How To Master Competency Based Interviews

Interviews can be daunting, particularly when we haven’t had to do one in a while. In this post, we’ll teach you exactly how to master competency based interviews and how to apply the STAR technique to make sure you make an impression with the panel!

In the main, interviews will be conducted in 2 different ways:

  • Strength-Based Interviews
  • Competency-Based Interviews

In this guide, we will be focussing on competency-based interviews, what questions will be asked, and more importantly, how to answer them.


How to master competency based interviews

In essence, a competency-based interview is designed to see how your previous experience makes you the right fit for this particular role. They want to check your competency. To do this, the interviewer will ask you to describe certain situations that represent how you accomplished certain things. Remember, it is perfectly fine to ask a recruiter or HR professional what type of interview will be conducted so you can prepare.

Here are 10 of the types of questions that typically come up in a competency-based interview:

  • Describe a time you suggested a new way of doing things and the company took your suggestions on board.
  • Tell us about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you cope with it?
  • Tell me about a time when a customer or co-worker made unreasonable demands on you.
  • Describe a situation during which you had to deal with an angry customer or co-worker.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to see a problem no one else had identified.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to see a connection between seemingly unrelated things
  • Describe a talk or presentation that you recently gave.
  • Tell me about the most difficult decision you have made in the last six months? What was the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you used company policy or procedure to make a decision when it would have been easier not to.
  • Describe a time when you and your co-workers encountered a problem, disagreement, or issue that was difficult or uncomfortable to talk about.

Also, check out our guide on answering tricky questions perfectly.

There are many more potential questions but this should get you thinking about the style of questioning in an interview. The questions will spread amongst specific categories to test your experience across the following areas:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving & Decision Making
  • Communication
  • Time Management
  • Influence/Negotiation
  • Integrity
  • Accuracy/Attention to Detail

Ok, so seems like a lot to take in right? That’s why it’s always important to be prepared. Know your CV inside out and then remember situations in your life that answer the above questions, that demonstrate the skills you have. To do this correctly, remember the STAR Technique. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

STAR Technique – Situation or Task

Your fast task will be to explain the situation you were confronted with or the task you had to accomplish. This is where you are really setting the scene for the interviewer but make sure you don’t waffle. Keep it concise and detailed and make sure you explain fully what the issue at hand was. For example, if someone you were working with was being difficult to work with, explain how they were being difficult and how that was setting you back.

STAR Technique – Action

This part of the STAR answer explains what action you took to remedy a situation. Remember, What, How & Why? Your thought process behind your decision, the decision itself, and how you went about implementing it. You can explain any difficulties you faced while trying to implement the fix. Make sure you focus on yourself, you may wish to give credit to people you once worked with but they’re not in the interview, you are! Also, avoid technical jargon where possible. You can be detailed but you don’t want to confuse people when you can avoid it.

STAR Technique – Result

Finally, you will come to the result. Describe what happened and the overall outcome. What you learned from the situation and anything you would do differently if faced with the situation or task again. This gives the interviewer a real insight into how you operate and also lets them know the wide range of hard and soft skills you possess.

That’s the STAR Technique. Many people don’t like the approach as they can feel that their scripted answers can come across as over-rehearsed within the interview. Companies seem to agree with this statement as more switch over to a strength-based style of interview. However, a huge amount of companies still use competency-based interviews so it’s important to know what to expect.

Ensure you have plenty of situations and tasks in mind with full detail and you will be fine. The more you practice the more natural you will seem as you are explaining these examples to the interviews.

Remember to be confident. Remember an interview is just as much about seeing if the company is right for you, as you are for them. Remember the Star Technique.