National Institutes of Health gs-1102 Contracting




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National Institutes of Health

GS-1102 Contracting

Behavioral Interview Guide

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.

Behavioral Interviewing Suggested Protocol





  1. As much as possible, all questions should relate to experiences that have occurred in the last 2-3 years (best for recollection of behavioral details).

  2. All behavioral interview questions should focus on what the interviewee did, said, felt or thought in the past. The interviewer should be looking for phrases such as “I did….”, “I said….” etc.

  3. Do not ask questions about what the interviewee would do in a given situation or what they would have done differently. The focus is on what the interviewee actually did/said/thought/felt in the past. If the interviewee uses such phrases as “I would,” the interviewer should probe by saying, “What did you actually do at that time?”

  4. The interviewee should focus on what he/she did, rather than what “we” did. While working as part of a team is very common and desirable, it is important to understand what the candidate’s individual role was. The interviewer should probe the interviewee if “We” is used in describing actions. For example, if the interviewee says “We implemented the new payroll system by…..”, it is the interviewer’s job to ask the interviewee what his/her role was and what he actually did (as an individual).

  5. Prior to delving into the detail of each question, ask the interviewee to provide a brief (30 second) overview of the situation by highlighting the beginning, middle, and end. This helps the interviewer to keep the interview on track. For example, if you feel lost in the discussion, you can pause the conversation by asking the interviewee where you are in the story (beginning, middle, or end).

Suggested Introduction to the Interview





  • This is a behavioral interview, which may be different from interviews you have had in the past. A behavioral interview focuses on what you have done, said, felt and thought in past experiences. Please use the first person as much as possible because I am most interested in what you have done, said, thought and felt in the situations. So if you use the term “we” rather than “I”, I may interrupt you to clarify what you did in the situation versus what others did.

  • I am going to ask you specific questions about your experiences and will ask that you try, as best as you can, to only discuss experiences that have occurred within the past 2 or 3 years so that you will be able to recall the details of the situations.

  • I will ask follow-up questions to get as many of the details around what you were doing in the situation. Imagine that I am making a movie of what you were doing in the given situation. I am interested in everything you did, said, thought and felt.

NOTE: The information provided above offers suggestions for conducting behavioral-based interviews. Interviewers should use this information as a tool and tailor the interview to meet the needs of the individual organization.



Contracting

Competency

Definition


Acquisition Management

Manages post-award contract activities through contract close-out

Acquisition Planning

Develops and guides customers/partners through a comprehensive plan for fulfilling acquisition needs in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Departmental and NIH regulations, policies and procedures

Contracting Financial Management

Understands and applies financial management concepts and practices related to contracting

Contract Negotiation and Source Selection

Facilitates discussions between customers/partners and potential vendors to agree on contract terms and evaluates bids or proposals to make contract award decisions

Federal and Departmental Acquisition Policies and Procedures Knowledge

Understands the Federal Government industry and how it functions as a buyer of services and products

Project Management

Creates and maintains an environment that guides a project to its successful completion

Quantitative Analysis

Examines and evaluates numerical data to manage and achieve results

Solicitation

Understands and employs methods for obtaining submission of offers or quotations to the Government from industry/vendors

Acquisition Management


Manages post-award contract activities through contract close-out

Key Behaviors:





  • Serves as primary point of contact concerning contractual matters

  • Works closely with customer/partner to ensure terms of contracts are fulfilled in compliance with the terms of the contract and applicable laws and regulations

  • Plans, directs, coordinates, and manages the various contracting functions, including administering, modifying, closing out and terminating contracts



Interview questions:





  1. Give an example, from either your professional or personal life, that demonstrates your ability to juggle several tasks and keep track of multiple deadlines at one time. What was your strategy? What challenges did you encounter? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the outcome?

  2. Discuss a specific occasion when you had to confront someone who was not living up to their agreed upon responsibilities. How did you approach the situation? What challenges did you face and how did you handle them? Looking back, what could you have done differently that would have improved the outcome?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Acquisition Planning


Develops and guides customers/partners through a comprehensive plan for fulfilling acquisition needs in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Departmental and NIH regulations, policies and procedures

Key Behaviors:





  • Analyzes and assesses customer/partner acquisition needs

  • Develops and documents the overall strategy for managing the acquisition in coordination with the customer/partner

  • Collects and analyzes relevant market research information from Government and non-government sources to facilitate development of the acquisition plan

  • Uses the appropriate sourcing approach and defines solicitation terms and conditions based on the business strategy

  • Defines and prepares the requirements document



Interview questions:





  1. Provide examples of how you demonstrated an analytical approach to assessing the acquisition (buying) requirements of a customer. What was your role? What challenges did you face? How did you accomplish your goal?

  2. Summarize a situation where you were responsible for developing a strategy for fulfilling the acquisition needs of an organization. How did you handle this situation? What was your approach? What was the result/outcome?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Contracting Financial Management


Understands and applies financial management concepts and practices related to contracting

Key Behaviors:





  • Works with project officer to develop cost estimates

  • Uses financial analysis to evaluate cost and price proposals

  • Selects the appropriate contracting financing terms and /or conditions for a given contract

  • Tracks expenditures to ensure compliance with contract terms

  • Analyses and renegotiates cost/price of contract as appropriate

  • Understands cost accounting and reporting systems

  • Understands and monitors the overall financial performance of the contract and draws accurate conclusions from financial information



Interview questions:





  1. Describe a time when you had to track and monitor expenditures of a contract (or project) to ensure compliance with the agreed upon terms. What tools/systems did you use? What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?

