Competency Based Interview Questions

Competency Based Interview Questions: Definition

Competency based interview questions are questions that are designed to determine a candidate’s behaviour when faced with specific scenarios. They require a lot more detail than standard interview questions and candidates would be expected to provide many examples in order to address whatever competency is being enquired about.

What is their Purpose?

The purpose of competency based questions is to get candidates to provide examples of where or when they have shown particular skills or abilities. Candidates will be asked a series of in depth questions which relate to various different competencies and then each answer that the candidates give, will be marked by the interviewer and HR department against a set of pre-determined criteria.
In this manner, interviewers are then able to compare the scores of all the competing candidates, after the interview process is complete and easily identify who ticks all the boxes for the role they are recruiting for. So, in a sense, having a competency based interview is like taking an oral examination.

Example Competencies

There is a huge list of competencies that interviewers might want to test their candidates for but these can vary depending on the kind of role that is being applied for. Below is a list that itemises some of the more common competencies that you may have come across before and out of the huge choice of competencies, are more than likely to be visible in some way on your CV:

• Teamwork
• Organisation
• Communication: verbal, listening and written
• Problem Solving
• Discipline
• Leadership

There are, of course, many, many more competencies that you can have and that specific roles might require, so it is worth listing these too in order to enable you to:
a) Work out if you have that particular competency;
b) Start preparing some detailed examples to showcase how you have that particular competency

Adaptability – being able to show how easily you can adapt to different environments and how you can remain stress free when situations change with little or no warning.
Awareness – being able to show that you understand external goings on; in the news, in the relevant industry and are aware of what affects the organisation and stakeholders.
Compliance – being able to show how you can apply yourself to follow the rules and regulations of the company.
Conflict Management – being able to show how you are able to manage negative confrontations and constructively resolve disagreements between co-workers.
Creativity – being able to show how you enjoy introducing new ideas and how you are able to think outside of the box.
Decisiveness – being able to show how you can make well-informed decisions in a timely and effective manner, even when the consequences are not going to be pleasant.
Delegation – being able to show how you can assign relevant tasks to others so that the overall objective is easier to achieve, whilst still being there as a source of support.
Independence – being able to show that you can act on your own and trust your own sense of judgement without relying too heavily on others.
Integrity/ Trustworthiness – being able to show that you have a sense of morality; of what is right and wrong and can apply this to your job.
Motivational – being able to show that you can motivate yourself and have the ability to inspire others even when times are tough, to do the best job possible.
Risk Taking – being able to show that you are able to weigh up the pros and cons of a risk and take appropriate action depending on your resulting calculations.
Sensitivity – being able to show that you are aware of others, the environment and the organisation and can take other people’s feelings/needs into account and act, or not act, based on those feelings/ needs.

Sample Competency Based Interview Questions

The majority of competency based interview questions will ask candidates to give examples of situations where they can show that they have demonstrated specific skills. However, the format of these questions can vary quite a lot.
The important thing to keep in mind is that individual questions are looking for candidates to showcase multiple skills and abilities and that you must demonstrate that you have the required skills by using real examples not just theoretical ones.
Below are a number of sample interview questions that you can practice answering, keeping in mind that you need multiple, real examples.
– Tell me about a time where it was important that you worked as part of a team.
– Describe a time where you were part of a team. What positive contributions did you make?
– Think of a time where you were leading a team, how did you ensure that each member was allowed to participate?
– Tell us about a decision that you have made that was unpopular, what was your thought process and how did you deal with your colleagues’ negative reactions?
– What is the biggest risk you have taken in your professional or personal life? Why did you make it and how did you handle the process?
– What do you class as your biggest failure? How did you deal with it and what have you learnt from it?
– What’s the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career?
– Describe a time where you had to influence others on a significant issue. How did you approach it?
– Describe a time where you had to influence stakeholders with different agendas. What strategy did you use?
– Give an example of a project where you had to delegate to others.

We hope this helped answering your competency based interview questions.

Click here to download our interview guide.

Comments 1

  1. Jon

    HI Nik

    Some really good points raised. As a recruitment agency was always try to prep our candidates on dealing with competency questions as from client feedback is a common area most people fall down on. If your to the job market it can be very difficult to answer these questions as you might not think you have the experience to answer them so you have think of a context that would be relevant.


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