two women in the office

How To Prepare For Competency Based Interview? (With Questions)

Last Updated on June 20, 2022

If you have made it through to the interview stage for your dream job, you need to know a few important things to secure this job successfully. This is how to take on competency based interview questions head-on.

Interviews can be absolutely nerve-wracking, you want to make sure to impress the interviewer, but you also have no idea what they are going to ask. Luckily, we have found that most employers choose to ask competency based interview questions. These questions help interviewers determine if the candidate has the specific skills for the job.

To help you ace your competency based interview questions, we have highlighted what you need to know before the interview. This will include the critical competencies to the type of interview questions that you can expect and how to prepare for your interview.

Here is what you need to know about competency based interview questions before tackling your interview.

Table of Contents

About Competency Based Interviews

A competency based interview is designed to identify if you have the right skills required for the position that you are applying for. However, these interviews focus not only on the candidate’s ability and skills but also on their personal experience.

3 people sitting at the table in the office

Competency based interviews are also referred to as situational interviews and behavioural interviews. During these interviews, the interviewer will describe a specific situation that you may come across during the role you are applying for. The interviewer is looking for answers that describe the actions you will take in these specific scenarios.

Questions asked during a competency based interview are usually open-ended. The aim of open-ended questions being asked during a competency based interview is for the interviewer to gain insight into your personal experience. Usually, open-ended questions allow interviewers to learn more about the employer’s past experience, how they have overcome unexpected obstacles, and more.

The opened-ended responses will also need to include certain key competencies. This is one of the most important factors that interviewers look for in competency-based interviews.

Competency Based Interviews vs Unstructured Interviews

If you have been for a wide range of interviews, you might notice that there are different types of interviews. The most common two types of interview styles used to assess candidates for a role are competency based interviews and unstructured interviews.

Competency based interviews are a little more complex. This is because these interviews usually have an outline of specific key competencies that the candidate will need to meet to move forward in the hiring process.

This type of interview usually has specific competency based interview questions that aim to assess whether the candidate has the desired key competencies that the interviewer is looking for. These questions are usually predetermined and will be asked to all candidates being interviewed for a specific position.

While competency interviews may not seem highly structured because the questions aim for open responses from the candidates, the reason for this is to gain insight if the candidate has the relevant experience and skills for the job.

people at work

On the other hand, unstructured interviews aim to assess if the candidate has the necessary skills for the job. These interviews also aim to get a general understanding of the candidate.

Usually, unstructured interviews do not have an outline of predetermined questions that they will ask each candidate. The questions asked during these interviews may be thought of at the moment or may come from analysing the candidate’s curriculum vita.

Advantages of Competency Based Interviews

While competency interviews may seem daunting because of how structured these interviews are, however, there are a few advantages that come with having this type of interview, which includes:

  • The questions asked a predetermined, which means that there may be questions similar to the ones you may be asked during this interview. So you have the opportunity of researching possible competency based interview questions for the specific job that you are applying for. These questions will be somewhat similar to the ones that the employer might ask during your interview, which means that you will be able to plan better how you will respond to these questions.
  • Competency-based interview questions are open-ended, naturally allowing you to include any key competencies. Especially the competencies that you may think the interviewer is looking for.
  • For almost any role that you apply for, you should have access to the job description, which is a significant advantage in competency interviews. Having the job description is an advantage because usually, the competencies the interviewer will be looking for are included in the job description requirements.

Disadvantages of Competency Based Interviews

an interview in the office

While some significant advantages come along when being a candidate who will be asked competency questions. There are also a few disadvantages when t comes to this type of interview style. These disadvantages will include:

  • Competency based questions can be pretty complex. These questions are usually open-ended, and at times you may be confused about the best way to answer these types of questions.
  • Competency based questions are highly focused and have been predetermined. This means that there is usually a correct answer for these types of questions.
  • Competency interview questions are open-ended. This means that you be incredibly mindful of how you word your questions and ensure that the answers are well structured.
  • If the interview pays too much attention to focusing on identifying the key competencies that they are looking for. The interviewer might miss your personality, so when answering competency questions, make sure to include your personal life.

Key Competencies

During competency interviews, interviewers will usually have a list of critical competencies that the candidates need to meet to move forward in the hiring process. Key competencies or core competencies are what makes a candidate stand out. Their unique combination of skills and capabilities will make them perfect for the job.

