The use of competency-based interview questions is becoming more frequent as companies strive to pick out the best from a growing talent pool. They are based on the premise that ‘past performance is the best indicator of future performance’, much like the amount/type of training that an athlete does will be the best indicator of how fast/strong/precise they will be when they compete! The use of these will vary from industry to industry and also according to the seniority and nature of the role.

These questions require a different approach and often focus on your softer skills rather than taught/acquired skills. The basic premise of these questions is to get an idea of evidence that you hold a certain competence or have dealt with certain key situations.

Each job role will require specific and different competencies and below you will find a list of general competencies that crop up most often in interviews. We advise that you check the job specification or speak to your recruitment consultant to find out specifically what type of competencies you could be questioned on.

General competencies.

Leadership ability, commercial awareness, business acumen, entrepreneurial, drive, emotional intelligence, reliability, hard-working, motivated, communication, adaptability, creativity and innovation, conflict management, decisiveness, delegation, independent thinking, flexibility, ability to influence and persuade, resilience and tenacity and team working.

How to prepare for and answer competency-based interview questions.

Preparation is key with these questions. You will probably need to think of and prepare examples for your work or personal history that you can talk about.

It is often useful to think about key projects you have worked on or key events in life that will allow you to demonstrate a variety of competencies, then you don’t have to prepare numerous different examples. DO NOT MAKE THESE UP – Employers will often ask lots of probing questions so it will be impossible for you to keep answering honestly if you have made up the situation in the first place!

The STAR model.

STAR is a very effective strategy for preparing your answers. The Office of Fair Trading says it will help you ‘provide a meaningful and complete answer to questions asking for examples’ if you follow the four simple steps:

  • SITUATION: Set the scene in context. Make it concise and informative.
  • TASK: Describe the task.
  • ACTION: Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it. Be personal and go into detail. This is where you can communicate important skills. Steer clear of technical info unless it’s crucial.
  • RESULT: Explain how it all ended and what you accomplished and learned. Use this opportunity to highlight additional skills.

The below video guide will help get you prepared for anything the interviewer should throw at you - good luck!