Competency based interviewing. Marketing.
COMPETENCY BASED INTERVIEWS
Background and example questions for people interviewing for positions in Marketing.
This white paper is designed to help knowledge workers, professionals & semi-professionals, managers and senior execs CXO level prepare better for interview – this particular article is written to help the candidate approach their interview better informed and more prepared.
Where appropriate, in each occupational discipline, we have included questions for both individual contributors and management questions for individual disciplines.
This white paper specifically addresses the issues of how-to best approach handling competency-based interviews.
Here’s what we’ve got for you:
- What does competency-based interviewing mean?
- How to second guess what questions may arise and how to answer them
- Question bank – Examples of generic and specific questions you may expect
- Examples of specific questions, appertaining to people interviewing for Marketing jobs.
What does competency-based interviewing mean?
Competency-based interviews are structured, with the interviewer working from a set of pre-determined questions.
They work on the basis that your past performance is a reliable predictor of the future, so you can expect to be asked a number of questions that will require you to draw on specific aspects of your past performance.
Competency-based interview questions will typically begin:
- Tell me about a time when?
- Tell us what approach you took?
- Describe an occasion when?
- How did you go about?
- Give me an example when?
These are often based around core behavioural competencies such as:
|Initiative and innovation.||Developing others.||Delivering results.|
|Team leading.||Interpersonal skills.||Learning & self-development.|
|Communication||Planning and organising.||Analytical thinking.|
|Strategic thinking.||Building relationships.||Teamwork and collaboration.|
However, competency-based interview questions are more likely to be put to you in a specific context, determined by the requirements of the job and what is to be accomplished / achieved.
Why is it so important that you understand competency-based interviewing?
Firstly, HR is increasingly becoming recognised for its contribution to the business – once a discipline which many people saw as taking a back-seat, HR as a function is becoming increasingly valued.
- Importantly HR professionals becoming increasingly business savvy, better focused on business outcomes and more influential in driving up organizational capability through more robust recruitment and selection tactics and techniques for internal and external resourcing.
- Best practice in HR, means leveraging a competency-based interview approach; taking a more scientific approach to determining a candidate’s ability to perform in the job and this means looking for previous experience of success (competency).
- You can expect HR executive to be interested to identify experience which is directly relevant to the specific demands of the job, the goals to be achieved and situation in which it is to be done (business drivers, market conditions / dynamics….).
Second reason; most experienced senior managers or business leaders are either aware of the merits and rationale of competency-based interviewing or are subconsciously aware of it, and therefore will often use competency-based interview questions to assess a candidate’s real ability.
In relation to their questions, the interviewer(s) will analyse your answer around ‘what you did’, in terms of your experience, knowledge and skills applied to the situation that is in question. The question is most likely to be framed in terms of direct relevance to the organization and the job being recruited for, and you should look to answer it in the same terms.
You will demonstrate the extent of your affinity to the organization’s activities. The interviewer, and certainly if they are part of HR, will want to know ‘how you did what you did’. This relates to the behavioural competencies that are relative to the values of the organization. Are you a fit with the desired culture of the organization?
For more senior roles, and particularly jobs that involve people management, apart from the technical skills and general behavioural aspects, management of people is key. However, it is increasingly common for the term leadership to be used, therefore it may help to provide some delineation between the two terms.
Management is seen as the transactional processes by which an organization is steered, and its activities are planned, directed and executed procedurally.
Leadership is considered to be a more transformational activity in which influence is created and used to bring about people performance. So, we can see fundamental differences in approach – authoritarian v. charismatic, short-term objectives v. strategic vision, doing things right v. doing the right things.
Leadership is seen as much more behaviourally driven, an innate characteristic of nature rather than learned, hence it may drive competence interview questioning that has greater focus on emotional intelligence.
Competence questions have their foundation in the premise that how a person behaves in a given situation is characteristic, rather than what they say they would theoretically do in a given situation, which may or may not be the case in the event. At the most senior levels of an organization, the criticality of leadership will feature strongly in the manner of the competence interview questions that you will be asked, as much as your focus on past business performance.
How to second guess what questions may arise.
The keys to unlocking what competency-based interview questions you may face, lie in the following clues and combinations…
Expect questions to be focused on very predictable business-critical goals for which you will be expected to be responsible, and against which your performance will most likely be measured, and by which success or failure will be determined. These are most likely to be industry-sector and job specific. Consider what matters most in the position into which the employer is hiring – the key challenges of the role, the key issues facing the business, its ambitions and objectives. Anticipate what areas you think they are most likely to probe you about. Where does your experience and achievements relate?
