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Competency Based Interview Questions: How to Answer Them Effectively



Whilst no two interviews are ever the same, you will find that most interviews involve certain common elements. Regardless of where you are in your career and whatever sector that you work in, you’ll find that almost every interview you will ever have will have some questions that are known as ‘behavioural’ or ‘competency based’ interview questions.

What Are Competency Based Interview Questions?

Competency based interviews were first developed nearly 40 years ago by organisational psychologists. Their aim is to find out how you as a candidate have used specific skills, qualities or experience and how you approach challenges, tasks and situations. The underlying premise of competency based interviews is that how you have acted in situations in the past is a good indicator of how you will act in the future.

Examples of Competency Based Interviews

Competency based interviews follow a very straightforward format. Examples include:

  • Tell us about a time that you had to deal with a difficult client. How did you deal with the situation and what was the outcome?
  • Give us an example of how you have used creativity to solve a serious work issue.
  • Can you give us an example of where you have had to think on your feet in your last role?
  • Give us an example of when you have achieved a tough goal or target at work. What steps did you take to achieve it?
  • Tell us about a time that you have had to lead a team through difficult or challenging times

As you can see, these types of questions all require you to give a detailed answer. As you will almost certainly be asked several of these types of question in almost every interview you will ever attend, then it’s crucial that you know how to answer them. Thankfully, there’s a very, simple and straightforward structure you can use to answer these types of questions.

The ‘STAR’ Method

The STAR method really is the very best way of answering such questions. STAR is a simple four-step technique to frame your answers and ensure they are logical and answer the question fully.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Activity, Result: 

  • Situation - This is where you give the interviewer the context of your answer by describing the situation of where your answer is set.
  • Task - What was the task involved? What was required? Why was it important? What was to be achieved?
  • Activity - What were the actions you took? Why did you take them? In this step, highlight the skills and attributes that the question is asking about.
  • Result - What was the result? How did the situation turn out? How did your specific, personal actions achieve the outcome?

Competency based interviews can be challenging and daunting, but by utilising the STAR framework, you’ll find you have a useful framework that will help you answer them effectively.

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