When interviewers ask competency based questions, they try to identify the critical competencies in the candidate’s answers. However, because competency questions are open-ended, these responses will usually include a few essential competencies of one answer. This is why it is necessary to try to include any possible competencies that your interviewer is looking for when you answer competency questions.

However, to include critical competencies in your answers, you will first need to know the key competencies. A few of the primary key competencies that are usually looked for during interviews include:

Communication Skills

Good communication skills in the workplace are essential for almost any job. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication. Good communication skills usually refer to the candidate’s ability to deliver information to their superiors or clients professionally. The candidates need to be easy to understand and easy to talk to.

It’s a good

Having a communication approach where you can build and maintain relationships through communication is a sign of good communication skills. Employers will need to have the ability to communicate appropriately with their managers, team members, and even customers.

Almost every job description employers usually include good communication skills. A few jobs that typically look for a candidate with good communication skills include a receptionist, customer service representative, and human resources manager.

Why are communication skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good communication skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Share their ideas
  • Become a team member
  • Satisfy or manage an angry customer
  • Provide excellent customer service

two persons in a business conversation

How do interviewers identify communication skills?

During the competency based interview, the interviewer might take note of how you respond to their open-end competency based interview questions. The interviewer will also ask specific might also ask specific questions that will help identify the candidate’s communication skills.

Business Knowledge Competencies

While it may seem obvious but it is a must for any candidate applying for a particular role in a specific field. To have a good level of knowledge of the industry that they aim to work in.

While the degree of knowledge will vary depending on the level of the role the candidate is applying for. However, a good business will have all employees, no matter the level, have a basic understanding of how their business operations work.

Usually, candidates who are applying for high-level positions such as managerial roles will need to have a much more in-depth business awareness. A candidate with more in-depth business awareness means that these candidates will need to understand the business market. After all, they will require this knowledge to succeed in their role.

Jobs that usually include business knowledge in their job description include project managers, data scientists, stockbrokers, management consultants, and corporate investment bankers. This is because it will be almost impossible for candidates to take on these roles without a high level of business knowledge.

Why are business knowledge competencies important?

If the candidate shows that they have a high level of business knowledge, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Has the foundation to learn more about the business
  • Can make informed decisions in the business
  • Identify and decrease potential risks
  • Identify poetisation opportunities in the industry

How do interviewers identify business knowledge skills?

Usually, the best way for an interviewer to identify a candidate’s business knowledge skills is to check up on their qualifications. Most positions that need a high level of business knowledge will usually require a certificate or degree for that specific profession. However, interviewers will also gauge how in-depth a candidate’s business knowledge is through competency based interview questions.

3 persons working together

Problem Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills in the workplace can find an effective solutions to a wide range of issues. Having good problem-solving skills means that the candidate can make timely decisions without hesitation. However, it is just as important that these solutions are the right move to make. After all, poor solutions produce unpleasant consequences.

In order to do this, the candidate will need to be to have a level head when problems arise. They will have to critically and come up with effective strategies to resolve the issue.

When working within a team, there are occasions where problems may arise within the team or between a team member and a client. As a candidate with good problem-solving skills, you should have the skills to manage any of these issues.

Many more jobs are starting to list problem-solving skills as a critical competency in their job description. This is because almost all jobs usually require candidates to have some level of problem-solving skills. However, generally more analytical jobs include this skill in their job description. A few of these jobs include accountant, computer programmer, business analyst, and chemist.

Why are problem-solving skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good problem-solving skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Collect and analyse data
  • Be decisive
  • Be good listeners
  • Show creative thinking skills

How do interviewers identify problem-solving skills?

There are several ways interviewers can identify a candidates problem-solving skills during a competency based interview. However, there are specific questions that interviewers stick to that may be simple but actually help them determine the candidate’s ability to solve problems.

a woman having a presentation in front of the board

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are a candidate’s ability to direct and motivate their team members towards reaching a specific goal. There is a wide range of skills that make up a good leader. This includes integrity, decisiveness, team building, dependability, and problem-solving.

