Job Seeking Advice

Competency-based Interviews: All You Need to Know

Here are all the essentials you'll need to nail your next competency-based interview (aka behavioural-based interviews)!

What are Competency-Based Questions?

Ah yes, the famous 'Tell me a time when...', 'what would you do if…' this one lets them know how you would deal with the type of scenario they give you.

Through these (usually open) questions your interviewer will try to find evidence of how you've used your competencies, and what the outcome was (or would be).

So how do you nail a Competency-Based Question?

The best tool we could recommend you is the STAR method – which might’ve heard of before. This will help you shape and communicate your answers clearly in 4 parts:

  1. Situation
  2. Task
  3. Action
  4. Result

On our website, you can find our STAR information sheet, which will give you all the deets on you need to know to make this tip work for you! Click here to download our PDF!

Before you go read all about it, here’s a cheeky list of the five most common competencies employers look for through these questions:

  1. Teamwork e.g. "Tell me about a time you led or worked in a team."
  2. Problem-solving e.g. "Describe a situation where you solved a problem."
  3. Decision-making e.g. "Give an example of a time where you made a difficult decision."
  4. Leadership e.g. "Describe a situation where you showed leadership."
  5. Responsibility e.g. "Tell me about a time you took responsibility."

You’ll feel a lot more confident going into interviews once you know what to expect and master the STAR technique – and you know that plays a big part too!

To sum up...

Our top competency interview tips

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! Jot down some answers to the most common competency-based questions we just mentioned.
  • Listen carefully. Make sure to understand the question and which competency you're being asked about – and don’t hesitate to ask if you’re unsure!
  • Think before answering. Your interviewer won't expect an answer straight away. Believe it or not, being too prepared is a thing: at the end of the day, they want to get to know you…not your pre-memorised notes! Again, just make sure you use an example that answers the question.
  • If your mind goes blank, don't panic! At the risk of sounding repetitive, don’t be afraid of asking for more time, or to get back to the answer later. If anything, it’ll show you can think and adapt under to pressure.
  • Use the STAR technique to structure your answers (remember: Situation, Task, Action, Result!).
  • Remember the job specs and emphasise on the skills and values they're looking for – a little website stalking can also go a long way.
  • Be eloquent, but don’t go overboard. Keep it natural!
  • Show them a little personality. Take a deep breath and let your confidence and charisma shine!

Some more examples of Competency-Based Questions

"What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

This is an easy one to wobble on, especially when you're trying to turn a weakness into a strength. Avoid the usual "I'm a workaholic" or "I'm a perfectionist". Instead, reveal a genuine weakness - but don't go mad. Show self-awareness by explaining how you manage that weakness in the workplace. Mention the strengths you have and how they directly relate to the job.

"Describe a situation where you’ve worked as part of a team to achieve something."

In interviewee words, it means they want to know:

  • Your ability to work as part of a team
  • Your ability to make a positive contribution to their team

"Give an example of where you overcame a problem and what would you do differently next time?"

Which in interviewer language means::

  • What are your problem-solving abilities and techniques?
  • Can you analyse a situation, find the right solution and implement it well?

Finally, remember to remain humble! We’re all for being proud of your achievements, but good problem solvers should be able to learn from experience and understand that there's always room for improvement.

On the lookout for your next dream job? Lay the first stone by browsing our opportunities or getting in touch with us!