Everything you need to know about – Competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews use behavioural or situational questions which aim to find out how you have used specific skills in your previous experience and how you approach problems, tasks and challenges. Estimates indicate that a third to a half of all employers are using competency interviews as part of their recruitment process. Large graduate employers are especially likely to use competency interviews as part of their graduate recruitment procedure. These types of interviews are based on the premise that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour and can give valuable insights into an individual’s preferred style of working.

In a competency-based interviews, candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. Questions may include ‘Tell me a time when…’ or ‘Describe a way in which you….’ or ‘Can you think of a time when…’. The interviewer will be searching for your behaviour around a number of competencies – such as adaptability, conflict management, decisiveness, innovation, flexibility, leadership, resilience and risk-taking. For example, if they’re looking for someone with excellent teamwork and leadership skills, think of several scenarios in which you’ve demonstrated this.

Competency-based interviews are less of a conversation and more of a question and answer session and in this regard can be quite taxing.

Here are our top 6 competency interview tips:

1. List the competencies specified in the job and person specification and prepare two strong concrete examples of each ahead of your interview.

2. Make sure you understand clearly which competency you’re being asked about before you supply an example.

3. It is quite acceptable to ask for and to use a few moments of thinking time before answering competency questions. It is far better to say ‘I may need a few moments to think about that’ than to immediately respond with a scenario that is not a good example!

4. With each example, be clear about the process and the results (preferably with numbers) so that the interviewer can ascertain the way you prefer to work. Describe the situation, task, action and result.

5. Practice your examples with a critical friend before your interview so you will be as prepared as possible but don’t rehearse to the point where you sound robotic!

6. Make sure that you convey your personality with your answers – remember the interviewer is looking for someone who will fit in with their existing team so needs to know the type of person you really are.


If you need more interview tips, visit https://www.ets-technical.co.uk/job-seekers/resources-for-candidates/