matt dodgson headshot on video answering competency based interview questions
Jan 30, 2019

How to answer competency based questions in your B2B marketing interview

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer

Further Reading; B2B Marketing Interview Questions – The Comprehensive Guide

Transcript; In this video I’m going to give you a great technique to answer competency based interview questions better.

But if your knees start to go weak when those phrases are mentioned then I can assure you, you are not lone.

Because what they’re asking for, is for you to go into great detail about something that’s happened in the past.

Now, if you’re like me. I’m 40 odd years old, got 2 kids, and a few grey hairs, then half the time I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday let alone what my biggest challenge was last year and how I overcame it.

It’s tough. It’s really tough.

But, but…with all that said…there’s actually no reason to worry.

Because once you know how to structure your answers to these questions, then it’s much easier to knock these questions out of the park.

And not only that, I’m going to give you the most common competency questions you’ll get asked as a B2B marketer……

So make sure you watch until the end.

Hello, if you’re here for the first time, I’m Matt Dodgson and I’m a Co-Founder of Market Recruitment.

And we help B2B marketers accelerate their careers, whether you’re looking for a new marketing job or looking to hire into your marketing team.

And while you’re here I’d recommend hitting the Subscribe button followed by the bell so you’re notified when our next video lands.

Why companies ask competency based interview questions

So what is a competency or behavioural based interview anyway and why do some companies have them?

Well a competency based interview is a way of a company testing that you have the skills or behaviours for the job.

The idea is that the past predicts the future.

So your behaviour in previous situations will give them a good idea as to how you’ll react in future situations.

Competency based interview examples for B2B marketers

An example could be; why don’t you tell us about a time when you had a conflict with another team. What happened and how did you handle it.?

And companies use them for a variety of reasons. At a top level as I mentioned it’s to see whether or not you have the marketing skills to do the job.

But they’re also used to see how………………how you cope under pressure ,whether or not you have the personality to fit into the business,

or how much self awareness you have.

Basically, whether or not you’ve learned for your past experiences or realise what you did in that particular situation wasn’t right.

Now before we jump into the technique it’s important to discuss how companies measure your answers to them. Because this can be one of the common reasons that people fall down on these questions.

And let’s just say it’s a given you have the experience for the job i.e. you’ve managed a big team, or you’ve generated leads through PPC. Because….if that’s a core competency and you can’t demonstrate it……..then it’s unlikely you’ll get the job anyway.

What we’re focussing on here is more around the behaviours. Basically your behaviour when getting things done.

And what they’re looking for are these types of traits;

  • You have a positive approach to problems
  • You’re willing to compromise
  • You understand that you’re not perfect
  • You can handle pressured situations
  • And that you can learn and grow from your experiences

Common mistakes when answering competency based interview questions 

Well there are three common reasons.

Playing the hero

One is that they play the hero too much.

Yes everything was rubbish, everyone else was terrible and it was me who fixed everything. I’m amazing.”

Too negative

Or they’re too negative. They criticise too much and show a lack of empathy. Which is an easy trap to fall into if you’ve just worked for a terrible boss or a poorly managed company.

If that’s the case I’m sure you are feeling a bit hacked off but these questions aren’t the time to let off your frustrations. Even if that does feel good!

Answers lack the detail

Or they don’t go into enough detail. Their answers can be quite short. Which gives the interviewer the feeling that you simply don’t have the skills or experience of dealing with those situations.

So with all that said, let’s get into the technique.

The STAR technique

What I’m going to talk to you about is the STAR technique and it’s a nice framework to use to structure your answers in a way that it’s easy for someone to understand.

Remember…… part of the success of these answers will be how you communicate it to the person interviewing you who wasn’t there. So you have the be clear.

So…the S is for Situation. This is where you set the scene and give some background to how you ended up in the situation in the first place.

T is for Task. So basically what your job was.

A is for Action, so the action you tool.

And there’s a massive red flag here, especially if you’re a B2B marketer. And that’s the word ‘we’.

