Competency Based Interviews – let’s take the mystery out of them for you!

There are several types of interviews but the one that is becoming increasingly common is the Competency Based Interview. It may sound intimidating but the reality is that this type of interview will get the best out of you as a candidate and allow you to present yourself in the best possible light. 

The basic premise of a Competency Based Interview is that a candidate’s past performance is the best indicator of their future performance. All of the questions will be directly linked to a particular function of the position for which you have applied. Interviewers will ask for examples of things you have actually done, which will demonstrate the key characteristics their organisation needs from that particular role.

Organisation Awareness

Finding out how the potential employee (you) thinks and how you perceive your contribution to the company as a new member of their team. It’s particularly relevant to senior level management. 

Sample questions:

  • Describe the structure of your current company and give an example of how you work to achieve your goals.
  • Describe how you perceive the new company and how you would fit in.  

These questions would help the employer in several ways (a) it gives them an accurate gauge of how they are perceived in the market and (b) how they are perceived as an employer. It also gives them a brief overview of the way you are accustomed to working and it will help them figure out if you would fit in with their company culture. It will also allow you as the interviewee to give some valuable insights into how you would add value to their organisation.  

Strategic Thinking

Again this is very much geared towards senior management and the decisions you would make. It shows what level of decision-making you are capable of both on a macro and a micro level. 

Sample questions:

  • Describe the most challenging aspect of your current role and what you have done to adapt your performance. 
  • How did you go about assessing your own performance and your team’s performance in that situation?


This is particularly relevant at a managerial level where employers are looking for an individual who can make a positive profit-making contribution.

Sample questions:

  • Describe something you initiated for your company that improved the team performance or the value of the work done.
  • Have you done anything innovative (e.g. produced surveys or written reports) that would be of direct interest to your target market or enhanced awareness of your company? 

While it is geared towards the managerial level, innovation is sought across every role from the managerial level to administration. For example, if you are in charge of stock control, is there anything you could do to improve the process that would (a) increase business flow or (b) decrease monthly costs?


This is relevant across all levels. So many people use the term “good communication skills” in their CV and when asked about their skills are unable to give good solid examples of where they used those skills. Communication is vital, and potential employers want to see those communication skills in interviews. 

Sample questions:

  • Give an example of a difficult/sensitive situation that required you to use excellent communication skills.
  • How have you developed communication skills in others? 
  • How do you keep your clients or your reporting line informed about issues that affect the company’s bottom line?

Client Relationship / Focus 

This again covers all levels of staff as clients can be both internal and external. 

Sample questions:

  • Describe how you develop new client relationships or maintain existing ones.
  • Describe how you keep your existing client base in the face of competition. 
  • Describe the process you use to keep in touch with your client’s requirements. 

Leadership Ability

This is very relevant for those seeking a managerial position – it will give the potential employer an insight into how you would lead a team, what your managerial style is like and how that style would blend in with their culture. 

Sample questions:

  • Describe how you have led a team?
  • How did you motivate your team?
  • How did you improve your team’s individual performances?
  • What do you think your team would say about you?


For those who are not necessarily looking at a managerial level position, team work is one category in which you have a chance to shine. Organisations are quickly coming to realise that a cultural fit is just as important as the ability to do the job.  

Sample questions:

  • Describe a situation in which you were a member of a team – what did you do to make a positive contribution?
  • Describe a situation where there was a conflict in a team and what you did to resolve it?

Time Management

You may get questions on your ability to manage your workload in a timely and efficient manner, especially for roles where time is of the essence, eg: project management. It also applies across all levels of roles, particularly those which are in a support function. 

Sample questions:

  • Give a specific example of meeting deadlines?
  • What could you have done differently where possible?
  • Has the experience affected the way you deal with deadlines now?

A useful way to remember how to structure your answer is under the mnemonic STAR.

(S/T) – Situation or Task. This is the introduction or opening information. Interviewees will describe the event. It is important to bring the event to life. Numbers work very well here to create a clear picture. For example – instead of stating “a busy reception switchboard” you could say “transferring over 50 calls an hour”.

(A) – Action. This is what you did, or the body of the story. It is where you provide details about actions you took and how you behaved during the situation. It is important to avoid sweeping statements and to provide plenty of detail. The most common mistake at this stage is to use the word “We” instead of the word “I” when describing actions. Doing this will dilute your contribution.

(R) – Results. The final part of the technique where you state the results or outcomes of the situation. Another useful tip is to highlight your learning points from the event/situation at the time and how, if it was a negative event, you have made steps to prevent a reoccurrence.