Competency Based Interviews

How to Master Competency-based Interviews

While traditional interviews will examine your previous experience, competency-based interviews will seek to determine whether you have the right skills for the job. This interview technique uses highly specific questions that address a particular ‘competency’ – a skill, experience, capability, or approach.

Most employers now use competency-based questions in their interviews. If you’re well prepared, this type of interview can be an excellent opportunity to showcase your talent. Preparation is the key to success.




It may sound obvious, but don’t expect your interviewer to announce that they’re about to conduct a competency-based interview. However, when you’re asked to give specific examples of your experience and use them to explain why you’re suitable, you’ll know what to do.

How to make sure you’re ready? Think about questions you’re likely to be asked and consider how best to use examples from your experience to answer them. Remember to think about the type of competency-based questions that will relate to the job you’re applying for.

Typical skills tested in a competency-based interview include:


  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Decisiveness
  • Working in a team
  • Leadership
  • Influencing


Here are a few examples of possible questions to evaluate some of the above skills.




How do you communicate instructions to others?




Can you give us an example of when you’ve had to rearrange your plans to react to a change in circumstances?


Working in a team:


How do you ensure you maintain good working relationships with people in your team?




Describe a situation where you have influenced people when there were conflicting agendas.

To plan your answers, you can use the ‘STAR’ technique as a guide. Think about the experience you’re describing and try to cover all four points:


  • The Situation
  • The Task
  • The Action you took
  • The Result of that action



If you’re experience doesn’t quite fit the ‘STAR; system, don’t worry. Just try to think about how you can use it to demonstrate your skills.


To show the STAR technique in practice, we’ve used the flexibility example above:


Can you give us an example of when you’ve had to rearrange your plans to react to a change in circumstances?


Example Answer:


“A good example of when I had to rearrange my plans to react to a change in circumstances was when a colleague was taken ill on the day when he was due to deliver a presentation to one of our clients.


The presentation was a sales pitch to a new client that we had not previously worked with, and rearranging the meeting was not an option.


I volunteered to deliver the presentation to the client myself. This involved researching the company and the people I was meeting, and learning the presentation fully before the meeting. I needed to prioritise this over the rest of my work due to the importance of securing this business for my company.


The presentation went smoothly and my company was awarded the contract, which has resulted in further growth for my current employer. This was a great learning opportunity for me to present to a large company and subsequently I’ve been asked to support other colleagues when pitching to other large companies.”