  2. Share an example of when you had to analyze financial information/data. How did you approach this endeavor? What recommendation did you make, based on your analysis, and why? If your recommendation was implemented, what was the outcome?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Contract Negotiation and Source Selection


Facilitates discussions between customers/partners and potential vendors to agree on contract terms and evaluates bids or proposals to make contract award decisions.

Key Behaviors:





  • Understands customer/partner’s scientific and technical requirements

  • Gathers information to make sound decisions

  • Employs established processes and techniques (e.g., tradeoffs, lowest price technically acceptable) to make well informed source selection decisions

  • Guides customers/partners through the review, negotiation and evaluation of bids and proposals process

  • Makes award decisions that meet the mission needs of the organization

  • Works with customers/partners and vendors to craft mutually agreeable contract terms, conditions and price

  • Documents source selection decisions and drafts contracts that include the agreed upon terms, conditions, special provisions and negotiated price

  • Engages in other source selection activities where required (e.g., debriefing offerors, responding to protests)



Interview questions:





  1. Describe an instance in which you were the pivotal person to negotiate a resolution to a situation or dispute. What was your strategy for managing the conflicting priorities? What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?

  2. Describe a situation where you have reviewed bids from outside sources to reach a favorable outcome for your agency/firm/organization. What was your strategy? What were your decision criteria? What was the outcome of the process?

Candidate Response:



Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Federal and Departmental Acquisition Policies and Procedures Knowledge


Understands the Federal Government industry and how it functions as a buyer of services and products

Key Behaviors:





  • Demonstrates knowledge of and compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the OMB Circulars, the HHS Acquisition Regulation (HHSAR), the Peer Review Regulation (42 C.F.R 52h) where required, the Procurement Integrity Act and NIH policies and procedures

  • Informs, advises and educates others regarding federal government contracting policies and procedures



Interview questions:





  1. Describe a time when you had to inform, advise, and educate others regarding federal government contracting policies and procedures? What was your approach?

  2. Provide an example of a time when you had to research information regarding government acquisition rules. What sources of information did you use?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Project Management


Creates and maintains an environment that guides a project to its successful completion

Key Behaviors:





  • Explains the processes involved in the initiation phase of a project and the development of an overall project plan

  • Identifies key stakeholders in the project

  • Identifies and analyzes environmental influences impacting on the project

  • Develops and manages the scope of a project

  • Describes in detail the process of resource allocation including human resources, and how cost, work, and time estimates are developed

  • Understands the risks involved in starting a project

  • Understands the importance of quality assurance and control

  • Develops effective communication skills to interact with members of the project team



Interview questions:





  1. Describe a time when you were responsible for managing a project with varying priorities that included staggered milestones. What was your approach? What steps did you take to ensure the appropriate stakeholders were involved? How did you ensure that you effectively communicated with your team?

  2. Provide an example of a time when you were responsible for managing a project where conflicts within the team developed. How did you handle this situation? What was the result/outcome?

  3. What has been your approach for monitoring and controlling risks throughout a project?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Quantitative Analysis


Examines and evaluates numerical data to manage and achieve results

Key Behaviors:





  • 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



Interview questions:





  1. Describe a time when you used your skills in quantitative analysis to solve a problem. What impact did the data have on your decision making process? In retrospect, was the decision correct?

  2. Describe a time when you applied your skills in data analysis to make a recommendation on an issue or decision. What process did you use? What obstacles did you face?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

Solicitation


Understands and employs methods for obtaining submission of offers or quotations to the Government from industry/vendors.

Key Behaviors:





  • Facilitates the process of seeking and obtaining bids and proposals in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies and procedures

  • Facilitates exchange of information among interested parties early on, and throughout the process to improve the understanding of Government requirements and state-of-the-art private sector and academic capabilities

  • Develops and ensures distribution of proper notices and requests regarding solicitation (e.g., pre-solicitation notice, request for proposal, request for information)

  • Employs various methods and tools, such as requests for information and pre-proposal conferences, to facilitate the most effective and efficient solicitation process



Interview questions:





  1. Describe a time when you spearheaded communications among stakeholders to implement a contract/plan/proposal. How did you ensure free flowing communication? What were your challenges? What was the outcome?

  2. Discuss your approach for soliciting bids/quotes from vendors to provide services. What specific methods or tools did you employ?

Candidate Response:


Interview Summary:


Summarize the situation, behaviors demonstrated and outcomes. Then provide an overall proficiency rating for the competency as defined in the Administrative Officer competency model.

Situation:

Behaviors:

Outcome:

Overall Competency Proficiency Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5

NIH Competency Proficiency Scale

Score

Proficiency Level

Description


N/A

Not Applicable

You are not required to apply or demonstrate this competency. This competency is not applicable to your position.

0

Not Demonstrated

You have not demonstrated this competency and likely have not had related training or experience.

1

Baseline
(theoretical knowledge)

Shows basic knowledge and understanding sufficient to handle routine tasks. Focus is on learning.

  • You are training or on-the-job training; beginning to develop this competency and have completed formal

  • 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.

2

Progressing
(limited practical application and experience)

Has depth/breadth of knowledge to handle non-routine situations. Begins to take initiative. Focus is on applying and enhancing knowledge or skill.

  • You have applied this competency in occasional situations and still require minimal guidance to perform successfully;

  • You understand and can discuss the application and implications of changes to processes, policies, and procedures in this area.

3

Proficient
(practical application and experience)

An expert who can handle broad organizational/professional issues; works independently; has long-term perspective; coaches, guides and empowers others.

  • 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.

4

Master
(recognized thought leader)
All criteria must apply

An expert whose advice is sought out by others, from both within the NIH and from the Department or other organizations; Shapes the organization/profession; is visionary; focus is strategic; copes with the unknown.

  • 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 from within NIH and/or outside the OPDIV;

  • 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.





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