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How to answer competency based interview questions
19 May 2016
Competency based interviews are now fairly commonly used as a way to predict a candidate’s future performance.
Essentially a series of behavioural questions, the interviewer will ask you to describe a situation which demonstrates your abilities that will be important for the role you’re interviewing for.
Competency based question categories
Drawing on our decades of recruitment experience, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of key competency questions, grouping them into five bite size areas - Individual, Analytical, Managerial, Motivational and Interpersonal - for easier digestion.
These refer to: personal attributes; your decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.
A typical question may include: Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.
These refer to: your decision making abilities; innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail
A typical question may include: Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.
These refer to: your ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.
A typical question may include: Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.
These refer to: the things that drive you; resilience, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.
A typical question may include: When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?
These refer to: social competence. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams and the more collaborative they are, the more likely they are to thrive.
A typical question may include: Describe a situation where you got people to work together.
STAR - The simple way to answer
Answers to competency based questions are very structured, so we recommend the STAR technique, describing:
- the Situation
- the Task you must do as a result
- the Action you took
- the Result of that action
Here's an example:
Question: "How do you cope working under pressure?"
Answer: "I work well under pressure. For example, recently due to some resignations the workload in our department significantly increased and my particular workload nearly doubled. I was asked if I would work overtime. I agreed and worked professionally and efficiently during a very busy and stressful time. I organised my tasks by priority and date with relevant stakeholders using an online project management tool – this helped me deliver everything on time and get stakeholder understanding for the low priority tasks that needed extra lead time. I showed I could work well under pressure for the benefit of the whole team.
Remember, be yourself when answering competency or behavioural based questions; use real life examples and relate them to your experience, how you reacted or how it made you feel. These are not trick questions; they’re designed to create the best match between an individual and an organisation. A little bit of preparation and you’ll quickly realise that competency based interviews represent an great opportunity to describe some of your finer moments to a captive audience.
To make sure you get your dream job, take a look at more of our interview tips.