Top Competency-Based Interview Questions for Success

competency interview questions

More and more employers are using competency-based interviewing to assess candidates’ suitability for a role based on their skills, knowledge, and behaviours. To help you prepare for your next interview, this article will explore the purpose and structure of competency-based interview questions and provide strategies for answering them. We will also discuss common mistakes to avoid during the interview process.

Understanding Competency-Based Interviews

Before delving into the specifics of competency-based interviews, it is essential to understand their purpose and structure. Competency-based interviews focus on assessing specific competencies relevant to the job role. These interviews aim to determine whether candidates possess the necessary skills and behaviours to succeed in the position.

When preparing for a competency-based interview, candidates must identify the key competencies required for the role they are applying for. This involves carefully reviewing the job description and understanding the core skills and attributes that the employer is seeking. By aligning their experiences and achievements with these competencies, candidates can effectively showcase their suitability for the position.

The Purpose of Competency-Based Interviews

A competency-based interview aims to evaluate a candidate’s past performance and experiences to determine their suitability for a particular role. By assessing candidates’ competencies, employers gain valuable insights into how candidates approach different situations and whether they have effectively demonstrated key skills in the past.

Employers use competency-based interviews to predict a candidate’s future performance based on their past behaviour. Employers can assess how well candidates have handled challenges, worked in teams, and achieved results by exploring specific examples from a candidate’s work history. This predictive approach helps employers decide which candidates are best suited for the job.

how to answer competency questions

The Structure of Competency-Based Interviews

A typical competency-based interview consists of a series of questions that focus on specific competencies. These questions require candidates to provide real-life examples of situations where they have applied the relevant competency. The interviewer will then assess how well the candidate’s experiences align with the job requirements.

Preparing for a Competency-Based Interview

Proper preparation is key to performing well in a competency-based interview. Here are two crucial steps to help you get ready:

Identifying Key Competencies

Start by familiarising yourself with the key competencies required for your interviewing role. Review the job description, research the company, and speak with current employees if possible. This will enable you to identify the core competencies the interviewer will likely focus on during the interview.

Understanding the key competencies is essential as it allows you to tailor your responses to showcase your strengths in those areas. For example, suppose the role requires strong communication skills. In that case, you can prepare examples highlighting your ability to effectively communicate in various situations, such as leading team meetings or presenting to clients.

Mapping Your Skills to Job Competencies

After identifying the key competencies, assess your skills and experiences to determine how they align with the required competencies. List specific examples from your previous roles or experiences demonstrating your proficiency in each competency. This will help you craft compelling answers during the interview.

Furthermore, when mapping your skills to job competencies, consider using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses. This framework can help you provide clear, concise answers that effectively showcase your abilities and achievements. By incorporating the STAR method, you can ensure that your responses are structured and impactful, leaving a lasting impression on the interviewer.

answer competency based questions

Common Competency-Based Interview Questions

Now, let’s explore some common competency-based interview questions that you may encounter during your interview:

Competency-based interviews are designed to assess specific skills and qualities that are essential for success in a particular role. These questions are structured to require candidates to provide real-life examples from their past experiences, demonstrating their abilities in various key areas.

Questions on Leadership Competencies

  1. Describe a situation where you had to lead a team to achieve a challenging goal. This question aims to evaluate your leadership skills, including your ability to set direction, inspire others, and drive results through teamwork.

  2. How do you motivate and inspire others? Employers ask this question to understand your approach to motivating and engaging team members, as well as your ability to foster a positive and productive work environment.

Questions on Teamwork Competencies

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult team member. This question assesses your interpersonal skills, conflict resolution abilities, and capacity to collaborate effectively with diverse personalities.

  2. How do you contribute to building a collaborative team environment? Employers are interested in learning about your teamwork skills, communication style, and willingness to support and empower your colleagues to achieve common goals.

Questions on Problem-Solving Competencies

  1. Give an example of a complex problem you encountered and how you approached it. This question evaluates your critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving capabilities, and ability to handle challenges effectively.

  2. How do you make decisions under pressure? Employers ask this question to gauge your decision-making process, adaptability, and composure in high-stress situations, providing insight into how you prioritise tasks and manage time constraints.

Strategies for Answering Competency-Based Questions

Now that you have an understanding of the questions you may face, it’s essential to have effective strategies for answering them:

Competency-based questions are a common feature of job interviews, designed to assess your skills and experiences in specific situations. Employers use these questions to understand how you have handled challenges in the past and predict how you may perform in similar scenarios in the future.

behavioural or situational questions


Following the STAR method, you provide a clear and structured response highlighting your problem-solving abilities and showcasing your accomplishments. This method helps interviewers follow your thought process and understand the impact of your actions.

Click here to read more about the STAR method. 

Tailoring Your Answers to the Job Role

When answering competency-based questions, always try to relate your examples to the specific requirements of the job role. This demonstrates that you understand the role and have the necessary skills and experiences to excel in it.

By tailoring your answers to the job role, you show the interviewer that you have thoughtfully considered how your past experiences align with the position’s responsibilities. This tailored approach highlights your qualifications and indicates your genuine interest in the role and your commitment to contributing effectively to the organisation.

Mistakes to Avoid in Competency-Based Interviews

Despite careful preparation, it’s easy to make mistakes during competency-based interviews. Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid:

Common Pitfalls in Answering Competency Questions

Avoid giving vague or generic answers that do not provide specific details about your experiences. Instead, focus on providing concrete examples that highlight your capabilities and achievements.

How to Avoid Vague Responses

As mentioned earlier, one way to avoid vague responses is to use the STAR method. This framework prompts you to provide a clear, structured answer, ensuring sufficient detail and context.

It’s important to note that while preparing for competency-based interviews, conducting thorough research on the company and the role you are applying for is beneficial. Understanding the company’s values, culture, and recent projects can help you tailor your responses to align with what the organisation is looking for in a candidate.

Practising mock interviews with a friend or career coach can greatly enhance your confidence and ability to articulate your experiences effectively. Receiving feedback on your responses and body language can pinpoint areas for improvement and help you refine your answers for the interview.


In conclusion, competency-based interviews are designed to assess your skills, knowledge, and behaviours against the specific requirements of a job role. By understanding the purpose and structure of these interviews and preparing thoroughly, you can confidently navigate the interview process and increase your chances of success. Remember to provide specific examples, tailor your answers to the job role, and avoid common mistakes. Good luck with your competency-based interview!

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