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Top Tips for Competency Interviews

Top Tips for Competency Interviews

Virtually every interview that you will ever do will incorporate at least a few “competency” style questions. These are also referred to as behavioural questions and refer to the types of questions where you are asked to provide some examples of how you have acted or dealt with particular situations previously. Just as is the case with every interview that you are invited to, if you are going to impress the employer, you do need to prepare. With that in mind, here are our Top Tips for Competency Interviews.

Do your Research
One of the best things to do first of all is to review the job description or job advertisement for the position. This will highlight the key essential criteria as outlined by the employer. In turn you will then be able to identify what the required key competencies are for the role. For example, if they have stipulated that Team Management is an essential requirement for the position, it would be fair to assume that you will be asked questions relating to your previous people management experience, how you delegated duties within a team, how you dealt with conflict within a team or how you motivated and coached a team. Use the information you have at your disposal wisely – the job description can be a great resource for research and preparation. Also, if you have been put forward for a role by a recruitment agency, ask them for some information about the format of the interview and if they have any idea of the types of questions that are typically asked by this employer. A good recruiter will know this and will want to share this info with you. You pass the interview and get the job and they get their fee!

Prepare Examples
Once you have identified what the key competencies are that you are likely to be asked about, you can then start thinking about how best you can provide evidence to the employer that you are skilled in these competencies. It is in your interests to provide the best examples that you can. Try and come up with a few examples for each of the competencies and try to make them fairly recent too. If you continually refer to things that you did quite a while ago with no recent or more relevant examples, you are doing yourself a disservice. Make sure that your examples reflect your skills in their most positive light. After all, it is in answering these types of questions that you really given the opportunity to excel and show how you are the best candidate for the job. Good examples provide good answers and in turn can make you rise above the competition.

Use the SOAR or STAR method
When preparing your examples and when answering any competency question, the best thing to do is use a technique referred to as the SOAR or STAR method. This will ensure that you give a fully rounded answer and thereby give an employer a better impression of your skill-set and abilities. The basics of this method are to provide a structure to your answer as follows:
Situation – explain to the interviewer the background to the situation, how it arose
Opportunity/Task – describe what your goal or objective was
Action – describe what your actions were to meet this goal or deal with this opportunity
Result – explain what the end results of your actions were – the outcome etc ( making sure it is a favourable one!)

I not we
One of the key things to remember when on interview is that the employer is looking to find out all they can about you, no-one else. With that in mind, with competency questions in particular , make sure that you answer them describing how you acted or reacted , how you behaved and how you dealt with particular situations. If you continually use examples where you refer to you and your colleagues, how “we did this” or “we decided that”, it will do you no favours. It’s time to be selfish. Talk about yourself and how you did things. That is what the employer wants to hear.

Hypothetical scenarios
Sometimes an employer will not ask you to give them an example of a time when you…, but instead will ask you to imagine yourself in a certain scenario and ask you how you would react in such a situation. Again, the types of scenarios you are likely to be asked about will generally be practical elements of the role itself. By asking these questions the employer is getting a better picture of how you would perform should you be appointed to the role. The best thing to do again is to again draw on your past experience and perhaps compare it to how you dealt in the past. Explain what you would do and rationalise why you would do this, perhaps by providing specific evidence of how you dealt with previous similar scenarios in real life in order to strengthen your case, as it were.

We hope these tips help you out when next preparing for interview. We’d love to hear any other tips or advice you have too. Feel free to share with us via the comments section below.

Still feel that you need more interview advice? Check out Anson Reed, specialists in online interview training and 1-2-1 Interview coaching.



  1. […] interviewers will ask candidates at least a couple of competency style questions. These questions require candidates to describe examples of occasions when they used certain skills […]

  2. […] Go through your own skills and experience and work out in advance what examples you can use for any competency style questions you are asked. Perhaps ask a friend or family member to undertake a role play of an interview with […]

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