Competency based interview questions are designed to let a candidate talk and relate their experience to a real life situation. As an interviewer, your competency based interview questions should be based around the essential skills and experience you need for the job you are recruiting for.

We’ve talked about the importance of job descriptions in the recruitment process, so using this document, prepare questions that will demonstrate and confirm that the candidate has the necessary competencies for the role. For example, if you are recruiting for a Customer Service Advisor position, an appropriate question might be:

Could you give me an example of a time where you weren’t able to solve the customer’s problem. How did you handle the situation?

If you want to ensure a candidate has a specific skill needed to be successful in the job, such as strategic thinking, your interview question might be:

If you think about a project where you needed input from other departments, how did you identify what was needed from them and how did you ensure you had the support of the appropriate team managers?

Think about situations or processes within your business that require a specific set of competencies and write your interview questions based on those required skills. Competency  based interview questions give candidates the opportunity to show that they have the experience and skills needed to do the job well.

Interviewers should ask the same interview questions of all candidates and record answers on a score sheet to make sure each candidate has the same opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for the job.

Preparing For You Interview

If you are a candidate you need to prepare answers to competency based interview questions in advance. Competency based questions tend to start with words or phrases such as ‘can you give me an example of’ or ‘tell me about a time when’. The interviewer wants to know more about your skills and how you use them in your job to complete a task. They will also be looking for information about how you handle certain situations or deal with problems.

Using the job description or reading the job advert, think about the skills they have asked for and how you can demonstrate you have them. Analyse how you use that particular skill in your current role.

Your answers of course need to be positive so avoid criticising other people or being negative about your current employer. Prepare a couple of examples of how you use each competency. Using situations in your personal life can also be a good idea as it will tell the interviewer a bit more about who you are as a person. For example, if you aren’t leading a team at work but play and captain a team sport, if you are asked to give an example of how you lead others it’s fine to use that as an example. Think about your successes and how they were achieved, what skills did you need to make them happen?

Many people recommend using the STAR technique when preparing answers to competency based interview questions.

Situation, Task, Action, Result. This means setting the scene, describing the task you needed to achieve, telling the interviewer what you actually did and then explaining the result.

Your answers will need to be tailored depending on the question, so think before you start speaking and really listen to the question to make sure you give the right example. It’s important not to waffle or sound robotic and even though you need to practice, don’t try and remember an answer word for word; you still need to be you and get your personality across. Keep things concise and don’t repeat yourself. Think of different situations where you can demonstrate the particular competency they are looking for.

The most common competency based questions asked at interview include asking for examples of situations or times that involve, teamwork, problem solving, decision making, leadership and responsibility, so these are good ones to have a couple of examples to use.

Remember, preparation is the key to reducing those interview nerves, increasing your confidence and making sure you excel at your job interview.