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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

When have you taken an unusual risk in the workplace? What was the outcome?

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Competency Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    When have you taken an unusual risk in the workplace? What was the outcome?

      How to Answer

      The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of taking calculated risks in the workplace and that you understand the difference between a calculated risk and a risky choice.

      Think of a work-related risk, like trying out a new idea to solve a problem. You may even take on a new responsibility for which you are not trained, which is a little bit of a risk. Give an example that shows you are thoughtful and strategic when taking risks.

      Do you weigh the pros and cons first? Are you considering how it will affect others? Do you believe in the company's bottom line? These are all things that the interviewer will be looking for in your answer.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Last month I took an unusual risk by taking an outside sales call when I am an inside sales employee. My client asked me to meet him because he had some additional business he was thinking of giving our company but wanted to make sure we had strong rapport before he handed the business over. I met him in person, and we got along so well that he gave me an additional $1M in annual business. I knew it was a risk because my boss preferred that I stay on inside sales accounts but I knew the reward was greater than the potential risk, so I took it. Well worth it!"

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "I once took a risk and rearranged the file room without asking. It seemed like we were running back and forth and I thought an alternate layout might make it run more efficiently. I was right. My boss commented on the layout and was impressed with my diligence."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "I took a risk this year by hiring a candidate who did not meet all of the requirements for the job; however, she showed more initiative and grit than I had seen in a long time. I trained her on the areas for which she was lacking, and she ended up outperforming some of my more tenured staff."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "I once took a risk to pivot my career out of marketing and into a sales role, with the intent of rounding out my business experience for future growth. It was a risk because it was something I had never done before and something I did not want to do long term. Having done it, it made me a better leader in the marketing director role I am in today."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "Probably the most unusual risk I've taken was applying unsolicited to the current position I have. My boss, the owner of the company, didn't have a position posted but I reached out pitching my services. She said it was perfect timing, interviewed, and hired me. It goes to show that taking some unusual steps or risks are often worth it!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "I certainly took a risk by leaving my strategic account management position to take an entry sales position in another organization. While it was risky, I wanted to get into sales and a startup environment. My family thought I was nuts. It worked out great, as I got basic sales experience, and earned a promotion within months. I was then headhunted out of that position to a strategic senior account executive role."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "I had put my neck out for a classroom teacher when a parent was complaining about how she handled a situation with her son. The teacher was a first-year teacher, and I was in the class at the time of the incident. It was controversial that I got involved, but I was not about to see a good teacher get railroaded for something that was not her fault. The outcome was positive, and though uncomfortable at first, it led to a great rapport between the mother and teacher once they were through the controversy. I am happy to have played a part in that and will always put myself in the crosshairs to do what is right."

      2 Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "Working at a call center meant that there were peaks of when we could expect calls, at these points we were all expected to take calls. I noticed that the board that listed call waiting times were getting longer and longer, and observed that one of my colleagues in the team wasn't working. I wanted to think of the best way to approach this - taking into consideration that she might have other issues going on outside of work to prevent her from doing any work. So I spoke to her, although this wasn't in my responsibility to manage the team, to see whether she was okay and whether there were any problems with the calls (she may have received a difficult call and wanted to take a break), she confirmed that she was just reluctant to join us on phone calls. I responded by saying that the team was struggling and her impact would make a huge difference to calls and balance things out for everyone else. She took calls after this but was a little upset that I asked her to go on calls, as it wasn't my responsibility to - but in the end, the result was better for the team."

      Stephanie's Answer

      This is an impactful specific example and absolutely illustrates your teamwork and work ethic, but it doesn't exactly address the risk factor. Why was this a risk for you? If speaking to a colleague felt like a risk (because you were her teammate and not her manager,) I would suggest explicitly stating that.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "• When I worked at ________, a customer was being extremely rude to my colleague, because the shoes he wanted weren’t in stock. I decided to stand up to the customer and informed my manager as I wasn’t going to let my teammate get shouted at for something that wasn’t his fault."

      Cindy's Answer

      Good start. What happened as a result? Why was this an unusual risk? What was the risk you took by taking this action? Did you learn anything about risk assessment as a result?

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