was involved in xxxx. The third and final thing I would emphasize here is xxxx.

So these are the three areas I would highlight and that I feel are very much in line with the job description. I hope that the combination of the skills I bring to the table help me contribute to your team and help advance the goals you’re striving to achieve.

**Why do you want to work for our company**
 Research. It usually comes down to: you think that the company has an excellent product or a service, or a strong reputation as a great employer.
 Here is one of my example answers: I share *name of the company* customer’s centric approach. You are all about to make a difference in added value to your customers. An example of this is: xxxx. I want to work in a company that is changing the way we live and offers new and hard problems. I am motivated by building new users experiences.

**Can you work under pressure?**
 An example answer: Yes, I usually find it stimulating. However, I believe in planning and proper management of my time to reduce panic around deadlines within my area of responsibility.

**What are your biggest accomplishments / Tell me about a project you are proud of**
 I’d keep the answer work-related and start along the lines: Although I feel my biggest achievements are still ahead of me, I am proud of my involvement in.. I made my contribution as part of that team and learned a lot in the process.

more personal examples: i went to a different country and got a job there and adapted to the local environment, overcame a language barrier.. Or i quit my job and wanted to try something different.

**What is your biggest weakness?**
 I can be impatient because i want to get things done..
 I don’t have the motivation when i don’t know why am doing it for..

**Tell me about the time that you had a conflict situation**
 This question can even be more specific and address a conflict with your direct co-worker, your boss or with a client. The response will vary accordingly.

Using the S-A-R formula, i first explain what the specific conflict is. Then i think it’s important to mention the willingness to communicate because one of the most frequent sources of conflict is miscommunication. I say something along the lines — i sat down with my colleague and made sure there was no communication gap there. The other person may have different expectations than i might be having and that could cause the conflict. The next thing is to look at my analysis of the situation and make sure i didn’t get something wrong- was there anything about the facts i need to re-analyze? Finally, I did xxxx to minimize the tension.

**Tell me about a time you handled a difficult situation**
 I follow a 5-step format with a difficult problem. One, I stand back and examine the problem. Two, I recognize the problem as the symptom of other, perhaps hidden, factors. Three, i make a list of possible solutions to the problem. Four, i weigh both the consequences and costs of each solution and determine the best. Five, i go to my boss, outline the problem, make my recommendation and ask him/her for advice and approval.

**Tell me about a time you used data to make improvements**
 I caught inventory discrepancies and saved almost 10% of our project revenue.

**Tell me about a time when you did something outside of your regular tasks (i.e. that wasn’t your job)**
 I was always rated as being capable of accepting further responsibilities…

**Tell me about a time you were part of a failing team**
 Roles were mismatched within our team and that led to a lot of ineffectiveness. Someone who is good at numbers was responsible for the writing part. Whereas the person who is creative and good at writing got a data crunching assignment within the team. In sum, mismatch between what folks were doing vs their natural skill set.
 I set up a meeting for everybody to discuss their contributions and to see if we could match the skills better. We agreed to re-distribute the tasks and since then we were able to work more effectively.

Uneven levels of contribution: one or two people who are not contributing and lagging behind and conversely, another team member/s who is doing too much.
 I tried to understand why that person lacks motivation or is not interested. I also approached the person who is taking control and thanked her/him for everything they were doing but suggested to balance things out so that they’re not overwhelmed because that would be unfair.

**Tell me about a time you made a mistake (how you fixed it and what you learned from it)**
 I took on too much responsibility on a project and halfway through I realized that I wasn’t able to do it just on my own but i still failed to ask for help. Ultimately I ended up missing the deadline.
 I tried to fix it to the best extent possible…
 Through this experience I realized my own limitations. And even though i can be really enthusiastic about the project and want to do it all myself i need to get support and input from my colleagues.

**Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision, but didn’t have enough information / Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision**
 1. Data & analysis
 2. External advice
 3. Confidence in the best available information

**Where do you see yourself in 5 years?**
 I hope to be working with an employer in an increasingly responsible position that enables me to utilize my talents and work closely with my colleagues in solving important problems. And hopefully this will be with your company.

**A question about working in international teams**
 I don’t have any problems working with people from different backgrounds. In fact i find it energizing: with different backgrounds you get different ways of coming at problems.
 I had an opportunity to work with a variety of people from all over the world, and I am passionate about learning from other peoples’ perspectives and re-assessing my own beliefs and assumptions.

More questions:

**Why did you apply to that specific job?**

**Tell me about a time you received negative feedback from your manager**

**Tell me about a time you examined a large volume of data. What pattern or trend did you find. Did you spot any problem in that data.**

**Tell me about a time you had an idea (or suggested an improvement to a process) that was beneficial to the entire company?**

**Tell me about a time you sacrificed a short term gain for a long term goal**

I’d like to keep updating this post and so i’d be super happy to hear about your experience with competency based interviews! In particular what resources you used in preparation, what questions you’ve been asked, etc. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Originally published at Petra Spirkova.

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