Competency Based Interview: What is it


A competency-based interview is an interview format commonly used by employers to assess a candidate’s skills, abilities, and behaviours relevant to a specific job or role. The purpose of this interview style is to gather information about a candidate’s past experiences and performance to predict their future success in a particular position.


In a competency-based interview, the interviewer typically has a predetermined list of questions, with each question focusing on a specific competency or skill required for the job. These competencies can include various aspects such as teamwork, problem-solving, communication, leadership, adaptability, and many others, depending on the requirements of the role.


The questions in a competency-based interview are designed to elicit detailed responses from candidates about their past experiences and accomplishments. Rather than hypothetical or theoretical scenarios, the interview focuses on real situations the candidate has encountered in previous roles, education, or other relevant experiences.


The interviewer evaluates the candidate’s responses against pre-established criteria or benchmarks. These criteria may vary depending on the organization, but they typically outline the desired behaviours, skills, and qualities expected from a successful candidate. The interviewer assesses how well the candidate’s past experiences align with these criteria and assigns a rating or score accordingly.


By using a competency-based interview approach, employers aim to gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s abilities and assess their fit for the job based on demonstrated competencies. This method helps reduce bias and subjectivity in the selection process by focusing on objective criteria and evidence from the candidate’s past performance.


It is important for candidates preparing for a competency-based interview to review the job description and identify the key competencies required. They should then reflect on their own experiences and achievements that align with those competencies, preparing specific examples to showcase their skills and abilities during the interview. By providing detailed, well-structured responses based on real experiences, candidates can increase their chances of success in a competency-based interview.


See below an example of some competency-based questions. Expect questions opening with ‘Tell us about a time when you…’, ‘Give an example of…’ or ‘Describe how you…’.


Competency questions you may be asked at interview include:

  • Describe a situation in which you led a team.
  • Give an example of a time you handled conflict in the workplace.
  • How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?
  • Tell me about a big decision you’ve made recently. How did you go about it?
  • What has been your biggest achievement to date?
  • Describe a project where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.
  • Tell me about a time when your communication skills improved a situation.
  • How do you cope in adversity?
  • Give me an example of a challenge you faced in the workplace and tell me how you overcame it.
  • Tell me about a time when you showed integrity and professionalism.
  • How do you influence people in a situation with conflicting agendas?
  • Give an example of a situation where you solved a problem in a creative way.
  • Tell me about a time that you made a decision and then changed your mind.
  • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you’d never attempted previously.
  • Tell me about a time when you achieved success even when the odds were stacked against you.


For expert advice on your recruitment project needs or support for your next career move, contact us today.


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