Competencies count in scramble for jobs

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Planning to change jobs in the New Year? Be prepared for a deluge of interviews.

"Under the new age discrimination laws, competency interviewing is one of the only ways to legitimately differentiate between candidates," says Mike Hartwell, director of search firm Hartwell Buck.

Now that it's no longer possible to screen candidates on the basis of years of experience (or age), Hartwell says banks and recruiters acting on their behalf are asking more questions, earlier than before. Competency-based interviews, which ask how you'd react in particular workplace situations (as opposed to mind-bending questions such as the square root of 17.3), are the favoured approach.

What do they involve? Stephen Carter, director of resourcing at Barclays Capital and Barclays Wealth, says the bank has used a competency-based interview technique called 'Top Grading' since 2000. "The focus is on how and why people have made decisions or reacted to situations throughout their career," he says.

Hartwell Buck offers candidates coaching to help prepare for the array of interviews. The trick to succeeding in a competency interview is, he says, to come prepared with concrete examples of previous achievements. The competencies in question will vary from role to role, but hot favourites are apparently technical expertise, strategising, and leadership and managerial skills.

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