201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-Based Interview Style


Increasingly, employers today are using a tough new kind of interview to evaluate candidates and determine how well they think on their feet. To be successful in these new competency-based interviews, job seekers must be prepared with situation-specific examples that highlight the accomplishments, knowledge, and abilities they have that employers need. Featuring a plethora of sample questions—and winning answers—this book is organized by the five core competencies most interviewers are looking for:

• Individual ...

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201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Comptency-Based Interview Style

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Increasingly, employers today are using a tough new kind of interview to evaluate candidates and determine how well they think on their feet. To be successful in these new competency-based interviews, job seekers must be prepared with situation-specific examples that highlight the accomplishments, knowledge, and abilities they have that employers need. Featuring a plethora of sample questions—and winning answers—this book is organized by the five core competencies most interviewers are looking for:

• Individual responsibility (decisiveness, independence, flexibility, career goals)

• Managerial skills (leadership, delegation, strategic planning)

• Motivational factors (ambition, initiative)

• Analytical skills (problem solving, attention to detail)

• People skills (teamwork, communication, customer service)

This indispensable guide features fill-in-the-blank exercises readers can use to prepare themselves to demonstrate sought-after competencies and wow potential employers. It’s a powerful book no job seeker should be without.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Competency-based interviewing seems to be picking up steam at the nation's larger employers. If you have a crucial interview coming up, here's my recommendation: Spend some quality time with Matias' 195-page book -- the best I've seen on the topic.” --Joyce Lain Kennedy, Tribune Media syndicated career columnist

"Featuring a plethora of sample questions, this indispensable guide features fill-in-the-blank exercises." --CareerBuilder.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814415009
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 690,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

LINDA MATIAS, JCTC, CIC, NCRW (Long Island, NY) runs CareerStrides, a career consulting firm. She coaches clients on effective interview techniques. A former president of the National Resume Writers Association, her syndicated column appears on sites including CareerKnowHow.com, JobSeekerAdvice.com, and others. She also writes a column and produces a podcast for the YouTube channel CareerStrides and is the author of How to Say It® Job Interviews.

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Read an Excerpt


The job interview. It’s a constantly evolving environment. Just when candidates think they have figured it all out, they are exposed to competencybased interview questions (also known as behavioral-style interviews) that leave them clueless as to how to respond.

Competency-based interviews are quickly gaining popularity among hiring professionals as the most effective questioning strategy to identify and hire the right people. But what are competency-based interviews and how do these interviews work? Competency-based interviews are when interviewers focus on core competencies that are essential for success on the job. In addition, behavioral-style interview questions target the candidates’ accomplishments, which gives them an opportunity to showcase their successes.

This book presents 201 competency-based interview questions that you are likely to be asked so you will know the best way to answer these questions. This book provides the tips and guidance you need to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. To make it easier to navigate through the book, the information is split into three parts.

Part I: The Fundamentals. Whenever a new interview method, such as the competency-based interview, is introduced, it’s normal for applicants to feel insecure. The key is to not let self-doubt get the best of you, lest you run the risk of getting tongue-tied and making a poor impression. Filled with easy-to-grasp concepts and easy-to-follow advice, Part I effectively prepares you to enter this new world of interviewing.

Part II: Competency-Based Questions and Answers. This part of the book is its core.With these 201 interview questions and answers, you will come away with a clear understanding of how to broach this type of questioning strategy. Each answer has three components: situation, action (or observation), and result. The breakdown of competencies, along with the questions and typical answers, provides you with a variety of objectives and sample responses you can use as a guide when preparing for interviews.

Part III: The End of the Interview. The way you manage the end of the interview, and the course you take once the interview is over. can have a significant impact on whether or not you are offered the position. Complete with a post-interview analysis, this section provides scripts on how to close the interview and sample follow-up letters you can tailor to

fit your situation.

Key Attributes and Career Values

Key attributes and career values are personal characteristics and work strengths that employers will measure during job interviews. In the body of this book you will learn how to identify your fundamental competencies and shape each to appeal to employers. However, to begin, you can use your current job description to identify your employment-based

traits and your basic career values. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1. Pull out your job description and jot down your duties and responsibilities.

Step 2. Write down the actions you take to accomplish each duty.

Step 3. Identify the career values and key attributes important to each.

As an example, see Figure I-1. This shows what one person, presently working as a quality assurance manager, came up with when he followed the three steps just described. As you can see, he took his current job description (to create a safe environment, to conduct OSHA meetings, and to file accident reports) and paired those duties with the actions he took to perform those duties and the employer-desired values and key employee attributes inherent in those actions.

Gathering this job information and viewing it in this manner—in terms of key attributes and career values—will provide you with the resources you need to answer the kinds of competency-based questions that have been presented in this book.

The Competency-Based Questions

Chapters 6 through 10 present the 201 questions and give sample responses, keyed to the Key Attributes and Career Values described above. As a further aid, I have presented just the questions in the following section—you might see how well you can answer them right now, even before beginning to read this book. Then compare your initial responses

with those in the chapters that follow. In this increasingly competitive world, securing a job position—especially

the position that you want and that will advance your career—requires solid communication skills and the ability to answer these tough competencybased questions. With this guide you will be well on your way to getting that job offer.

Good luck!

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Table of Contents



201 Competency-Based Interview Questions at a Glance


Chapter 1: What Are Competency-Based Interviews?

Competency-Based vs.Traditional Interview Questions

Proficiencies That Competency-Based Questions Measure

Industry-Specific Competencies

Chapter 2: Preparing for Competency-Based

Interview Questions

Identify and Highlight Your Accomplishments

When You Lack Specific Experience

Industry-Specific Accomplishments

Identify Your Core Competencies

Keep SOAR in Mind

Chapter 3: Leverage Your Competency-Based Résumé

Competency-Based Résumé Tips

Accomplishment-Based Information

The Objective or Profile Statement

The Professional Experience Section

Selected Résumé Formats

Chapter 4: Why Candidates Do Not Get Hired

When Examples Go Wrong

A Negative Mind-Set

A Potpourri of Other Interview Mistakes

Chapter 5: Seven Ways to Stand Out During the Interview

Write a Personal Brand Statement

ReduceYour Anxiety

ImproveYour Speaking Voice

Be Concise

Common Words and Phrases to Avoid

Make Specific Statements

Script or Outline Your Responses



Chapter 6: Competency #1—Individual Responsibility




Career Goals

Chapter 7: Competency #2—Managerial/Leadership Skills


Employee Motivation

Ability to Delegate

Strategic Planning

Chapter 8: Competency #3—Personal Motivation



Chapter 9: Competency #4—Analytical Skills

Problem Solving

Attention to Detail

Chapter 10: Competency #5—People Skills

Team Orientation

Customer Service



Chapter 11: Closing the Job Interview

Some Closing Mistakes

The Closing Statement

Chapter 12: The Interview Follow-Up

Follow-Up Pointers

Competency-Based Follow-Up Letters


About the Author

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