Friday, September 9, 2011

The Behavioral-Based Interview: Questions for a Grants Management Specialist
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by Amin Huffington
Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
Gone are the days when the interviewer would ask a silly questions such as "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" Today's interviewers are using a new tool to find specific information about you: The Behavioral-Based Interview.

Behavioral-Based Interview Overview Behavioral-based interviews focus on discovering how a candidate performed in specific work related situations.  This interview technique seeks to uncover how a potential employee actually did behave in a given situation; not on how he or she might behave in the future.  The premise behind this technique is that a good predictor of future performance is how someone performed in the past in a similar situation.  Behavioral-based interviews are becoming more common throughout industry and government and many candidates are familiar with this technique and are well prepared for these interviews.  Candidates can and should draw on previous work related experiences as well as non-work related experiences (e.g., school projects, community involvement) that are relevant to the interview questions.

A Grants Management Specialist should demonstrate experience in the following competencies:

Financial Management: Acquires and applies critical financial concepts and practices, based upon a thorough understanding of the Federal Government

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. Share an example of when you used information from a financial plan or budget to make recommendations for your office or organization.  How did you approach this endeavor?  How did you gain support for this effort?  What challenges did you face and how did you handle them?
  2. Describe a time when you had to establish a budget for your office or organization.  What was your strategy for resolving competing interests?  What challenges did you encounter?  How did you overcome those challenges?
  3. Share an example of when you used external financial information or indicators to make strategic recommendations for your office or organization.  How did you approach this endeavor?  How did you gain support for this effort? What challenges did you face and how did you handle them?
Key behaviors they will be looking for:

  • Establishes and maintains realistic budgets
  • Draws accurate conclusions from financial information
  • Uses financial and other quantitative information to manage resources provided for a project 
  • Interprets and analyzes the meaning and implications of key financial indicators
  • Understands overall financial performance of the organization and the resulting capacity to manage supported projects
  • Uses financial analysis to evaluate strategic options and opportunities and recommend effective and practical alternatives
Grants Administration: Administers grants and cooperative agreements, applying knowledge of organizational needs and deadlines

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. In this job role, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to apply knowledge of organizational needs and the ability to meet set deadlines.  Describe a time when you were required to seek help from an outside party to perform a certain job function within a set timeframe.  How did you go about soliciting the individuals with the desired experience to perform the job?  How did you evaluate their capabilities?
  2. Describe a situation where you had to take adverse action against an individual or organization because of lack of compliance with established guidelines or regulations.  What difficulties did you face? Looking back on the situation, what guidelines would you develop to communicate expectations and ensure compliance?
  3. Describe a time that you evaluated candidates to receive a grant.  What factors did you consider? How did you make your decision/recommendation?

Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Understands and executes the various stages of the grant lifecycle including pre-award review, grant progress monitoring, and award closure
  • Recognizes factors that influence the grants process
  • Completes steps involved in the solicitation process
  • Coordinates actions with program officials regarding administrative and programmatic issues
  • Develops guidelines for handling and/or adhering to grant changes
  • Determines when a grantee should be referred to enforcement actions
  • Communicates expectations and reinforces requirements with grantees
  • Leads activities to ensure grantee compliance with the established grant
  • Analyzes requested budgets and determines awarded budgets
Procedural and Regulatory Compliance Management: Maintains standards and adheres to regulatory guidelines and requirements with regard to processes and procedures

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:
  1. All institutions and organizations are governed by policies, procedures, and regulations to maintain standards and ensure compliance of mandated requirements.  Describe a time in which you had to understand, analyze, and maintain standards in order to comply with a policy, guideline or regulation.  How did you resolve conflicts between the task and the policy or regulation?
  2. Discuss a specific occasion when you had to reevaluate an internal organizational control to ensure compliance with a new regulation, policy or guideline.  What challenges did you face and how did you address them?  Looking back, what could you have done differently that would have improved the outcome?
 Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Applies comprehensive knowledge of occupation-specific policies, legislative processes, authorization laws, procedures and regulations
  • Analyzes, understands and complies with existing and new regulations, policies, laws and guidelines
  • Analyzes and evaluates existing policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance with Federal requirements
Process Management: Develops and monitors processes and organizes resources to achieve desired results

