Preparing for a Competency-Based Interview

If you have been invited for a job interview then you are one step closer to securing the role that you have applied for, which is great news! However, it is vital that you prepare for any type of interview, especially a competency-based interview, so that you can confidently show employers how much of a good fit you are for the role and team.

Competency-based interviews specifically ask questions regarding the key skills mentioned in the job description. Competency questions require you to talk about the skills you have and how you used them in a previous role. Knowing what to expect from these type of interview questions will mean you are highly prepared and likely to perform well during the interview. Here are our top tips on what to expect and how to prepare for a competency-based interview.

What Are Competency-Based Interviews?

Competency-based interview questions expect to find out about your previous experiences, and each question is focused on a particular skill in association with actual events. Where a usual interview will have unstructured questions and seek to get to know more about you as a person, a competency-based interview counts on past success reflecting on future performance.

These types of interviews are often carried out for graduate jobs or high-level positions that need to know you have the right skills for the job. Even if you are not attending a specific competency-based interview, many employers will include competency-based interview questions within normal or unstructured interviews anyway, which is why it is so important to have examples ready for each specific skill. Competency interviews can also be referred to as behavioural or structured interviews, which will all require the same preparation.

Luckily, there is a STAR formula to follow that can help you answer any question you are faced with! 

What Are Some Examples of Competency Interview Questions?

Competency-based questions require concrete examples of a specific time you used a skill during a past experience. Each of the skills assessed will be marked against set criteria to find out how good of a fit you are for a role. Competency-based interview questions are completely dependent on the job role, and skills you will be questioned on will be included in the job description.

These competency questions can include:

  • Briefly describe a time when you have had to respond to negative customer feedback
  • Tell us about a time you were proactive in solving a problem
  • Describe a situation where your communication skills improved the outcome of a problem
  • Give an example of a time you had to work as part of a team
  • Describe a situation where you had to take charge to get the best outcome
  • Give an example of a time where you were asked to do something you had never done before

Each question will be set out in this format so that employers can find out about your experiences with the skills they are looking for and how you performed in previous employment.

Competency-based interview

How Do I Prepare for Competency Interviews?

Luckily, as long as you know the key skills the employer is looking for, you will be able to prepare for the interview successfully. Try to prepare at least two examples for each skill required of you so that you are ready for any question that could be asked. There is a simple formula recommended for any competency interview, known as the ‘STAR’ formula, which prepares you for competency questions by preparing:

  1. A Situation or Task that you were faced with
  2. The Action that you attempted previously to solve the situation
  3. The Result of the action you took in an attempt to solve a particular problem

Depending on the skills that the organisation is looking for, they may ask you questions relating to around 4 to 6 competencies listed in the person specification, so try to prepare a STAR answer for each skill. 

Top Tips on Delivering Answers During Competency Interviews

Although you should prepare answers to questions that may come up in an interview, remember to respond naturally and try not to answer as though you have rehearsed your lines. As long as you are confident in yourself and your ability, you will be able to show off your achieved success in the past through the employer’s competency questions.

You may find it difficult to come up with examples for your STAR answer, but try to think about the skills you used in your last role, such as:

  • How did you communicate well in your last role? Was there a time where you had to speak to a customer or another employee to explain something?
  • Was there a time when you had to solve a problem in your last job? What was the problem and how did you resolve it?
  • If asked about your work ethic, are you someone that was consistently on time to work and was happy to help fill in for another shift if the company needed it? 
  • Did you work in a team in your previous job? How did you find working in a team and how will that teamwork help you in this new role?
interview styles

Preparation Tips

Good communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving, professionalism and work ethic are usually high priorities for companies hiring new staff. If you haven’t yet had a job, use the same examples from your education and/or the courses you studied.

Other tips to prepare for competency-based interviews include: 

  • Find out more about the company and their background by visiting its website and social media profiles
  • Come up with a list of questions that you would like to ask the employer, for example, what would the day-to-day responsibilities be, what team would I be working with, is there room for progression/promotion in the future? You can find some great questions to ask in your interview by searching online
  • Prepare a smart outfit for the day, perhaps a suit or smart shirt and long skirt
  • Plan your route on Google Maps and leave time for delays
  • Practice the interview with friends and loved ones
  • Try to stay calm and confident on the day

Community-Based Employment Services with WorkPaths

Here at WorkPaths, we offer a range of services to help individuals become prepared for interviews and employment. Our services include help with interview skills, CV development, mock interviews, job search techniques, confidence building and personal development, and digital skills. Find out more here or get in touch through for help preparing for your next interview.