It is always good to hear when one of our clients gets the partner role they wanted. It is even better when they give us detailed feedback about the process they went through, plus their tips to help others make it through! This post is the first part of a 2 part series, based on the experience of one of our clients who successfully made it through to partnership. You can normally expect to do a series of interviews within the partnership admissions process. One of these interviews is likely to be competency based.

What do we mean by a competency based interview?

This is an interview where the interviewer or interviewers are looking for evidence that you satisfy the competencies needed to make partner. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s fact sheet on competency frameworks:

‘Competency’ and ‘competencies’ may be defined as the behaviours (and, where appropriate, tehnical attributes) that individuals must have, or must acquire, to perform effectively at work – that is, the terms focus on the personal attributes or inputs of the individual.

‘Competence’ and ‘competences’ are broader concepts that encompass demonstrable performance outputs as well as behaviour inputs, and may relate to a system or set of minimum standards required for effective performance at work.

A ‘competency framework’ is a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (such as problem-solving or people management) required by individuals working in an organisation or part of an organisation.

Many firms will have ‘coded’ the technical skills, mindset and behaviours that they need from the individuals within their partnership into a competency framework. It is the competencies within this framework that your competency based interview will be verifying.

How will I know if I am going to have a competency based interview?

Every firm has a slightly different partnership admission process. There is no guarantee that you will have this type of interview. However, if any of these are present, then there is a strong likelihood that some of your interviews will be competency based:

  • the firm has a competency framework which covers the partners and you have been given a copy of this
  • you have been asked to fill in an application form which asks for “evidence of times when you have ….”
  • you have got multiple interviews to complete as part of the process
  • HR is involved in the interviewing process
  • the questions you are being asked within the interview often start with “tell me about a time when you…

What if I can’t evidence everything within the competency framework?

It all depends on what stage in your career you are at. For example, if you were similar to our client who was an ex-Big 4 partner and moving to a senior partner role in a UK top 6 firm, then you would be expected to pretty much evidence everything within the framework. If you are a director in a Big 4 firm and, therefore, not yet senior enough to solely source and win multi-million pound deals, then you wouldn’t be expected to evidence everything.

As with all these things, there tends to be points allocated to each question. If you fully satisfy the criteria you will get, for example, 4 points. If you show no evidence at all, you will get 0 points. If you satisfy most of the criteria it will be 3 points. You get the picture. At the end of the interview, your points will be totted up. Very often if your score is above a certain amount you are given a ‘green light’.

Or you could be given a red light if you have completely failed, and an amber light if you are not quite good enough to pass, but not bad enough to fail. Your scores from this interview will be considered with your scores from other parts of the process, e.g. your business case pitch, the assessment centre. If you have enough greens and ambers, then you will often be seen to be ready to be put forward to a partnership vote.

Any reds and you will not be put forward to the vote.

One of our most sought-after courses in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner is called “How to Build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner”. We think it’s a must-have in your arsenal of tools and guidance to help with your career progression. There is also a section on the Partnership Admissions process with guides and recordings to help you find your way through the system. Check it out!

Related Post

  • 5 ways growing your online presence NOW can help you sign up the right clients later

    5 ways growing your online presence NOW can help you sign up the right clients later

    With so many people working remotely right now, there has never been a more important time to have an online presence. Think about it, everyone is at home and searching online, so if you don’t have a presence, how will your prospects find you? We have always stressed how vitally important your online footprint is…


  • How to deal with a tough work colleague

    How to deal with a tough work colleague

    Read this article for over 6 tips to successfully deal with tough colleagues.