Guidelines for Competency based Interviews

The interviewer is not trying to catch you out, it is a way for them to listen to your experiences and what action you took with tasks in different situations and what the end result was.

Competency is a concept linking three parameter – Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.

For example – you might have good interpersonal skills (skills), but will not be competent to join a company as Project Manager unless you possess adequate education/experience (knowledge) and the right temperament/behaviour (attitude).Competency-based interviews (also called structured interviews) are interviews where each question is designed to test one or more specific skills. For example, the interviewers may want to test the candidate’s ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to provide an example of a situation where he worked under pressure.

The interviewer could use a couple of approaches:

  • The first might be a very specific question with no follow up such as: describe an occasion you achieved a goal; what steps did you take?
  • Secondly, an interviewer may begin with a more open question such as: what has been your most significant achievement?

Read the job description, particularly the competency based section.

You may get questions such as:

  • Describe a recent challenging situation at work and how you dealt with it?
  • Describe when you been under pressure and challenging priorities?
  • Can you give me an example of when you worked in a team?
  • What did you learn from the experience and what would you do differently in the future?

The interviewer is looking for real life examples at work of what you did and how you dealt with it. A good way to structure your answer is to use the well-known STAR model:

  • Briefly describe the Situation or background to your example
  • Explain the Task or activity
  • Outline the Action you took
  • Summarise the Result

A good interviewer will want to know what you learnt from your experience, particularly how you might have done things differently, so be prepared to reflect on your performance. Always give specific evidence where you can.