Ultimate Guide to Graduate Competency Interview Questions

blog Feb 12, 2022

Key Competencies:

  • Graduate employers look for several key skills or key competencies when assessing candidates during the assessment process.
  • It is important to demonstrate the key competencies with examples from university activities, part-time jobs, or other voluntary work.

Examples of key competencies:

Key Competencies
Teamwork Responsibility
Career motivation Commercial awareness
Decision making Communication
Leadership Trustworthiness & Ethics
Results orientation Problem-solving

What are Competencies

  • A competency is a particular quality that a company's recruiters have decided is desirable for employees to possess.
  • During interviews and assessment processes competencies are used as benchmarks that assessors use to rate and evaluate candidates
  • In interviews, recruiters look for evidence of competencies by asking candidates competency-based questions.
  • This style of question forces candidates to give situational examples of times in the past when they have performed particular tasks or achieved particular outcomes using certain skills.

Competency-Based Interview

  • A particular style of the interview process where the candidate is assessed for past behaviors, the key competence is demonstrated through past situations
  • Competency Interview is also known as situational or behavioural interview
  • A candidates competence is evaluated when relevant experience is not required
  • Competency questions can give valuable insights into an individual's preferred style of working and help predict behaviors in future situations.
  • Increasingly, companies are using competency-based interviews as part of the selection process for experienced recruitment, as they can give valuable insights into an individual's preferred style of working and help predict behaviors in future situations.
  • Conventional job interviews may focus on questions relating to an applicant's past or previous industry experience
  • This is an ineffective tool for graduate-level candidates who are not expected to have any former experience in the industry they wish to work in.
  • Competency interviews may also feature questions that probe candidates on their knowledge of the company and industry they have applied to. This type of interview question tests candidates on their motivation and commitment to careers.
  • A typical competency-based interview will last for one hour. At most major firms competency interviews will also be standardised. Consequently, all applicants can expect to be asked identical questions.

Why are Competency Based Questions Used at Interview

  • Graduate applicants often have no relevant experience in the field applied to,
  • it is not possible to assess candidates on ability and experience for the suitability of the role
  • This has led to the development of competency-based interviews becoming the prime way to interview inexperienced graduate applicants.

Typical Competency-Based Interview Structure

  • Questions in competency interviews will usually refer to activities in which a candidate has participated, which can display evidence of particular competency.
  • A typical competency question could be: "Describe two situations where you have had to work as part of a team."
  • The STAR method is often used to answer the competency question in a structured manner displaying all behaviours and actions being assessed.
  • The STAR method is used to discuss the specific situation, task, the action you took, and the result of the situation you are describing.
  • Prepare two examples of each competency from your past experience or activities to demonstrate your key behaviors
  • It is quite acceptable to ask for and to use a few moments of thinking time before answering competency questions.

Who Uses Competency Interviews

  • Estimates indicate that a third of all employers are using competency interviews as part of their recruitment process.
  • Large graduate employers are especially likely to use competency interviews as part of their graduate recruitment procedure, in particular as part of an assessment centre.
  • situational strengths questions are becoming more popular among graduate employers as competency questions have become common and predictable to most candidates

Key Competency: Motivation & Commitment to Career

  • Motivation questions are very popular amongst graduate and apprenticeship employers, the aim of this question is to assess your desire for the company and evaluate your commitment to the role
  • The assessor is looking to see if you have done your research about the organization and your understanding of the role.
  • There are three things you should always think about when answering this question - the company the role and how your experience matches it

Competency-Based Interview: The first 60 seconds

  • Although competency-based interviews are standardised, a typical interviewer will decide within minutes whether they like you or not, and this is likely to affect the outcome of the interview.
  • It is very important to give a good impression to your interviewer from the very first moment you meet.
  • Be confident and make a firm handshake with eye contact and a smile, introduce yourself, and small talk to ease the mood.
  • Sitting quietly and communicating poorly will not help you, and neither will boisterous or arrogant behavior.
  • You should be polite but outgoing, assertive but not aggressive, and aim to be every bit as professional as the interviewer who is assessing you.

Common Competency Questions

  1. Questions Likely to Be Asked
  2. Why do you want to join this firm? Why not a competitor?
  3. Why the line of service you have joined?
  4. What do you think you can bring to this firm?
  5. How do you think you will benefit from working here?
  6. Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
  7. What do you do in your spare time?

Interview Tips with Partners

  • Partners are trying to determine whether you are a trustworthy, genuine person, who can be trusted to deal with the firm's clients and give them the right impression.
  • They are also trying to determine if you are likely to fit in amongst other employees.
  • A partner has had many years of experience and if you talk about something bear in mind that the partner is likely to know much more about it than you do.
  • This interview is predominantly a matter of assessing social chemistry, so make sure you are personable, friendly, open, and relaxed.

Technical Interview

  • A technical interview is a type of interview that typically features questions that are specific to the role you have applied for, brain teaser and numerical reasoning questions, or both types of questions.
  • Some graduate engineering roles or finance roles can involve technical questions about some fundamental principles learned from your degree, for example as a chemical engineering graduate I was expected to explain Bernoulli's equation and give an example,
  • other technical challenges could be numeral reasoning logical reasoning or other aptitude tests which are discussed in more detail here    
  • Technical interviews are generally used to assess candidates for technical or specialist graduate job positions (such as jobs in IT, Engineering, and Science) rather than general graduate schemes.
  • Technical interviews may be used for fewer specialist roles (but if so only usually for highly competitive roles) such as jobs at investment banks.

Types of Technical Interview

  • It is not unusual for an interviewer to show a candidate a wiring diagram or a line of computer code and expect instant analysis in a technical interview.
  • Candidates should bear in mind that interviewers are not just interested in technical knowledge (although this is very important) but also how candidates approach problems, construct their thought process, and demonstrate personal skills, such as communication.

Technical Interview Questions

In a technical interview, candidates are likely to be asked questions that:

  • relate to specific knowledge about the company's technical activities; relate to understanding the technical work required to be completed as part of the job applied for;
  • relate to work completed as part of a degree course (if this relates to the job applied for);
  • require candidates to solve actual technical problems that they would be likely to face if employed.
  • Candidates may also be asked brainteaser questions and difficult numerical reasoning questions such as:

Example of technical questions

  1. How many manhole covers are there in London?
  2. Why are manhole covers round?
  3. How many golf balls are up in the air in England on a Sunday at 13.00

Panel interview

  • During a panel interview, you may find that only one of your interviewers is asking you questions. Even if this is the case, you must still make sure that you maintain eye contact with each assessor.
  • Do not talk directly to one person, but instead look from person to person when you talk, but always finish by talking to and looking at the person who initially asked you the question.
  • Industry issues or work procedures is not usually tested. The subject of your written exercise may also be used as the basis for a discussion in a later interview.