Competency based interview questions are some of the most widely used by recruiters and hiring managers. Competency questions are used to assess your skills and knowledge, based on the job criteria of the role. In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to prepare for competency based interviews.

What are competency based interview questions?

The aim of competency based interview questions is to understand more about your talents, skills and abilities and how these would impact your ability to competently perform in the role.recruitment, interview, selectionBy structuring an interview around competencies, interviewers are looking to be able to understand more about your strengths and weaknesses and how these would impact your ability to succeed. Usually, competency based interview questions will begin with something like “tell me about a time when” or “give me an example of”. 

Your answers will typically be evaluated against the organisations competency framework. This identifies the key competencies necessary to be successful in the role.

What are the differences between competency based interview questions and behavioural based interview questions?

It can be easy to confuse competency and behavioural interviews because they both involve similarly structured questions. This also means that the format of your answers should be similar as well. In particular, it’s important to focus on your past experiences and share plenty of relevant examples.

As discussed above, competency based questions are specific to the role you’re applying to. On the other hand, behavioural based interview questions are designed to find out more about your personality.

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They’re much more general, and are designed to identify things like the sorts of environments you prefer to work in, how you collaborate with colleagues and clients or how you approach decision making. Interviewers will be evaluating whether you align with the culture of the organisation. They’ll also be looking to see whether or not you’re likely to demonstrate the expected behaviours necessary to succeed.

What sort of questions should I prepare for?

Competency based interview questions will, as discussed, usually follow a similar pattern. Competency based interview questions are designed around the specific talents, skills and abilities identified as necessary for the role. A really useful way to prepare for possible questions is to look at the job requirements or responsibilities listed in the job listing. Simply add ‘give me an example of a time when’ before the listed requirement or responsibility.

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For example, perhaps one of the listed job requirements is “Project management experience, including managing projects from start to finish“. To make this into a question to prepare for, you’d simply change it to “Give me an example of a time you’ve demonstrated project management experience and managed a project from start to finish”.

How should I answer competency based interview questions?

Good preparation is the key to a successful interview. When preparing to answer competency based questions, it’s important to think about plenty of relevant examples which evidence your ability to competently fulfil the requirements of the job. To do this, it’s often recommended to follow the S.T.A.R technique.

To make this a little more simple though, it can be helpful to use the simpler, albeit less snappy PSR technique – Problem. Solution. Result. This can help you to clearly structure your examples, to make sure they’re easy to understand and evidence your skills and knowledge.

Think about the experiences you’ve had during your career, then think about 3 or 4 examples of problems you’ve had to deal with. Take the time to think about what your solution was, and the positive result this had.

If it’s helpful, you can use the following structure when answering a competency based interview question:

  • I faced a challenge because…
  • The solution I worked on was…
  • The positive result of this was…

So, let’s imagine you’ve previously worked as a Customer Support Manager. An example answer could be something like:

“I was working as a manager in our Customer Support Team. I faced a challenge because a lot of our team’s time was being spent on repeatedly answering the same questions from our customers. This meant it was often taking us a long time to respond to customers and resolve their queries. The solution I worked on was managing the creation of in-depth support guides which were published on our website. These could then be used by customers to help them resolve any problems they were having without needing to email the support team. The positive result of this was a thirty percent reduction in support requests and a forty percent increase in overall customer satisfaction”.

Following a simple structure like this can really help you to think about specific examples of your achievements, while making sure you’re able to clearly and succinctly share your knowledge and experience.

Are you preparing for a competency interview? What are some of your top tips for preparing?