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. Describe a time when you had to identify, monitor and coordinate resources to achieve a desired result.  How did you achieve the desired outcome?  What would you have done differently?
  2. Describe a time when you had to create/develop a workflow to accomplish a task.  What was your approach? What was the result?
Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Evaluates efficiency and effectiveness of resources utilization and results accomplishment
  • Establishes clear, well-defined processes necessary to achieve the desired outcomes
  • Organizes people and activities to accomplish results
  • Identifies and addresses process problems promptly
  • Delineates complex processes into more simple tasks and functions
  • Creates a work flow that effectively coordinates and integrates tasks and functions
  • Identifies and takes advantage of opportunities to accomplish multiple objectives and obtain synergies through process development and management
  • Effectively communicates and coordinates with other stakeholders in the process
Quantitative Analysis: Examines and evaluates numerical data to manage and achieve results

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with a complex problem and the steps you took to simplify it to achieve the desired result.  What were the major roadblocks in simplifying the problem?  What was the outcome?
  2. Organizations gather and interpret numerical data in order to make comparisons and be able to solve complex problems.  Provide an example of how you used data from a variety of sources to create a tool for analyzing quantitative data and identifying trends.
Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Analyzes data in order to make comparisons and draw conclusions
  • Uses established data analysis models and tools for analyzing quantitative data
  • Identifies cause and effect relationships to solve complex problems for the organization
  • Gathers and interprets pertinent data from a variety of sources and identifies trends available through regular channels and alternative sources
How will I be rated?

While you are answering the questions, the interviewer or panel, will be writing down a number based on your answers.  This number will be between 1 and 5.  At the end of the interview the numbers  are added that this is how the person is chosen for the job.

Score Proficiency Level Description
1 Fundamental Awareness: (basic knowledge)
  • You have a common knowledge or an understanding of basic techniques and concepts.
  • Focus is on learning.
2 Novice: (limited experience)
  • You have the level of experience gained in a classroom and/or experimental scenarios or as a trainee on-the-job.
  • You are expected to need help when performing this skill.
  • Focus is on developing through on-the-job experience;
  • You understand and can discuss terminology, concepts,   principles, and issues related to this competency;
  • You utilize the full range of reference and resource materials in this competency.
3 Intermediate: (practical application)

  • You are able to successfully complete tasks in this competency as requested.
  • Help from an expert may be required from time to time, but you can usually perform the skill independently. 
  • Focus is on applying and enhancing knowledge or skill;
  • You have applied this competency to situations occasionally while needing minimal guidance to perform successfully;
  • You understand and can discuss the application and implications of changes to processes, policies, and procedures in this area.
4 Advanced: (applied theory)
  • You can perform the actions associated with this skill without assistance.
  • You are certainly recognized within your immediate organization as "a person to ask" when difficult questions arise regarding this skill.
  • Focus is on broad organizational/professional issues;
  • You have consistently provided practical/relevant ideas and perspectives on process or practice improvements which may easily be implemented;
  • You are capable of coaching others in the application of this competency by translating complex nuances relating to this competency into easy to understand terms;
  • You participate in senior level discussions regarding this competency;
  • You assist in the development of reference and resource materials in this competency.

5 Expert: (recognized authority)
  •  You are known as an expert in this area. You can provide guidance, troubleshoot and answer questions related to this area of expertise and the field where the skill is used.
  • Focus is strategic;
  • You have demonstrated consistent excellence in applying this competency across multiple projects and/or organizations;
  • You are considered the “go to” person in this area within an agency, company and/or outside organizations;
  • You create new applications for and/or lead the development of reference and resource materials for this competency;
  • You are able to diagram or explain the relevant process elements and issues in relation to organizational issues and trends in sufficient detail during discussions and presentations, to foster a greater understanding among internal and external colleagues and constituents.

When you are working on your resume, don't forget to keep in mind the type of experience that the interviewers are most likely to want to see.  Good luck.

For additional information on General Business Specialists follow the link below:

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