Competency-based Interviewing

Behavioural or competency-based interviews are used to show how candidates would demonstrate certain behaviours/skills in the workplace.

Interviewees will be asked to give an example of a situation or task that led you to take a certain course of action. Probing questions will then be used to determine the course of action they took and how these actions affected others around them. The interviewer wants to know what the candidate as an individual delivered and achieved.


How to structure the answer

The STAR model will allow the candidate to effectively structure their answer logically and concisely.

Situation Describe the situation or problem you were faced with, keep your examples recent

Task What did you have to do?

Action What action did you take and why? What were the challenges you faced?

Results What was the outcome?


Preparing for a competency-based interview

Candidates should review the job description in order to identify the competencies the organisation is looking for. For each core competency they should try to think of specific examples of times when they have demonstrated those behaviours.



1. Drive for results

This competency assesses the candidate’s motivation and how they approach challenges.

Example questions:

  • What achievement are you most proud of?

  • Tell me about a time when you have “made things happen” for yourself or your team?

  • Describe a situation when a project or piece of work was going to miss a set deadline, how did you prioritise which parts of the work to complete first and how did you go about completing the existing work?

  • Can you tell me about a time when you have performed over and above the expectations of your role?

2. Communications

The candidate’s ability to communicate effectively and influence others to act in support of their own and team goals will be examined. An ability to adapt their communication methods depending on situations and individuals is important here.


Example questions:

  • Can you give an example of a time you influenced a colleague to adopt your way of thinking?

  • Has there been a time when you had to communicate a difficult issue?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to have a conversation with a co-worker or client with whom you had a language barrier?

  • Describe a talk or presentation that you recently gave.

  • Give an example of a time when you have had to communicate with individuals and groups, both internally and externally. What methods of communication did you use and what problems did you face?

3. Planning and organising


This competency analyses the candidate’s ability to plan and manage activities and projects.


Example questions:

  • Have you ever had to plan a large piece of work?

  • It is a busy day with conflicting priorities and deadlines, what do you?

  • Give me an example of when you had to work to a tight deadline. How did you monitor progress? What problems did you encounter? Would you have done anything differently?

4. Customer focus

The candidate’s ability to understand and believe in the importance of customer focus will be tested here. They should display a competency for understanding the difference between internal and external customers.


Example questions:

  • Can you describe a time where you dealt with an angry or upset client or co-worker in the past? Why were they angry? What did you do? How did you feel about it?

  • Tell me about an occasion when you had to work hard to meet the needs of a customer. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time when a customer or co-worker made unreasonable demands on you. What did you do? How were the demands unreasonable? What was the outcome? How did it make you feel?

5. Influencing or persuading others

Strong verbal skills are one thing but being able to influence another person to change their thinking or take some action is as important. Can the candidate influence a colleague to change or a client to buy?

Example questions:

  • Is there a time where you were able to change another person’s viewpoint?

  • Give an example of a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with. How did you go about your task and what was the outcome?

6. Interpersonal and team skills

Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams. If candidates are highly collaborative and co-operative, they are most likely to thrive in this type of environment.

Example questions:

  • What skills and personal qualities have you contributed to the teams you have been part of?

  • Who is the most difficult person you have had to deal with?

  • Give an ex example of a time when you have been asked to work in a group to complete a project. How did the group organise priorities and the delegation of tasks? What was the overall outcome of the project?

7. Problem solving and decision making

Decision making is a skill that requires the ability to process information and filter this information to ensure you produce a sound and valid decision. Candidates should be able to provide examples of situations where this skill has been tested. They should use examples where an obvious answer is not immediately apparent.


Example questions:

  • What difficult decisions have you had to make in the recent past?

  • Have you made any decisions that have ultimately been unpopular?

  • Describe a significant problem that you have encountered recently. How did you approach this problem? Who was involved and how did you go about resolving it?

8. Adaptability

Example questions:


Adaptability is ability to to adapt to changing situations. These interview questions will give the interviewer an insight into the candidate’s ability to think on their feet and see if they can effectively manage the changing needs of the company.


  • Tell me about a time when you felt it was particularly important that you adapted your behaviour to suit the situation. What was effective about the way you adapted your behaviour? What did you learn from adapting your behaviour? How were you able to take into account any differences in culture or religion of those involved?

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to accept a change initiative which came from higher up in the organisation: How did you feel about adapting to the initiative? What did you do to ensure the initiative was accepted? How successful did you feel the initiative was?

  • Describe a time when you had to deal with an ambiguous situation at work: What did you find difficult to deal with about the situation? How did this affect your performance? What would you do differently in future?


9. Resilience

This shows whether or not the candidate can work productively in a pressurised environment.


Example questions:

• Describe a situation where you were working under a lot of pressure. What was the reason? How did you resolve it? What did you learn & what would you do different next time?

• Tell me about a time when you were given unfair feedback. Why was it unfair? How did you handle it? What steps did you take to re-boost your confidence? What did you learn from it?

10.Personal and Career Objectives

• What are your short, medium and long term goals, how have you gone about identifying and developing these goals and how do you intend to achieve them?