How to Ace a Competency-Based Job Interview

You’ve made it past the application process and the initial telephone interview, but next comes the moment many jobseekers dread: the competency-based interview. 

Competency-based interviews are often used by hiring managers to get an insight into the past experience and skills that candidates will bring to the role. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the competency-based job interview and provide a few top tips to help you succeed. 

What is a competency-based job interview? 

A competency-based job interview, sometimes called a situational or behavioural interview, asks candidates to provide examples of situations they have been in professionally and personally and the skills, knowledge and behaviours they used to achieve results. With past behaviour being an excellent indicator of future performance, the purpose of this interview technique is to give hiring managers a better idea of how candidates will behave in the role and the outcomes they will achieve. 

Examples of competency-based interview questions

Competency-based interview questions are used to assess a whole range of skills and behaviours, including the following:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making

Below are a few examples of the type of questions you could be asked:

  • Tell me about a time when your organisational skills helped you to deliver a successful result.
  • What is the most successful team you have been a part of and how did you contribute to its success?
  • Describe a time when your communication skills helped to resolve a situation.
  • Give me an example of a time when you made the wrong decision. Why did you make that decision and what should you have done differently?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a challenging employee. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you developed an innovative solution to a problem?

Our tips for competency-based interview success  

Needless to say, thorough preparation is key if you want to ace a competency-based job interview. To do that, you should go through the job description and person specification for the role you’re applying for, identify the skills and behaviours the employer is looking for and think of a time when you have exhibited those skills and behaviours successfully. However, that’s not all you can do:

1. Use the STAR technique 

If you’re not familiar with the STAR technique, then it’s well worth doing a little extra reading. The STAR technique helps you split your answers to competency-based interview questions into more manageable and memorable chunks.

  • Situation – Describe the situation you were in and set the scene for the interviewer.
  • Task – Explain the challenge or goal you were working towards. Ideally, you should include a task that is relevant to your prospective new employer.
  • Action – Explain what you did to overcome the challenge or achieve your goal.
  • Result – Describe the outcome, explain how your actions contributed to it and ideally use numbers to quantify the result.

2. Take your time

One of the most common mistakes candidates make when answering this type of question is diving into their answer before they’ve taken the time to properly digest the question. An interviewer will not expect an immediate answer, so take a few seconds to make sure the example you’re about to give is relevant.

3. Be yourself   

Preparation is vital if you-re going to ace a competency-based job interview, but don’t rehearse your answers to the point that your personality can’t shine through. Provide honest, confident and genuine responses to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

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