Competency Based Interviews

Competency Based Interviewing is used so that a candidate can best show how they would demonstrate certain behaviours/skills in the workplace by answering questions about how they have reacted to and dealt with previous workplace situations.

As more and more employers use competency frameworks as the basis for their HR and recruitment strategies, you are increasingly likely to face competency based interviewing.

By using past experience, a potential employer can predict future behaviour.

You will be asked to give an example of a situation or task which led you to take a certain course of action.  Probing questions are then used to determine the course of action you took and what changes were created by those actions, and the effects of those actions on others.

Many organisations now analyse jobs by breaking it down into key competencies.  For example, the competencies of a lawyer might be: planning and organising; innovation; personal drive; problem analysis; and decision-making.

How can I prepare for a competency based interview?

You can prepare for the interview in the normal way by researching the company, making sure you are able to talk through the work and skills that you have described on your CV.  However, most candidates will find this type of interviewing much more interactive and enjoyable and it is likely that the interviewer will be able to encourage you to be much more open than in a traditional interview.

If you have a job description for the role that lists the competencies required, try to think of examples where you have demonstrated those competencies in the workplace. 

How will I be measured?

Employers will look for real-life evidence where you have demonstrated certain behaviours or skills - these are termed positive and negative indicators.


Competency = Planning & Organising: prioritises; sets stretching but realistic targets and deadlines; plans ahead and has a structured approach to the work

Describe a project you have been responsible for
How did you plan your time?
How did you deal with obstacles?
In your current job, how do you schedule your time and set priorities?
How did you prepare for this interview?

Competency = Team Skills: the ability to work with other people constructively to improve the effectiveness of the team

Tell me about a time when you have started a new job
How did you go about building an effective working relationship with your team?
What effect did that have on the success of the team?
Describe an occasion where you chose not to work as part of a team.

Competency based interview questions are designed to let every candidate have the same chance to demonstrate their ability by giving examples of what they have actually done.  This should result in a fair and objective recruitment process, because candidates who are good at interviews' will still need to have examples of where they have demonstrated the relevant skills, and candidates who are not so confident in interviews will be guided to talk about their skills and experience through focused questions.


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