What are competency based interview questions?

Competency based questions are used in an effort to make the interview process as standard and as fair as possible. It’s an ideal technique when multiple hiring managers are interviewing for the same type of position.

Competency based interview questions require interviewees to give specific examples of times in which they demonstrated particular skills or attitudes. They will usually describe a real life problem or situation, the actions they took to handle the problem, and the results of the situation. You can then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.

Benefits of a competency based interview

Competency based interview questions allow you to quickly evaluate an interviewee’s mindset, and to gauge how they handle certain situations. While you probably have a clear idea of the type of candidate you’re looking for, the process of scoring candidates by their answers to competency based questions can prove an ultimate deciding factor. It is also possible to gauge a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses through their answers by assessing whether they demonstrate a willingness to learn, an ability to perform or if they show a negative approach towards a task.

How to prepare competency based interview questions

You need to aim to ask questions that target particular competencies of the role you’re interviewing for. For example, if you are hiring for a retail role, you might ask competency based questions about communication and teamwork, whereas if you’re interviewing for an upper management job, you might ask questions about leadership, independence and creativity

Competency based interview questions

The list of competencies is almost endless – the skills required as a librarian are quite different to that of a fitness instructor. However, it is probably fair to say that there are some traits that are important to a majority of roles, if not all. The following are a number of good, staple questions to ask in order to identify the most common competencies sought in candidates.

  • Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.

This will help you identify analytical competencies, including problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail.

  • Tell me about a time when your work or idea was challenged.

This highlights individual competencies, such as flexibility, decisiveness and personal integrity.

  • Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.

Ask this one to identify managerial competencies, including strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity and leadership.

  • When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?

The competencies revealed here are classed as ‘motivational’ and cover drive, resilience and results focus.

  • Describe a situation where you successfully worked as part of a group.

This question looks at interpersonal skills, such as leadership, teamwork skills and cooperation

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