You should reflect on what insight you have into the opportunity from any job spec, briefing from a head-hunter, internal recruiter, job advert, inside line from someone in your network, news items or other media items including their website, then try to second guess what questions they are most likely to put to you. Consider sitting in the interviewers’ shoes and think about what questions you might ask if you were on their side of the table.
Factors most likely to influence the shape of the competency-based interview question /s!
Take a broad view of the organization itself – its size and spread geographically, its range of products and services, its operational activities, its recent market performance, emerging issues; something of a SWOT analysis.
What will be the impacts required of the role-holder – critical short-term deliverables, long term ambitions, key areas of influence, in the context of the organization.
Now, look to define the role in terms of the important attributes (experience, knowledge, skills) that will underpin delivery of job performance. You have got to the interview stage so what is it on your CV that will likely have interested them in you.
Okay, now try to prepare and plan for the interview itself. Think about the concepts raised in the above visual and consequently which competency-based questions are they most likely to put to you.
How to answer competency-based interview questions?
Answer competency-based interview questions using the STAR formula!
- SITUATION – say where you were (employer name), what your role was and when it happened.
- TASK – outline the challenge or nature of the project for which you were responsible and why it was important in the context of impact on the organization.
- ACTION – explain how you approached the task and the actions you took. If your efforts were part of a team effort, focus most on what you did, and what you contributed. Avoid saying what you thought you might do – you need to focus on what you have achieved and how you achieved it.
- RESULT – what were the outcomes? These should be substantiated with facts and figures and should show you in a positive light.
What if you can’t think of a good or recent example?
In this case you may wish to tell the interviewer that you cannot think of a directly comparable situation, but you can think of something similar, and then elaborate on how you might have approached this task if faced with it. The interviewer will normally accept this approach. The length of your answer. Expect sub questions.
Your response to any competency-based question needs to be focused but in dealing with all four points of the STAR technique in sufficient detail, it is not untypical for a response to take around five minutes to explain. If you have not covered aspects that the interviewer is looking for you to cover, they may interject or at the end of your answer give you one or more ‘prompt’ questions but it is also common for an interviewer to give you a series of sub-questions having asked the main question, to give you a steer as to what they are looking for you to cover in your response. In answering competence-based interview questions, the process you apply is important to make sure that you give the best answers you can.
Having been asked the question, give yourself some thinking time so that you identify a particularly relevant scenario for your response and to prepare and frame your response so that it is comprehensive yet focused.
- The interviewer will expect you to take time to prepare your answer.
- Feel free to ask for the question to be repeated – you need to be certain that you understand the question.
- Have a pen and paper to note the salient points of the question as a reminder of what needs to be addressed if you personally feel comfortable and confident in this approach.
- If you think you may be going off track with your answer, ask for the question to be repeated – better safe than sorry.
- Expect the interviewer to be writing notes as you talk.
Examples of generic competency-based interview questions
Communication and presentation skills
- Think of a time when you tried to persuade someone else to adopt your point of view. What was the situation? How did you present your views / arguments? What was the result?
- Tell us about a major change you have experienced in your work environment.
- Tell us about a time when you failed. Why did you fail? What did you learn from the situation?
Delivering results / results orientation
- Tell us about a project where you have persisted in spite of obstacles.
- Tell us about a major achievement and how you went about it.
- Describe a time when you experienced setbacks in your work.
- Tell me about a time when you needed to persuade others to commit to a course of action.
- Describe a situation where you got people to work together.
- Can you tell me the last time you upset someone? What happened?
Use of initiative
- Tell me about a time when you undertook a project in an area in which you had little or no experience.
- Tell me about a time when you initiated a change on your own. How did you present this to your boss?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you wanted to initiate a project on your own? How did you go about it?
Planning and organising
- Tell me about a complex project you’ve been responsible for that required significant planning.
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet an objective / deadline.
- Give me an example of a time when you have had to change your plans.
Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.
Describe a time when your analytical skills were put to the test.
Tell me about the most complex or difficult information you have had to analyse.
- Tell me of a time when you have influenced strategy.
- Can you tell me about a time when you implemented a plan that had long-range implications?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you developed a mission statement?
- Tell me about a time when you quickly developed a relationship with a new colleague or client.
- Give me an example of a time when you went about building good working relationships within a team.
- Describe a situation in which you had to develop and maintain a working relationship with someone with whom you didn’t like
- to work. How did you do that?
- Describe a time when you have had to change a process or methodology. How did you go about it?
- Can you describe a time when you had to influence business decisions in a business unit not directly accountable to you?
- Describe your recent experience of partnering with senior managers to influence commercial outcomes.