It is essential to keep in mind that some specific roles and teams will require different leadership styles when it comes to leadership. This means that the candidate needs to have the appropriate leadership style to be a good fit for the job that they are applying for.

One of the great things about leadership skills is that they can be developed. There is plenty of training course and techniques that can help you improve your leadership skills.

Leadership skills are a specific skill that is required for almost any managerial job. A few jobs that will require leadership skills and might list it in their job description include a principal, recruiter, restaurant manager, and pilot.

Why are leadership skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good leadership skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Motivate and believe in their teams
  • Convert the team’s goals into a reality
  • Acknowledge employees accomplishments
  • Set an example

How do interviewers identify leadership skills?

One of the sings interviewers looks to determine whether a candidate is a leader during competency interviews to identify the candidate’s attitude towards teamwork. If the candidate often mentions that they have worked within a team and references the team’s success. This is usually seen as something a leader would do because leaders focus on their team.

There are some questions that interviewers will use to assess your leadership skills. These questions could possibly include the following:

  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • How do you monitor the performance of individual team members?
  • How do you make decisions about compensating team members?
  • How do you motivate your team?
  • Tell us about a time you struggled with work-life balance and how you managed to solve the problem.
  • Tell us about a time when you had an idea that improved the company in some way and how it was implemented.
  • Tell us about a time you were a team lead on a project and what was the outcome of that project.

a woman talking to her colleagues

Organisational Skills

When you think of organisational skills, the first thing that pops into your head might be having a neat and tidy workstation. While this is a small part of what is considered organisational skills, there is so much more.

Organisational skills refer to your ability to prioritise tasks, meet deadlines, and practice time management. It has the ability to increase productivity and get work done as efficiently and effectively as possible. Having good organisational skills also means the ability to make use of resources to work more efficiently.

These skills are essential, especially for employees who have trouble managing several tasks. Luckily, organisational skills can be taught and is a must-have skill in the work environment.

Every role will require some level of organisational skills. This is because these skills are a necessity to get any work done in any field. However, a few jobs require a much higher level of organisational skills. This includes a project manager, account manager, event planner, and human resources manager.

Why are organisational skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good organisational skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Practie time management
  • Delegate tasks
  • Meet deadlines
  • Be able to prioritise

How do interviewers identify organisational skills?

While there are interview questions that can help identify whether a candidate has organisational skills. There are also other ways interviewers can identify this is by taking note of the candidate’s curriculum vitae. As well as how prepared and organised they appear to be for the interview. It is always important to keep in mind that interviewers take note of what you say as well as your non-verbal cues during an interview.

a person typing on the laptop

Technical Skills

Technical skills are complex skills that are unique to the profession of the job that you are applying for. These skills are gained through previous employment in a similar role or learnt through courses.

There is a wide range of unique technical skills in different fields. Some may bit a bit more complex than others depending on the role. Usually, these technical skills are considered requirements for the position.

The technical skills that your interviewer will be on the look at will usually be included in the job description. This is why it is essential to read over the job description and make a note of any technical skills required. It would be a great idea to reference these technical skills during your competency interview.

A few jobs that will require specific technical skills include being a computer programmer, including HTML, computing, and information technology technical skills. At the same time, a job as a technical writer requires technical skills like research, press release, and editing.

Why are technical skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good technical skills, this will the help interviewer identify if the candidate has the following:

  • Required knowledge for the position
  • Necessary past experience needed for the role
  • Provide understanding about these technical skills to team members
  • Be able to solve problems about issues in their industry

How do interviewers identify technical skills?

When interviewers look for a specific skill during a competency interview, they may ask you specific questions that would relate to that skill. The interviewer can then gauge how much expertise you may have in those skills.

Project Management Skills

While the extent of a candidate’s project management skills will depend on the role that they are applying for. However, a few basic project management skills are required in almost every job.

Good project management skills refer to the candidate’s leadership skills, risk management skills, and communication skills. However, the more technical and complex project management skills include a candidate’s ability to plan out projects from start to finish, manage a budget, and estimate a project’s timeline.

Usually, the project management skills that the interviewer will be looking for are included in the job description. The jobs that will usually require candidates to possess project management skills include an event manager, admin assistant, office manager, account manager, and construction property manager.

