Preparing for the most common competency-based interview questions

Preparing for the most common competency-based interview questions

Competency-based questions are asked during an interview to find out how you have demonstrated a specific skill required for the role in which you are applying. You will need to draw on your own experiences and give an example of how you have put that skill into practice. This will usually be an example from your career, but you can draw on personal experiences too, where appropriate. Where you don’t have a career-based example you could draw on experience from volunteer work you may have undertaken, or a work experience placement.

The main types of skills that an employer will be looking for will normally be detailed on the person specification for the role. This is a good place to start when preparing examples ahead of your interview.

Common skills

Although each role will have its own set of skills required, many will be transferable, enabling you to draw on a bank of examples, even if you haven’t carried out the specific role before. Here are some common skills that employers may assess during an interview, and a couple of example questions for each.

  1. Adaptability and flexibility
  • Please tell us about a time where you faced a big change at work, and how you adapted to it
  • Please tell us about a time where something unexpected has happened at work, and how you dealt with it
  1. Commercial Awareness
  • What do you identify as the biggest challenges facing our industry at the moment?
  • Please tell us about a time where you sought to gain practical experience/knowledge of the industry in which you worked in order to develop your commercial awareness
  1. Communication
  • Please tell us about a time where you’ve had to communicate a difficult decision, message or piece of information
  • Please tell us about a time where you’ve had to adjust your communication style for a colleague or client
  1. Conflict resolution
  • Please tell us about a time where you have dealt with conflict at work
  • Please tell us about a time where you’ve had to have a difficult conversation at work
  1. Decision making
  • Please tell us about a time where you had a number of different options, as part of a project, or to solve a problem, and how you decided which one to choose
  • Please tell us about a time where you had to make a difficult decision
  1. Independence
  • Please tell us about a time where you have taken your own initiative at work
  • Please tell us about a time where you have worked independently on a task or project
  1. Integrity
  • Please tell us about a situation where you made a mistake at work and how you handled it
  • Please tell us about a time where you faced an ethical dilemma at work and how you resolved the situation
  1. Leadership
  • Please tell us about a time where you have delegated effectively
  • Please tell us about a time where you have managed under performance within your team
  1. Problem solving
  • Please tell us about a time where you had to solve a problem – what went well and what would you have done differently
  • Please tell us about a time where you identified an area of development for yourself and how you overcame it
  1. Organisation
  • Please tell us about a time where you’ve had to manage multiple projects or tasks at once, and how you prioritised these
  • Please tell us about a time where you planned your work effectively resulting in a positive outcome
  1. Resilience
  • Please tell us about a time where you were put under pressure by someone else at work and how you dealt with it/felt about it
  • Please tell us about a time where you were given a task or project at work that you had limited knowledge about and how you dealt with the situation
  1. Team work
  • Please tell us about a time where you have worked well as part of a team to achieve a goal, and the part you played
  • Please tell us about a time where you were working as a part of a team and things weren’t going so well. How did you help to turn things around?

In addition, there will be specific, technical skills that are relevant to the role in which you are applying. You should also research common questions relating to these and make note of a few examples as part of your preparation.

Structuring your answers

A good way to structure answers to competency based questions is to use the STAR method.

To put the STAR method into practice, start by thinking of an example to share with the interviewers, and then use the following points to help you describe it:

S – Situation

In this section, talk about the situation itself. Describe the context in which you were working, or the challenge you were facing.

T – Task

In this section talk about the tasks which needed to be completed in order to resolve or address the situation. What were you asked to do, or what did you decide to do?

A – Action

In this section talk about what your responsibility was in completing the tasks. Focus on the part you played specifically and how you contributed, rather than what your team or colleagues did.

R – Result

In this section, talk about what the outcome was, and what you achieved.

Some people also add an additional “R” at the end for Reflection. Here, you could talk about what you felt went well, and if there would be anything you would change next time.

More information on the STAR method can be seen in our STAR method blog.

STAR Method – How to Answer Interview Questions the Right Way

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