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    So I have a basic customer service job at the moment, which I hate, but I put myself through an Open Uni degree and graduated this year with a 2.1 in a STEM subject. I didn't necessarily want to go in to a career based on that specific subject, I just thought having a degree would improve my career prospects, which it doesn't seem to have done at all.

    I had a Civil Service interview for a job I'd be more than capable of doing, but it was a bit of a step up from other things I've done. I didn't get the job but received mostly positive feedback from my interview. The main feedback was that I didn't answer some of the competency questions in a way which demonstrated I had experience on the level of the role I was applying for. There was one question which stuck in my head which was along the lines of "Describe a time where you've been responsible for something which hasn't gone to plan and you've had to adjust your approach, whilst taking in to consideration the interests of both internal and external stakeholders." A few of the questions were oddly specific and I struggled to relate my experience to them.

    I had another interview for a general admin job at a bank. I'd say the role would be a bit of a step down for me, given my experience and education, but I thought the job would have good advancement opportunities. I was told by the HR department to prepare examples in advance based on the behaviours required for the role, so I thoroughly prepared some really good examples. When I had the interview though, the questions were completely different to what I'd prepared for. They were still based on the behaviours, but they were so oddly specific, I couldn't even tell which behaviour the question related to and my examples were useless, which completed threw me off. One of them was along the lines of "Describe a time when you've encountered a problem that you'd need to speak to a manager about, but a manager wasn't available, and what did you do to resolve the issue." If I'd been allowed the opportunity to explain things I'd done that demonstrated their required behaviours, I would have absolutely smashed the interview, but I just had to answer these very specific questions and based on that, I was deemed to be not suitable for the role.

    I feel pretty deflated as I expected to have left my current place by now but I've just ended up back at square one, having to find new things to apply for. I've had competency based interviews before and I don't remember the questions being so awkward to answer. It seems anyone who's good at making things up quickly is going to perform extremely well, but trying to answer honestly with genuine examples has ended up working against me. How do people deal with this when they have a lot of experience, but they can't relate this to the specific questions? It seems like a bad idea to try making things up, but I'm not sure what else I can do when I end up in that situation again.
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    (Original post by smulx)
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    There are a number of things you can do to get better at competency questions. The first one is, if you aren't certain which competency they are asking about - ask! Just say - are you looking for an example of initiative? Is this about my leadership?

    Also learn how to reverse that - when you pick out and practice examples from your life, that time when the manager didn't turn up and ... work out how to spin it in two or three different ways, as leadership, as initiative, as problem solving etc.

    Then, make sure you are aware of the quality of examples you have versus the quality of examples the job wants. Education doesn't count towards competency at all, they are two different scales and you have to score well on both for most career roles. However, retail doesn't equip you for everything. Many weekend jobs are fine to show the basics of good timekeeping, basic responsibility, following tasks etc, but they don't show junior professional skills like analysis, having internal and external stakeholders etc. You are possibly going to have to think quite hard about those, or, alternatively, provide an honest answer that glides straight from I don't think I've ever had to do that, into but I'd do this ..........

    Then in terms of freelancing questions on the spot at interview, try to remember the STAR format, describe the Situation, your Task (or challenge), your Actions and the Result.
 
 
 
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