How to Prove Your Top Competencies in 3 Easy Steps
By Heather Krasna
What are your strengths? Why should we hire you? Tell us about a time when you overcame a challenge.
Are you ready to answer these common interview questions?
Employers want clear, concise examples of your top skills, strengths, and competencies—and they want you to connect the dots between what is on your resume and what they want you to achieve on the job. To help employers see your top strengths, follow these three steps:
Brainstorm your top 5 achievements. Make sure the achievements you choose have a positive outcome, are professional, and are relevant to the job you desire. To determine your favorite accomplishments, ask a friend, trusted colleague, or career coach to tell you what they admire about you. What are some of the personal qualities you display that would make you a good employee? Are you reliable, innovative, hard-working, and accurate? Look at the job descriptions of at least 5 jobs you are interested in. Are there repeated requirements across each of the jobs? Does each job require working in teams, writing, conducting literature reviews, or building relationships with external stakeholders? Get a sense of the themes, and then ask yourself—when have you done the things this job requires? Does the job require knowledge of a specific subject area? Can you demonstrate when you have used this knowledge to solve a problem? If the job requires writing, can you prove your writing skills by bringing in examples of your prior written work? If it requires programming, can you bring some of your code and explain why you created it the way you did?
Write your stories down in detail in the “Problem-Action-Result” format. Where were you working, or what were you doing, when you encountered a challenge or problem? What specific action steps did you take to solve the problem? If you can, give numbers, percentages, names, and visual imagery. Telling a good story means establishing a bit of drama at the beginning of the story—what was at stake? Why should we care? Most importantly, what did you do to solve the problem? What was the final positive outcome? Make sure you resolve the drama you established when explaining the problem.
Prepare your stories as a resume bullet point; a 30-second statement; and a 2-minute story. Throughout the job search process, your prior achievements will help you prove your top skills, but you need several formats to convey them. A bullet point: “Created first-ever survey of client satisfaction by designing effective survey instrument; analyzed 2,000 responses using multivariate regression analysis and presented findings to CEO.” A 30-second story for networking events or quick questions, like “What are your strengths?” and a 2-minute story for “Give me an example of a time when.” Practice delivering these stories to a friend who can time them for you. You will be better prepared than other job seekers if you can prove your top competencies with stories and examples.