Tips & Advice

Task-based vs Context-based: A Crucial Distinction to Make In Competency Questions

How to answer competency questions during interviews.

Consider the paragraph below:

As a paralegal in the Dispute Resolution department at STRIVE LLP, I carried out important tasks such as bundling, billing, due diligence, updating financial spreadsheets and redacting documents. I also liaised with other departments of the firm when assisting clients, and also handled client queries where associates and partners did not have the capacity to do so.

How does this sound to you? Good, or not so good? Why?

I would say that this answer is not good. While you might believe that there was a decent amount of detail, there is another issue with it: that it is too task-based, and not sufficiently context-based.

What I mean by this is that you are bringing the reader’s mind to the granular, day-to-day tasks of what you were up to. There are two issues with this approach (what I call the ‘task-based’ approach):

  1. Even if you were in this particular role for, say, as long as three years, this approach does not reward that. Presumably, you are going to be doing the same tasks (e.g. due diligence, bundling etc), over and over again, across all different projects. We therefore need a different approach that provides you well-deserved recognition for working on different projects across your role.