What are competency based interviews?

What are competency-based interviews?

Different styles of interview techniques

Have you ever thought you were prepared for an interview and then been taken aback by the interview questions?

It is important to make sure you prepare for interviews. One of the first things you need to find out is what style of interview questions are going to be asked.

There are many types of interviews. Some are more common than others.

1.The general /casual type where they want to find out about you and your work history.

This style of interview is more relaxed and casual and smaller to medium sized companies usually take this approach.

The interviewer will ask you an open-ended question e.g., ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘Take me through your work history’.

This allows for a more casual approach where you can lead and highlight your achievements

2.The competency-based type. This style of interviewing is used mainly by larger companies and public sector organisations.

Competency-based interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a way to predict a candidate’s future performance, as they are 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-sized areas

  • Individual
  • Managerial
  • Analytical
  • Interpersonal
  • Motivational

 1.Individual competencies

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

Q1. 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.

Q2 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

Q3. 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.

Q4. 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.

Q5. 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.

For more information contact Cathy on 07751 856436 or email cm@cathymoranrecruitment.com