Why are project management skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have good project management skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Provide leadership and direction
  • Execute strategic goals
  • Can work with a budget
  • Assess any risks involved and conduct risk management

How do interviewers identify project management skills?

During the competency interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about your previous experiences that focus on project management skills. This is why it is essential to be mindful when answering these questions. After all, you want to make sure to include the project management skills that you have.

people on the company meeting

Good Workplace Ethics and Integrity

While this sounds obvious, it is one of the most critical competencies that some employers will be on the lookout for, ensuring that the candidate they plan on hiring has good ethics and integrity.

Ethics refers to an individual’s morals and values which help them make decisions. When someone has good ethics, it means that they are honest, respectful, and responsible in the workplace.

Interviewers want to make sure that they hire someone who will be honest, responsible and respectful in the workplace. A candidate with a good work ethic will also fit much better with the existing team.

Why are good work ethics and integrity important?

If the candidate shows that they have good ethics, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Help understand how to react to situations appropriately
  • Work well in a team
  • Set a good standard of behaviour
  • Be self-motivated in the workplace

How do interviewers identify if candidates have good work ethics?

Identifying whether a candidate has good workplace ethics may be more challenging than identifying other skills. This is because candidates can put on a facade during an interview. However, interviewers will usually determine the candidate’s ethics but consider their previous job attitude.

Adaptability Competency

In any workplace setting and situation, an employee needs to be able to handle change. Whether the change is positive or negative, having the ability to adjust your working style is a must in order to grow in any position.

Adaptability competency refers to a candidate’s ability to handle change as well as being able to handle multiple tasks at once. To have good adaptability skills, you will need to remain calm, flexible and decisive.

Changes may happen at any moment, so you need to be able to remain calm and make a decision on how to best respond to these changes. A candidate with good adaptability skills will be able to achieve a goal even if they have to make changes to how that goal is achieved.

All employees must develop adaptability skills if they want to thrive in their environment. However, specific roles look for this competency, like occupational therapists, healthcare social workers, flight attendants, and systems administrators.

Why are adaptability competencies important?

If the candidate shows that they have good adaptability skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Make decisions in a stressful environment
  • Think strategically to achieve goals
  • Come up with innovative solutions
  • Face challenges head-on

How do interviewers identify adaptability competencies?

In incompetency interviews, there are multiple opportunities that interviewers could identify a candidate’s adaptability skills. This most common way is to ask about actual events in the candidate’s life where they had to adapt to changes.

However, other ways small ways that could also help the interviewer identify the candidate’s adaptability skills include adapting to a different time or place of the interview. Even identifying if the candidate is able to manage to have the interview online instead of in-person may be a change worth noting.

a team collaborating

Collaboration and Teamwork

A successful business has a direct reaction to how well its employees work together. After all, a business’s employees need to work together to achieve business goals. This is why almost every role will require some degree of collaboration and teamwork.

It is essential to keep in mind that while you may not be working directly with team members, your work still plays a part in helping the business reach a goal. However, you never know when you may have to collaborate with another team member. This is why working within a team is an essential skill to have in the work environment.

Having good collaboration and teamwork skills also helps to maintain good working relationships. This is crucial to having a healthy work environment. This is why interviewers may include this as a critical competency.

There are specific roles where collaboration and teamwork skills are essential for the job to be effectively done. A few of these jobs include police officers, construction workers, chefs, and human resource managers.

Why are problem collaboration and teamwork skills important?

If the candidate shows that they have a good collaboration and teamwork skills, this will help the interviewer identify if the candidates will be able to do the following:

  • Work with team members to complete tasks efficiently
  • Build and maintain good working relationships
  • Help check team member’s work
  • Learn from other team members

How do interviewers identify collaboration and teamwork skills?

There are competency based interview questions that the interviewer will ask to assess the candidate’s collaboration and teamwork skills. However, you should also be prepared to do a trial run of completing tasks that may require a team effort. Especially if you are applying for a job that requires continuous teamwork.

Types of Questions Asked in Competency Based Interviews

All competency based interview questions are predetermined. This is usually done to make sure that the questions asked during the interview will be able to generate specific answers, which the interviewer can use to identify if the candidate has the required skills that will make them the best person for the job.