Commercial and business awareness
- Describe a situation where you championed strategic thinking corporately.
- Describe financial / commercial decisions that you have made / advised on.
- Tell us about an occasion when you borrowed ideas from other industries.
Decision making – problem solving and analysis
- Tell us about a particularly difficult decision you have had to make.
- Describe a complex problem that you have had to deal with. What approach did you take?
- Tell us about some of the analytical methods you have used in the past, e.g. cost / benefit analysis. How have these helped you add value?
- Can you tell me about a time when you have had to resolve conflict between individuals?
- Describe a time where you have had to use different approaches to deal with different personalities.
- Can you describe a time when you worked in a team drawn from other departments / areas of your business?
- Who is the most difficult person you have ever had to manage?
- Describe your approach to leadership style in your last position / s.
- What is the best team you’ve led and why?
- Tell me about a time when you led a dysfunctional team.
- What techniques have you used to encourage others to contribute to the team?
Marketing – example questions
Key to shaping the products and services of an organization to the customer base, the Interviewer will look to see how you apply your expertise to drive critical decision making and position the organization directly in front of its potential customers.
Your knowledge of customer thinking and behaviour must be insightful and soundly assessed if you are to establish that vital relationship between the organization’s product and the customer.
Your strategic thinking as a manager will drive key business decisions that have will massive impact – positive or negative – on business performance.
Your commercial track record must be clearly demonstrable in relation to the business performance.
Expect the interviewer to drive to the very core of your critical analysis and judgement.
Describe your most successful marketing campaign in the last 3 years.
- What was the product or product range and what did you see as the key elements of the customer proposition or propositions?
- How did you develop your campaign and what lay behind your concepts?
- How did you launch the product?
- How did you measure the impact of your marketing?
- What were the outcomes, in relation to the cost of the campaign, the leads generation / sales achieved directly from the campaign and how the costs of the campaign compared with the money spent? In what way was it a profitable exercise or a cost to the business.
- What works best?
Describe an occasion when your evaluation of buyers’ behaviour was
particularly instrumental in the development of your marketing tactics.
- What was the product and who were the target customers?
- What did you identify as the significant features of buyers’ behaviour in this case?
- Why was this data so influential in the development of your tactics?
- What did you do that was directly in response to this analysis?
Tell us about a time when you believed that you optimised your marketing output on a tight budget and how you ensured that your marketing delivered value for money.
- What was the situation and why was budget constrained?
- What did you do to optimise you spend and ensure real focus on value?
- What were your results?
- What would you have done differently with a larger budget and would that have provided a better ROI?
Tell me about where you have utilized the marketing streams afforded by e-commerce and how you ensured that you were best served by the technology available.
- What did you see as the opportunity?
- How did the technology fit with your needs?
- How did you apply the technology?
- What has worked well and what hasn’t, and why?
Tell me how you have capitalized on the emerging opportunities afforded by social media to develop your marketing capability and how you have evaluated the success of their use.
- What opportunities did you identify?
- What aspects of social media did you see as relevant and why?
- How did you apply them to your products?
- What has been successful and where was the use of social media less than successful, and why?
Tell me about a campaign in which you have managed a supplier, how did you go about it?
- What was the situation?
- Was it an existing relationship?
- How did you go about establishing expectations?
- How did you manage the relationship?
- What issues arose and how did you deal with them?
- How did you evaluate the success of the supplier?
Tell me about a customer event which you have organised recently?
- What was the event needed for?
- What was your concept of the event and how did you see it as relevant?
- What did you do?
- What feedback did you get around the event?
Can you tell me about a time when you have created customer case studies and promoted them?
- What was the nature of the marketing campaign?
- Why did you see this approach as relevant?
- What approach did you take?
- How did you use the case studies?
- How did you evaluate the success of the approach?
Tell me about a time when you were responsible for a new market entry e.g. new product, new geography (local /
international) or new market segment.
- What was the product and its intended market?
- What were your ideas and on what research were they based?
- What plans did you put in place and actions did you take?
- How successful were you?
Specific marketing functions
Tell me how you have developed and used Partner / Channel Marketing to good effect.
- What was the situation?
- Why was this a good choice of overall approach?
- How did you determine the best choices for Partner/Channel Marketing?
- What issue did you have to overcome?
- What worked well and what didn’t work so well?
Tell me about a time when you have used joint marketing initiatives
- What led you this choice?
- Why was the perceived benefit?
- What arrangements did you establish?
- What issues did you experience and how were they managed?
- How did you evaluate the success of approach?
