Example competency answers

Influencing, communication and teamwork:
Describe how you achieved a goal through influencing the actions or opinions of others. What were the circumstances? What did you do to make a difference? How do you know the result was satisfactory?

When reviewing the below example answer to the question above, consider:

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First Example

At university I was deputy president of the German Society and we decided to raise money for charity by organising a Christmas Ball. This had been done the year before and was a huge success, so at our events meeting I told the group I thought it would be a good idea to repeat it. Several other people in the group did not want to do this, but I was able to influence them that it was a good idea2,3. We started planning in October 2006. We had to make sure that the venue was local because otherwise the cost of the taxi fare would have put people off. We had trouble finding a venue as most were already booked, but we finally found one. We decided to hire the hotel DJ for the music and agreed the menus for the meal. We had the tickets printed to avoid anyone photocopying them, but this caused a delay and meant that we couldn't start selling them until the end of November1. Selling the tickets was a lot of work - we had to spend time staffing the ticket desk and going round lectures to promote the ball. Some of the group dropped out because of the pressure of work, which meant that it was up to me and the president to pull this off, or we would lose our deposit and have to cancel the ball3. We decided to join up with the Spanish Society and make it a "Modern Languages Christmas Ball", and we sold all the tickets. It was a great night, we raised over £800 (quite a lot by persuading people to buy raffle tickets on the night), and I know that the hard work I put in made it happen2,4. We gave the money we had raised to the RNIB.

Notes:

Suggested feedback:

This answer reveals a great deal about the applicant, not all of it good!

1Describing skills used
It's a very rambling answer which wastes a lot of space telling the story in detail and doesn't use the experiences described to highlight the candidates skills (e.g., should have left out all the information about the venue, the menus, the DJ, which are not connected to describing a skill).
2Describing how it was done
When the candidate says what he/she did (e.g. "I influenced the group") the answer does not explain how it was done. This is a big mistake. This is only giving half of the answer: the candidate needs to be much more specific, e.g.:
"by doing X and Y, I was able to influence the group."
3Negative aspects of the answer
Some things work negatively for the candidate in this answer: the fact that most of the group dropped out mid-way through the project (having warned at the beginning that time was an issue) suggests that the candidate's skills of teamwork, and of influencing the actions and opinions of others are not as good as he/she may believe. The statement "I told the group...I was able to influence them" put in this context suggests arrogance and an inability to listen to others, which caused problems later in the project. In this sense, the answer is quite naive and reveals a lack of self-awareness.
4Positive aspects of the answer
On the positive side, the candidate clearly explains that the ball was a success.

Decision: would you invite this candidate to interview?
No! The answer is not clear or to the point and there is not enough evidence of the candidate's skills. The candidate has mentioned that the result was successful although it isn't apparent whether this was due to the candidates input and the negative aspects of the answer raise some concerns.

Second Example

As deputy president of the German society during my second year of university, I was able to persuade a reluctant committee of 10 second year students, all with essays due and deadlines to meet, to take on the organisation of a German society Christmas ball for 400 staff and students1. I did this by creating an action plan with them which was built around clear agreements from individuals about the time they were prepared to give. This plan demonstrated that the project was achievable, and through it I won universal support for the ball. I then kept them motivated and focused on the task during weeks of planning and implementation by keeping in frequent contact with them all and acting on concerns raised2. A few weeks into the project I discovered that the Spanish Society had organised an event which clashed with ours and would damage our sales3. I suggested to the group that we approach them to see if they would consider changing their plans to join us in a "Modern Languages Christmas Ball" instead. I took responsibility for negotiating this with key members of the Spanish society. This was not straightforward as their plans were already well advanced, but I was able to persuade them that the ball would raise more money than their Sangria evening and that working together would halve the amount of organisational work for all of us. I negotiated a 50/50 split in profit and a fair division of the organisational work4. Within two weeks we had sold all 400 tickets. The ball was a huge success and together we raised over £8005. Without my initial influencing skills and subsequent communication, negotiation and team working skills it would never have happened6.

Notes:

Suggested feedback:

A good response overall which puts the answer into a clear context (organising the ball), process (how it was done) and outcome (the ball was a success).

1Scope of the task
A clear description of the scope of the task and the background against which it was undertaken
2Describing how it was done
This shows the process to ensure that team members were brought on board and how communication and motivation was maintained as the project developed.
3Reviewing and problem solving
Review and problem spotting - sometimes events get in the way of carefully laid plans and you need to be able to spot them and respond.
4Identifying and responding to problems or changes
A modified plan emerges as a result of the changed circumstances involving negotiating with another team to persuade them of the benefits of a joint venture.
5The outcome
A concrete description of the outcome: real facts and figures can be very persuasive.
6Describing skills used and evaluation of project
A good overall evaluation which identifies the contribution of the applicant to the success of the project and potentially what they learned from it. This sort of evaluation can be invaluable to help you evaluate what you have learned and how to apply it even if everything hasn't gone exactly to plan.

Decision: would you invite this candidate to interview?
Yes! The answer is clear and to the point. The candidate has provided detail of how they used their skills to achieve the result and why the result was satisfactory.

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