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Competency-based interview guide

Competency-based interview guide

What are competencies?

A competency is a particular quality that a company has decided is desirable for employees to possess within a particular role. During interviews and assessment processes, competencies are used as benchmarks that assessors use to rate and evaluate candidates.

What are competency-based interview questions?

Competency-based questions require candidates to provide real-life situations as their answers. You need to explain why you made certain decisions and what the outcomes were.

Competencies are often divided into three main categories:

Behavioural competencies: Includes a person’s values, morals, desires, and motivations, or, alternatively, they may span around social skills, such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and coping with stress.

Cognitive competencies are usually measured by one’s learning skills, aptitudes, and abilities.

Technical competencies include field-related knowledge and performance, such as the ability to operate certain technologies or systems, apply computer skills, etc.

How to prepare for competency-based interview questions

  • To prepare for competency questions, we recommend taking the following steps:
  • Have your CV with you and some paper - write down your responses to questions about your experience before heading to the interview
    Start reviewing sample competency-based questions to see if you have suitable answers for them
  • Write down the key points you wish to discuss - try to say these key points aloud to see if you sound coherent and convincing

How to answer competency-based interview questions?

A good competency based answer will use the ‘STAR’ technique, which is outlined below:

  • Situation – set the context for your story
  • Task – what was required of you?
  • Activity – what you actually did
  • Result – how well the situation played out, what were the outcomes, positives and negatives

Competency-based interview tips

  • Prepare & Practice – read the job spec, try and pick out the key competences and prepare a few examples ahead of the interview
  • Always use the STAR technique to form your answers, this will ensure you do not miss any information
  • You may be asked some hypothetical questions - try to reinforce your skills by comparing the situation with something similar you have faced successfully before
  • Ensure your answers are relevant to the question being asked

Example Questions


Give an example of when you've led a team.


You should summarise the task and nature of the group but focus primarily upon your role as team leader. List the personal qualities you possess which made you ideal for leading this team and how you achieved success. Conclude your answer by giving examples of the lessons you learnt while leading this team.


Give an example of a challenge you faced in the workplace, and how you overcame it.


If you are entering the workplace direct from school, college or university, this question will be geared towards your academic experiences.

Provide a great example of a task that involved using as many skills and abilities as possible. An ideal answer to this question enables you to demonstrate your ability to work in a team, display leadership skills and handle pressure.