Answering competency-based interview questions

Answering competency-based interview questions

Answering competency-based interview questions

Interviewers use competency-based questions to assess your specific skills and attributes. For example, a hiring manager looking to understand your technical skills may ask about different ways you used Microsoft Excel in a previous role. Alternatively, suppose it is your communication skills that they are looking to assess. In that case, they may ask you to provide information about how you built a solid professional rapport with colleagues to influence decisions.

While these questions may often seem situational (our article on how to answer situational questions is here), competency-based questions are far less likely to be hypothetical, enabling you to draw directly on real-life examples and be focused on specific skills and competencies than a general approach to situations.

Again, as with situational job interview questions, before answering, you should take a moment to think about what the interviewer is asking or looking for.

Example competency-based interview question 1:

“Tell me about a time when you were required to use your creativity to solve a problem.”

How to answer: Creative people are often able to think on their feet and come up with new solutions to problems that other team members would not have even thought of. Therefore, the interviewer will look for you to demonstrate how you approach problems. The STAR technique will help help you to structure your answer here and tell a story.

Example of a good answer: “I worked at a HR firm where one client was struggling to determine the causes of its high level of employee turnover. My manager asked me to undertake some data analysis to identify any trends or patterns indicating the likely causes. I ultimately devised an anonymous staff questionnaire that employees were able to complete online. We discovered from this that staff were concerned about the company having inadequate provision for their training and development. Many respondents also felt that it was difficult to talk to management. The client used these findings to make changes that helped to reduce their employee turnover by a third over the next six months.”

Example competency-based interview question 2:

“Tell me about a time when you supported a colleague who was struggling.”

How to answer: Again, using the STAR technique, your response should demonstrate your teamwork skills and empathy and how you applied these in helping a team member needing help – but also how this improved performance for the business, thereby benefiting its bottom line.

Example of a good answer: “A colleague who had only recently joined the team was having some difficulties with using reporting software. I offered to provide him with some ongoing training and support, and since then, he’s been using the software proficiently and helping our team to deliver brilliant results that have boosted company profits by a quarter in the last six months.”

Remember competencies are the skills & knowledge needed for the specific role, so during your interview preparation, double-check the job description for the skills they are looking for and think of clear examples of when you’ve demonstrated these skills. Having measures to hand will enable you to answer these questions with great ease and allow you to showcase your skills.

If you are looking for further advice on interview preparation and job hunting, look at more career advice here