Competency-based Interviews

When it comes to job interviews, there is a particular kind that tends to cause a little more anxiety than others – the competency-based interview.

This style of interview is a popular format that helps the interviewer assess an applicant’s suitability for the role by getting them to demonstrate their knowledge and experience.

Far from a new phenomenon, they’ve been around since the 1980s, this style of interview has become more common in recent years, so it’s important to know what to expect. In this blog, we’ll look at some common competency-based questions and share a few tips to help you excel.


What is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based interviews aim to reveal the skills, knowledge, and behaviours a candidate will bring to a job. The interviewer will have a list of questions, each targeting a skill or competency required for the role. In response, you must describe a situation where you have used that skill, explain the action you took and talk about the outcome. The interviewer will then mark your response against pre-determined criteria.


Preparing for a competency-based interview

Competency-based interviews can sound daunting, but with enough preparation in advance, you can walk in feeling confident and ready to ace it.

The best way to prepare for this type of interview is to go through the job description and make a list of the key skills and attributes the employer is likely to focus on. You should then search for competency-based question examples that target those skills and begin thinking of examples from your career so far.

For example, if ‘strong customer service skills’ are listed as an essential requirement in the job description, think about a time when you have gone the extra mile to help a customer and prepare how you would talk about this.


The STAR technique

The delivery and detail of your answers count for everything in this type of interview. All that stands between you and your dream job is talking confidently about your work experience and offering examples of your successes.

Using the STAR technique can help you to structure your answers clearly and professionally, whilst splitting your answer into more manageable and memorable chunks. STAR stands for:

Situation – Set the scene and give the interviewer some context. For example, who were you working for and what was your role?

Task – What was the challenge or goal you were working towards?

Action – Explain what you did to overcome the challenge or to meet that goal.

Result – Describe the outcome and explain how your action impacted it. The outcome should always be positive and you should provide clear evidence (such as numbers)


Example Questions

Below are examples of competency-based questions based on some of the common skills you may be asked to demonstrate:



What is the most complicated project you have managed and what challenges did you overcome?


What is the most successful team you have been a part of and how did you contribute to its success?


Describe a situation where you had to explain something complex to a client or colleague.


Describe a complicated problem that you’ve had to deal with. How did you solve it and what was the result?


Tell me about a time when you had to learn how to use new software or adapt to a new system at work.


Extra Tips

Listen carefully to each question and take your time to answer

When you’re being interviewed, it’s easy to respond before you really understand what the interviewer is asking. The employer isn’t expecting immediate answers—they just want to know that you can think on your feet and draw on experience to answer their questions. Take a few seconds to be sure what competency they are asking about and decide which experience you want to draw on


Be yourself

As they say, practice makes perfect! Practice your answers at home on your own or perhaps with someone else who can pretend to interview you. But don’t rehearse to the point that you sound robotic. You must allow your personality to shine, so give relevant, structured, and honest answers that you confidently deliver.


If you need more assistance with preparing for a competency-based interview, contact us.

Visit our ‘Preparing for an Interview‘ blog for more tips on bossing your next interview.

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