Because the company isn’t recruiting ‘we’, they’re recruiting you, so you must use I and differentiate what tasks were collective ones and what you did.

Super super important that.

And R is for result. And in B2B marketing speak that’s got to be tangible ROI if you’re talking about a example of your work.

So let’s see how this actually works in practice…..then we can get into the main competencies you can prepare for.

And let’s imagine you’ve been asked this question;

Could you give us an example of when you’ve generated leads for a business in the B2B Tech space with a limited budget.”

Detailed competency based interview answer example

And your answer could go something like this…

Ok, sure.

Well in 2016 I was working for Mulesoft as their Marketing Manager.

At the time they were fairly well established in the US but not so in the UK. And actually I was the 5th employee here so it was very much like a Startup.

And really my role was all about lead generation. I had a bit of support in the US but my remit was to take a very small budget and execute some campaigns to fill the funnel for the sales team.

So the first thing I did was to sit down the MD and sales team to understand the target audience a bit better. And from there I could build up a couple of persona’s which included things like their pain points.

On top of that I also picked up the phone to some customers myself to see what they said their pain points were.

And after that I had a really good idea of what was driving them to our solutions and also some really good ideas for content.

Now with there being a limited budget, I had to get creative on the content, so what I decided to do was create a meaty bit of content in the form of a long blog post, which I wrote myself.

Then alongside this I worked with one of the sales team to create a webinar, which was pre-recorded so we could continue to use it going forward. And within the blog post I linked to the webinar. I also promoted the post and webinar through social, on the website and then boosted the content on LinkedIn to our target audience we’d established earlier through sponsored posts.

Then if people came to website to read the blog I could cookie them and then re-target them with the webinar.

So that was the content, the conversion event was signing up to the webinar and then during the webinar we offered a free assessment of their current IT systems.

Again it was a lot of value and something I knew from my research would interest our audience.

Now………that particular funnel ran for about 6 months before we made it even better.

But in that first 6 months we spent just over £10,000 on creating the content, promoting it and the webinar itself.

And in terms of results we had just over 950 people sign up for the webinar and then 120 take up the free IT assessment offer.

And of those 120 we’ve closed 8 deals so far worth £380,000 and sales have still got about another £120,000 in the pipeline. So I was really pleased with it.”

Now…you might be thinking 2 things. Oh that’s easy, no problem at all.

Or you might be thinking oh bloody hell, that’s tricky.

And you might be amazing at interviews, and if you are, you probably shouldn’t be watching this video anyway.

But if you’re like most people, then you’ll probably feel you could perform a bit better at interviews.

Interview practice makes perfect

And my biggest piece of advice here is that practice makes perfect.

So many marketers lose jobs because they fall into common traps for answering these questions. And that’s because they have the mindset, well I know I’m a good marketer, so I’ll be fine in the interview.

But trust me, there’s a big difference between being a good marketer day to day and someone who’s able to demonstrate they’re a good marketer in an interview.

It takes practice.

So what I’d suggest is writing out your answers to these types of questions and literally rehearse them.

And by writing it down and rehearsing them, you’ll start to feel a lot more confident about delivering them well.

You’re not going to get it spot on every time but the more you do it the better your answers will become, until they start rolling off the tongue.

So as a B2B marketer, what sort of competency questions should you prepare for?

Well these are definitely some that I would prepare for.

Team work

Working with other teams. Particularly with sales so you’re more often going to asked something about that. And it will probably be something around conflict, or when someone hasn’t done something they said they would. Or perhaps if it’s an EMEA role, how you’ve worked with different cultures.

Project Management

Another common one is plate spinning. How do you prioritise or organise yourself when you’ve got different stakeholders pulling you in different directions. So think about systems, how you build rapport. How you learned to push back in a nice way.

So those are a couple of common ones from a behavioural perspective.

But you can also get a really good clue from the job description itself too.

[Watch video for this part]

So I hope you found that useful. Feel free to drop me any ideas for future videos in the comments section below.

Good luck and speak soon.