Competency Based Interview Questions

Prospective employers want to make sure job candidates are competent enough to fulfill job duties, so most interviewers utilize competency based questions to determine whether or not job candidates have the skills and knowledge required to perform essential tasks.

Competency-based interview questions can vary greatly and are in large part dependent on the level of position being applied for, the nature of the position itself, as well as the industry.

For example, competency-based questions asked in an interview for an entry-level data-entry position are going to be very different than those asked interview for a management level position in accounting.

Answering Competency-based Interview Questions
When answering competency-based interview questions, we recommend the STAR approach. STAR is an acronym that stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

The STAR approach is uniquely designed to help interviewees provide complete, yet concise, answers to questions requiring examples. As the STAR approach is a universally recognised communication technique, many hiring managers and interviewers also trained to use the STAR structure in their interviewing. Either way, the STAR approach enables candidates to provide their answers in a structured manner that will ensure the interviewer is more receptive to the message being communicated.

S/T (Situation/Task)
First, describe the situation confronted or task that needed to be accomplished. This sets the context. Make sure to describe all relevant elements of the situation, but be concise.

A (Action)
Second, explain exactly what you did to address the situation or accomplish the task. This is the most important element of STAR as it is where you're able to showcase skills and qualifications the question is testing. Make sure to keep your explanation personal. Talk about yourself (not your team). Go into detail, but don't provide technical information, unless it's a necessary part of the explanation. You must explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.

R (Result)
Finally, describe exactly what your action led to and what you accomplished. Share with the interviewer any important take aways or lessons learned. This will help personalize the example and highlight other skills you may have. Make sure to show the interviewer that you took specific action to achieve a specific objective or result.

Examples of Competency-based Interview Questions
Below you'll find various examples of common competency-based interview questions organized by competency. While this list is not all inclusive, developing answers to each of the questions below will provide you practice and confidence you'll need to perform well in competency-based interviews.

Leadership Competency: Leadership Interview Questions

  • Are you open to new ideas? When do you discuss your ideas with team members? What factors do you consider when making decisions?
  • Explain a situation when you took a risk. What motivated you to do so?
  • What actions do you take to motivate and involve team members?
  • Explain in detail how you boast team member morale.
  • Explain in detail how you accomplished a goal?
  • Explain when you utilized a creative solution to resolve a problem.
  • Have you ever mentored a colleague?
  • Explain in detail a situation where you helped two parties come to a compromise.
  • Describe a situation where you were reqired to improve the performance of your team.
  • What qualities do leaders possess? How is leadership demonstrated?
  • What do you do to motivate others? How do you remain self-motivated?
  • Should leaders be granted authority? What do you do to change the opinions of others?
  • Discuss leadership weaknesses you possess?
  • What separates a leader from a manager?

  • Tell us about an instance where you failed as a leader.
  • Describe time where you had to lead a team through change.
  • Describe a situation where you need to inspire a team. What difficulties did you face and how did you address them?

Communication Competency: Communication Skills Interview Questions

  • Discuss an experience where you explained complicated technical terms to individuals without the same knowledge.
  • Explain a time when you convinced a co-worker to accept a new task.
  • Explain in detail an experience where you explained complicated information in comprehendible language.
  • How do you relay information to other co-workers?
  • What actions do you take to encourage colleagues to share additional information?
  • Beside verbal communication, how do you effectively communicate with colleagues?
  • How do you demonstrate to others that you are listening attentively?
  • How do you clarify confusing concepts and language?
  • Describe an instance where your communication skills allowed you to make a meaninful difference to a situation.
  • Describe a time when you had to convince a co-worker, superior or team of your view point.
  • What steps do you take to remain upbeat during conversations?

Customer Service Competency: Customer Service Skills Interview Questions

  • How do you respond to customer complaints?
  • What steps do you take to maintain good relations with customers? What do you do to ensure they are satisfied?
  • What do you do to adhere strictly to company policy while keeping clients satisfied?
  • Have you resolved a customer concern when it fell outside the purview of your job duties?
  • Have you ever refused a customer request? Explain the reasons behind your decision?
  • Explain in detail how you handled an unhappy client after denying a request that would violate company policy?

Sales competencies: Sales Skills Interview Questions

  • Explain in detail a situation where you developed an effective new sales technique.
  • How do you remain motivated as a salesperson?
  • What steps do you take to market new products?
  • How do you remain up to date with new marketing trends?
  • How do you utilize psychology when marketing products and services? How do consumers determine what types of products and services to purchase?

Interpersonal Competency: Interpersonal Skills Interview Questions

  • How do you maintain good relations with colleagues?
  • What steps do you take to network? Why is networking important?
  • How do you remain friendly with individuals you disagree with?
  • How often do colleagues request assistance from you? When do you request assistance from them?
  • Why is it important to develop relationships with business colleagues?
  • What steps do you take to develop new relationships with coworkers?

Organizational Competency: Organizational Skills Interview Questions

  • How do you develop business plans?
  • Explain how you multi-task and manage large workloads?
  • Explain how you determine what projects require priority?

Decision Making Competency: Decision Making Interview Questions

  • Explain what types of decisions you consult with coworkers on?
  • Describe factors you consider when making decisions.
  • Provide details about a decision you made when important facts were unavailable?
  • Explain a situation when you postponed an important decision?
  • When an instant decision is required, what steps do you follow to make it?

Strategic Thinking Competency: Strategic Thinking Interview Questions

  • How do you brainstorm, relay ideas to coworkers, and analyze complex problems?
  • Provide details about a situation where you conducted a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
  • Why are management changes typically ineffective?

Creative Problem Solving Skills Interview Questions

  • Explain how you analyze a problem and develop solutions.
  • How do you conduct troubleshooting?
  • When responsible for gathering systematic data and conducting risk management, what steps do you take?
  • How do you solve problems and predict risk?
  • Explain in detail a creative solution used to resolve a complex problem.

Other Tips for Answering Competency-based Questions
The following are a few additional tips to help prepare you to answer competency-based questions:

  • Brainstorm and list experiences that have helped you develop professionally. Consider challenging experiences where you had to resolve problems.
  • Thoroughly review each qualification listed for the job.
  • Be ready to answer each question with specific examples.

List of Competencies and Skills
Below is a list of other competencies and skills that employers often test for using competency-based interviewing techniques. Depending on the position being applied for, you may want to come up with one or two examples from past work experience that demonstrate each of these competencies.

  • Negotiation and motivation skills
  • Conflict management skills
  • Creative and critical thinking
  • Ability to multi-task and delegate responsibilities
  • Strict attention paid to details
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Ability to compromise
  • Effective analytical skills
  • Strict adherence to business ethics and company policies

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