Competency Based Interviews

The use of Competency Based Interview Questions is becoming increasingly common and not just within the largest corporations. Smaller and medium sized companies are using these tools as a means of improving their recruitment decisions.

This method of interviewing is also called Structured Interviewing and uses Behavioural Interview techniques to assess how a candidates past performance in work related situations can be used as a predictor of future performance. Every job can be described in terms of Competencies, which are the skills, abilities or behaviours required and some of which will be regarded as essential and others desirable.

You may see them categorised as Managerial Competencies, Individual Competencies, Analytical Competencies, Interpersonal Competencies and Motivational Competencies however the 12 most common competencies are: Communication, Achievement, Customer Focus, Teamwork, Leadership, Planning and Organising, Operational Awareness, Flexibility, Developing Others, Problem Solving, Analytical Thinking and Building Relationships.

These of course will vary depending on the role and the level however in the job interview, you should expect a series of Competency Based Questions exploring each competency. These are usually behavioural in nature and take the form of:

Tell me about a time when?

Describe a situation?

What would you do if?

When you give your answer the interviewer will probe deeper and ask about the detail such as:

How exactly did you do that?

Tell me exactly what steps you took to resolve that?

What was the basis for that decision?

By investigating further the interviewer is trying to discover more about your skills as well as looking for clues which may suggest that you are exaggerating your part in the process or have created a complete fabrication.

When answering competency based interview questions we suggest that you choose answers based on real experiences that you have had and be ready to give details. Your response needs to be relevant and sufficiently detailed. Be specific and tell a story. A technique to use when answering behavioural questions is called iPAR:

I = Talk about the part you played in IDENTIFYING or noticing the problem

P = Describe the PROBLEM, situation or task

A = Talk about the ACTION you took

R = Describe the successful RESULT by using figures and data to illustrate the benefit to the company.

And always use I" rather than we".

Prepare answers which relate to all the achievements on your resume or CV as you will surely be asked questions referring to these. You will find that you should have a sufficient stock of answers that will help you answer any competency based interview question irrespective of the style used.


Task Leadership - utilises appropriate interpersonal styles and methods in guiding individuals or a group towards achievement of a task.

  1. How frequently do you meet with your immediate subordinates as a group? Why? What do you do in preparation? At the meeting? After the meeting?
  2. Tell me about a new policy or new idea which was considerably different from the standard procedure that you recently implemented. What approach did you take to get your associates to go along with the idea?
  3. Have you ever had a problem in getting your subordinates to accept your ideas or departmental goals? What approach did you use? How effective was it? (Look for involvement of subordinates in decision making).
  4. Tell me about a task or project with which you have been involved. What was you role? What did you actually do?
  5. Do you have any subordinates with performance problems? What have you done to get them to correct the problems?
  6. What specifically do you do to set an example for your subordinates?
  7. What sort of leader do your subordinates feel you are? How do you know? Are you satisfied? What have you done about it?
  8. Is there an established chain of command in your area? Describe some situations where you did not follow it?
  9. How often do you attend a meeting with peers? What role did you play at the last meeting?
  10. Have you ever led a task force, committee, or any group?


Teamwork - participates as full member of a team when not necessarily leader and contributes to team effort.

  1. What have you done to build good working relationships with others?
  2. When you are working on a group task how do you ensure everyone's ideas get a fair hearing?
  3. Tell me about a time when you have resolved conflict in a group? (If necessary) from where did the conflict originate?
  4. Tell me about a time when you have consciously participated as a group member rather than a group leader. What did you actually do?
  5. Do you ever accommodate to awkward people in order to get the job done?

Problem Solving/Analysis:

Problem Analysis - effectiveness in identifying problems, securing relevant information, relating data from different sources and identifying possible causes of problems.

  1. What problems are you currently working on that came as a surprise? How much advance notice did you have of the problems?
  2. What range of information do you tune in to routinely?
  3. Describe the biggest problem that you have found within the year. How did you handle it? What were the steps that you took after you identified the problem?
  4. When have you involved your subordinates in problem solving? Why?
  5. What sources of information do you use to keep aware of the problems and issues within your organisation?


Initiative - actively influencing events rather than passively accepting them. Seeing opportunities and acting on them. Originating action.

  1. What have you done to make your job easier or more rewarding? What projects have you started on your own this year? Tell me about one.
  2. What did you do?
  3. How did you go about getting your last job?
  4. What have you done about putting forward your ideas?
  5. What has been your biggest achievement? How did you achieve it?

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