Competency based questions are all open-ended, but they will each focus on a specific set of competencies. So when answering these questions, it is essential to keep in mind that you include all the possible key competencies that the interviewer is looking for in your answer.

a person sitting on the chair

The types of questions asked in competency interviews will depend on the job and the competencies that the interviewer is trying to identify.

Sample competency interview questions

To give you a better idea of what you can expect from a competency interview. Here is a list of possible competency questions and the competencies that they are trying to identify:

Communication competency questions:

  1. How would you describe yourself?
  2. Tell us about the most significant accomplishment you have achieved.

Business knowledge competency questions

  1. What are your thoughts about the current situation in the market?
  2. Who is your mentor, or who do you consider successful in this industry?

Problem-solving competency questions

  1. Tell us about a crisis you faced at work and how you managed it.
  2. Describe a situation when you faced a problem but wish that you had solved it differently.

Leadership competency questions

  1. How do you manage to balance your work life and personal life?
  2. Describe what you would do if you were the lead in a team whose team members do not get along.

Organisational competency questions

  1. Tell us about your time management skills.
  2. How do you estimate how much time a task will require?

Technical competency questions

  1. Tell us about your dream position and why it is your dream job.
  2. What do you do if you are unsure about an answer or task?

Project management competency questions

  1. Describe the results of a project that you were the lead on.
  2. Tell us about your most successful project.

Good workplace ethics and integrity competency questions

  1. Do you value integrity, and tell us what it means to you?
  2. Tell us about a time when you have admitted to doing something wrong in the workplace?

Adaptability competency questions

  1. Tell us about a time that you had to adapt to change and how you handled it?
  2. Describe your feelings towards change.

Collaboration and teamwork competency questions

  1. What are your thoughts about working in a team?
  2. Describe the relationship of a team that you have previously worked with.

How to Prepare for a Competency Based Interview?

After reading over a few samples of competency based interview questions, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. These questions are complex and will require a lot of thought and preparation. However, once you start preparing for this interview and how to answer these questions, you will feel much more relaxed.

a group of people sitting on the chairs

Whether you have an upcoming interview or you are simply preparing for any possible future interviews. Here are a few tips that will help you best handle a competency based interview:

Read over the job description

One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to read over the job description. After all, the job description gives you a clear outline of exactly what the interviewer will be looking for.

When it comes to competency based interviews, you can usually get an idea of the critical competencies that the interviewer is looking for in the job description itself. So make sure to always go through the job description before your interview.

Identify the key competencies your interviewer is looking for

The best way to prepare for crucial competencies based on interview questions is by first identifying the possible vital competencies. While you won’t be able to identify the exact vital competencies. You will be able to figure out the few main competencies usually required for that specific role.

The two best ways to do this is, as mentioned early, to read through the job description. However, another way to identify possible competencies is to research the skills required for the role you are applying for.

Find competency based interview questions.

Once you have an idea of the possible key competencies that will be required for the job, the next step is to find sample competency questions. There are tons of sample questions that focus on different skills. All it will take is a little research. A good idea would be to start by answering the sample key competencies questions listed above.

Practice answering competency based interview questions

After finding a few questions to answer, you can practice answering these questions. It is important to remember that your answers must be carefully thought out and include the relevant vital competencies.

Reference real-life examples when answering competency based interview questions

When answering these questions, your answer must flow and keeps the interviewer interested. The best way to answer competency questions is to reference real-life examples. This will give the interviewer a better insight into your work experience and provide examples of when you used specific skills.

Final Thoughts

Competency interviews can be extremely overwhelming unlike digital interviews, especially when it is for a job that you want. Usually, competency-based interview questions are predetermined and are designed to identify particular skills. What is great about this is that you will be able to prepare your responses to these by using similar sample competency interviews questions. This will give you an advantage in the interview.

There are a few key competencies that most companies require for their employee to have few of these include communication skills, technical skills, and organisational skills. It would be a good idea to revise the job description to identify the possible competencies that your interviewer may be looking for.

While these interviews can seem complex, you will feel prepared as long you prepare for answers to possible competency-based questions. It is essential to keep in mind that these are designed in a way to ensure that the candidate who is hired for the job is the right fit. This means if you have what they are looking for, then your chances of landing this job will be good.

So don’t waste any more time and start preparing for your upcoming competency interview. Good luck.

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