Tell me about a time when you were responsible for a major product launch
- What was the product and what was the target market?
- What were the main elements of your launch strategy?
- What plans did you develop?
- How did implementation go?
- How successful were you?
Tell us about a time when you established a promotional activity for reasons that were not directly product related.
- What had generated the thinking?
- What approaches were considered, which one was selected and why?
- How was it received?
- What was the benefit to the organization?
- Press and PR
Tell me about a statement you have issued to the press.
- What was the situation?
- How did you determine the approach to be taken?
- What approach did you take?
- Who else was involved?
- How did it land?
Describe how you have used the press to feature positive reports about your company or products.
- Had you created public relations materials to earn publicity based on a specific overall strategy?
- Tell me how you used an overall Public Relations Strategy to define your brand, how you want people to perceive you and what
- you want to accomplish in the way of publicity?
- Describe a time when you went cultivating a relationship with the press?
Tell me about a time when you handled the press in a crucial situation?
- What was the situation?
- What was your situational analysis?
- Who needed to be involved?
- How did you set things up/?
- What were the key messages and how ere they transmitted?
- How were they interpreted in the press?
- Marketing communications and corporate communications
Tell me about a time when you undertook a strategic demand generation campaign?
- What was the situation?
- In what way if any did these incorporate advertising, branding, direct marketing, design / packaging and promotion?
- How successful were you?
Describe a recent significant initiative where you have promoted your company as a whole or sought to re-position
the perception of the company, repair the image of the company?
- What was the objective?
- What was the initiative?
- What prompted this approach?
- What communications were made and why were these seen as appropriate??
- Market research
Tell me about a time when your research and analysis of consumer needs was central in shaping product development?
- What were the methods of research that you used and why?
- How did you evaluate the data, what insight did you gain and what were your conclusions?
- Who did you communicate with and how did you present your views?
- What was the response?
Tell me about a time when identification and focus on market segmentation was a key feature of your delivery of a successful marketing strategy?
- How did you identify the customer base and its segments?
- What choices did the organization have to make based upon this segmentation
- What did you recognise as the key elements of target differentiation?
- How successful were you in each segment?
Can you talk me through an occasion when you worked with the CEO to shape the direction of the business and your input to the overall business plan to move the company forward?
- What position were you in?
- What vision did you CEO have?
- What was your view and input?
- How did it shape the CEO’s position?
- What were the key elements of the business plan that you influenced?
Tell me about a time when you have written a marketing plan.
- What was the position of the business?
- What did you see as the key elements of your plan?
- In what ways did you assess the profitability and strategic outcomes, of the various options open to you.
- How did you go about determining the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats of the options open to you?
Describe a time when you have re-assessed the entire company’s approach to marketing.
- Why was your assessment necessary?
- What approach did you take and why?
- What were your conclusions?
- How did you take things forward?
Describe a time when you analysed the marketing spend and value for money?
- How did you conduct your analysis?
- What data did you have and what data needed to be worked up?
- What were your findings?
- How did you use that analysis to change things?
Tell us about your management of marketing in relation to an organization looking to break into a new market.
- What was the market opportunity and why was it significant for the organization?
- What was your analysis of the competition and what did you see as the main barriers to entry?
- How did you look to build and associate the existing brand with the new market, or did you do something completely different?
- How did you seek to differentiate your products from the existing market offerings?
- How did your market performance compare against targets?
Tell me about your development of a marketing strategy in relation to the business plan, and what the key features were of that strategy.
- What were the key elements of the business plan that you had to address?
- How did you see priorities in terms of the short, medium and long term?
- What were the strategies that you developed and why?
- What means did you apply to drive and track performance?
- Can you tell me about a time when you have re-assessed your company’s marketing spend and value for money?
Describe to me how you managed the development of branding and propositions for a new business.
- What market or markets were you aiming at?
- What did you do to build the brand with the requisite image?
- What were the propositions that you saw as critical to successfully establish your market presence?
- How did you influence and steer your senior level colleagues and what KPI’s did you establish to adjudge success?
Describe to me how your role within an organization influenced R&D, production and financial planning within that organization.
- What did you see as your accountability for interaction with the other functions and information flow?
- How did you structure that interaction to achieve your aims?
- What did you see as the key aspects of your influence in relation to the other functions?
- What issues did you experience and how did you address them to provide workable solutions?
Tell me about a time when a key marketing plan was negatively impacted by an internal issue and you had to engage with external stakeholders to manage expectations and business reputation.
- What was the situation?
- How did you assess the impact on external stakeholders?
- What actions did you take to manage customer expectations and business reputation?
- What support did you provide internally?