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Competency Interview Questions

25 Questions and Answers by

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Competency was updated on May 4th, 2019. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 25

How do you explain complicated concepts to those who may not understand?

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Competency Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    How do you explain complicated concepts to those who may not understand?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of explaining complex ideas without being condescending to your co-workers or talking over their heads. Give the interviewer an example of how you break down information to make it more easily digestible for the average person.

      Think of a presentation about a complex topic, as a proposal to solve a challenging problem. The solution may seem obvious to you, but everyone else in the room is scratching their heads trying to figure out what you're saying. When you can define key terms and phrases to make them more relevant to your audience, you have skill! Not everyone can do this. Prepare an example that demonstrates your communication skills and your ability to convey complex information in easy to understand terms.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I find that when there is a complicated concept to teach, visual aids are always the way to go. Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners and that presentations with visual components are 43% more persuasive? I took a course on creating effective info-graphics and will often implement those in my presentations."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "Keep it simple silly! If you cannot explain a concept simply, then you do not understand it well enough. I recently rolled out a complex compensation plan with many anomalies. I took the approach to share a broad overview and provide detail for reference. I often try to make analogies or share complex information in the form of a story."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "I try to use written and verbal examples. If possible, I like to have hands-on examples, but that is not always feasible. Communicating in more than one way helps those with different learning styles."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "I often have to explain things to others outside of marketing, the how and the why, but not get stuck in the minutiae. It comes down to keeping it simple and talking in their terms while remembering what motivates them: sales, operations, or what have you. Keep it short and sweet. We can dive in in further detail later, but just give an overview that plays to their interests and move on."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "If a concept is difficult to explain, or understand, I will find visual aids to help. Most people are visual learners who will better understand if they see the concept in action."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "I find the best way to explain a topic is a multifaceted approach. If possible, I like to send a quick email memo summarizing or teasing what we'll be talking about, so the team comes in with the right mindset. Then, a quick overview in person, check for understanding or questions. I then recap and summarize or clarify, followed by asking for another summary of what we've discussed from another teammate. Then, I wrap up clarifying any outstanding issues. Following this, I send out an email blast that summarizes what we talked about, the questions asked, and asking for feedback or questions. This process allows for various types of learners to be engaged, and I find that giving collateral to review later is impactful to all. We all need a quick reminder sometimes."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "This one's easy. I have to target my language to 8-year-olds every single day. Just break it down in simple terms and give them more credit than you initially want to. If you can't explain it to a kid, you may not understand it as well as you think."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Biomedical Technician Interview

      "I abide by the KISS rule - Keep It Simple Silly! If you cannot explain a concept simply, then you do not understand it well enough. I recently rolled out a complex manual with many anomalies. I took the approach to share a broad overview and provide detail for reference. I often try to make analogies or share complex information in the form of a story."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Academic Advisor Interview

      "I find that when there is a complicated concept to teach, visual aids are always the way to go. Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners and that presentations with visual components are 43% more persuasive? I took a course on creating effective info-graphics and will often implement those in my presentations."

      2 Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "First of all, I find about the educational background of the person and try to relate it with their terminology and follow it up with a little story I can create if possible."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Excellent! It's important to meet people where they are, and at their knowledge level. Good job.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "• During my economics degree, some exam questions were phrased like this. I had to explain complex economic theories in very simple terms. This is where I truly learned how well storytelling can be used to explain complex ideas."

      Cindy's Answer

      Good. This is a skill that can be translated into the workplace.

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