Identify Your Core Competencies

The competencies that are important in your profession or industry can be found in its job descriptions; performance reviews; letters of appraisal from managers, workers, vendors, or business associates; trade publications; and, of course, from your intimate knowledge of the workings of your profession.

It's important that you have fluency in the language of your profession or industry and that you can speak comfortably with the interviewer about these competencies. Review the following sources of information on core competencies and write them down for easy reference.

Job Descriptions and Classified Ads. Core competencies are listed in job descriptions. For all your past jobs, read the description of your duties and extract the core skills and abilities required to execute those duties and responsibilities. Then you can focus your interview preparation on these proficiencies for maximum effectiveness. Job descriptions and classified ads are one and the same. Both describe the hiring organization and outline the position requirements. Figure 2-1 shows a sample job description, that can also serve as a classified ad, for a customer service representative; notice how it lists the duties and responsibilities as well as the required knowledge, skills, and abilities. For your reference, I've underlined the core competencies.

Performance Reviews. Performance reviews involve evaluation of employees' skills and abilities. The appraisal form used for these evaluations usually lists the proficiencies involved and you can draw from this source when preparing your list of core competencies. Figure 2-2 shows

Figure 2-1

a blank performance appraisal form

a blank performance appraisal form, with the core competencies highlighted in boldface type. (The form also has blank spaces where the manager or evaluator fills in his appraisal results and where the employee can add his reactions to the evaluation—for this exercise, just ignore those portions of the form.)



Written Correspondence. Letters and e-mail correspondence that you have written on the job usually contain statements that reflect the core competencies of the position. Scour your correspondence for such examples and add those skills to your list of core competencies. Figure 2-3 is an example of an e-mail message that reflects core competencies that are required for a purchasing position.

Figure 2-3

an example of an e-mail message that reflects core competencies that are re¬quired for a purchasing position.

Keep SOAR in Mind

When answering competency-based questions, think SOAR: Situation or Obstacle, Actions, Result. That is, in framing your response, you need to concentrate on the situation or obstacle, the actions you took to implement a solution, and the results you achieved. But, let's look at each of these steps.

Situation or Obstacle: To provide context for the interviewer, begin your response with background information. Depending on the importance of the setup, you do not have to provide too much information—just enough to give the interviewer a feel for the situation (circumstances) or obstacle (impediment).

Action: Focus your response on the process you undertook to complete the project or carry out your responsibility.

Result: Close your answer with the results of your actions, casting them in a positive light.

This recommendation does not mean that all of your responses have to sound exactly the same. But by using the SOAR technique as a general guideline, you'll be able to keep your answers on target. Once you have assembled a list of your competencies and accomplishments, you can plug the right ones into your answers to the interviewer's competency-based questions.

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