Competency based interviews

Competency based interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a way to predict a candidate’s future performance, essentially, a series of behavioural questions, the interviewer will ask you to describe a situation which demonstrates your abilities that will be integral to the role you are interviewing for.

Competency based questions can sound a little scary as they are so involved.

However, they are just a way for employers to make sure you know what you are talking about, complete with detailed explanations.

Key competency based questions

Drawing on over 20 plus years of recruitment experience, I have put together a comprehensive list of key competency questions, grouping them into five bite size areas

  • Individual
  • Managerial
  • Analytical
  • Interpersonal
  • Motivational
  1. Individual competencies

Your personal attributes; your decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.

Q.1 Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.

2. Managerial competencies

Your ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.

Q.2 Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.

3. Analytical competencies

Your decision making abilities; innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail

Q.3 Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.

4. Interpersonal competencies

Social competence. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams and the more collaborative they are, the more likely they are to thrive.

Q.4. Describe a situation where you got people to work together.

5. Motivational competencies

The things that drive you; resilience, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.

Q.5. When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?

The trick to answering competency based questions

Answers to competency based questions are very structured, so I would recommend the STAR technique, describing:

  • the Situation
  • the Task required as a result
  • the Action you took
  • the Result of that action

It’s all very well having a technique for answering questions but I think you would benefit from having a deeper understanding of what is required of you, along with examples of the questions themselves.


Remember, be yourself when answering competency questions; use real life examples and relate them to your experience, how you reacted or how it made you feel. These are not trick questions, they’re designed to create the best match between an individual and an organisation.

A little bit of preparation and you’ll quickly realise that competency based interviews represent an unprecedented opportunity to describe some of your finer moments to a captive audience.