What are Competency-Based Interviews & How To Best Prepare

Competency-Based Interviews

  • Competency-based interviews are also known as structural, behavioural or situation interviews, which are designed to assess one or more skills/competencies. Where the interviewer has a list of set questions, each question highlights a specific competency and the answers the interviewee provides will be benchmarked against a set criterion and marked based on this.
  • Competency interviews imply that past behaviours are good predictors of future job performance. This is used by employers in different industries but is mainly used by graduate recruiters who may use such interviews during an assessment centre.
  • Competency-based interviews differ from normal or unstructured interviews which are often informal. Unstructured interviews are often comprised of hiring managers asking a range of open-ended questions which relate to the job like ‘why did you apply for this role?’ to gain an understanding of who you are and your interests.
  • Competency-based interviews are more intentional because each question is specific to the necessary skill needed to succeed in the role.

Frequently Competencies Recruiters Look For:

  • Adaptability
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Decisiveness
  • Independence
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Organisation
  • Resilience
  • Teamwork

Competency Interview Questions:

The questions that are asked during a competency-based interview are designed to test a range of skills, and response to these questions need to be in the context of real-life scenarios. The skills that are being tested varies this is because it depends on the type of job and industry you are interviewing for. For instance, if you are interviewing for a role in retail or a client-facing role, competency questions testing your customer service skills will be asked such as “Tell me about a time when you worked with a challenging customer, and what did you handle the situation?”

A general rule of thumb- expect questions that start with ‘tell us about a time when you…’, ‘give an example of…’ or ‘describe a situation when…’

Competency Questions You Maybe Asked at an Interview Include*:

  1. Describe a situation in which you led a team.
  2. Give an example of a time when you handled conflict in the workplace.
  3. How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?
  4. Tell me about a big decision you have made recently. How did you go about it?
  5. What has been your biggest achievement to date?
  6. Describe a project where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.
  7. Tell me about a time when your communication skills improved a situation.
  8. How do you cope with adversity?
  9. Give me an example of a challenge you faced in the workplace and tell me how you overcame it.
  10. Tell me about a time when you showed integrity and professionalism.
  11. How do you influence people in a situation with conflicting agendas?
  12. Give an example of a situation where you solved a problem creatively.
  13. Tell me about a time that you made a decision and then changed your mind.
  14. Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you had never attempted previously.
  15. Tell me about a time when you achieved success even when the odds were stacked against you.

Answering Competency Questions:

Use the STAR (situation, task, action, and result) method to structure your answers clearly and concisely.

For every answer you provide make sure it follows this format:

  • Situation: introduce the situation to the employer and set the context
  • Task: describe the task you had to complete, including the expectations and challenges
  • Action: explain what you did and how you did it
  • Result: end with the results of your efforts, including accomplishments, impact, and evaluations.

Also, try to link your answers to the specific job role you are interviewing for. For instance, try to use scenarios that you may encounter in the job. As well as, even though you would have prepared your answers well in advanced, try to avoid it from sounding like you have memorised your answers; try to make it sound as natural as possible. Also do not exaggerate scenarios or lie, that is no go area- and often it is easy to notice when someone is doing so.

Preparing for The Competency-Based Interview:

Make sure to prepare your answers well in advance!

Read through the job description, making sure understand the type of job you are applying for. Then from the job description identify the main skills the employer is seeking and then identify examples of when you have shown such skill. Try to make sure the examples that you are using cover a wide range of your experiences e.g., your studies, work experience, voluntary roles, or paid work.

*sourced from prospects

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