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Preparing for a competency based interview

Competency interviews are designed to test your ability to do a role based on key competencies that the hiring company has outlined as being important to the role. They sound intimidating, but with the right preparation they are straight forward and can give you a cutting edge in the recruitment process. 

Competency questions are often based with general interview questions, so make sure you prepare for both. Some common competencies that employers look for are:

  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Goal orientation
  • Risk taking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Analysis

Again, use the job advert or job description to think about the core competencies you feel would be appropriate to prepare for.

Competency questions require you to talk about specific examples that exhibit a particular competency. The STAR approach is generally accepted as the best way to structure your answers:

  • Situation: start with explaining the wider context
  • Task: explain the task that was needed to be done as a result of the situation
  • Action: what actions did you take to contribute to the task. Perhaps the most important part of your answer
  • Result: what where the results of those actions

When thinking of examples, you may find that some fit into more than one competency (for example, a situation where you took a decision showed the competencies of decision making, strategic thinking, and leadership). It is acceptable to use the same example for more than one competency if you can justify it and explain your answer in more detail in relation to the competency being explored.

As with all aspects of interview preparation, make sure you make a note of these examples and which competencies they relate to, and then practice to ensure you remember on cue in an interview. Your notes will be useful for future interviews if you don’t get the position in your first interview.

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