What is a Competency Based Interview?

If you’re worried about attending a competency based interview, or just want to know exactly what this type of job interview entails, then don’t get too worked up. 

Many major employers are turning towards these types of interviews, and they can actually be great opportunities to sell yourself and highlight your major strengths and capabilities.

What is a Competency Based Interview?

The competency interview differs from traditional job interviews in the way it is structured. A traditional interview might be quite free form, perhaps more like a conversation between the interviewer and candidate, and based on questions related to the job applied for.

Competency based interviews are very often scripted and may consist of questions designed to reveal your motivations, desires, and insights into a candidate’s abilities. Instead of consisting of a random question, such as describe your strengths; instead it is designed to test a particular skill, through asking you to describe your experiences and how you handled certain situations.

Perhaps this sounds concerning, however, as a potential job candidate, your opportunities to excel within competency based interviews can be maximised, if you prepare thoroughly.

What is a Competency Based Interview Skills

Types of Competencies Tested

Prior to interviewing, employers will make decisions on the key competencies they are looking for and will design a standard script or questionnaire to test for these. Interview candidates are expected to provide situational examples from their lives to illustrate how their skills and competencies match each required capability, and hope to understand the true nature of the candidate in question.

When you understand the style and format of the typical competency based interview, it’s actually quite an easy matter to prepare for the “ordeal” to ensure you give it your best shot. The types of key competencies many employers test for include:

  • Commitment to career and upwards motivation
  • Teamwork
  • Decision making
  • Responsibility
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Ethics, social awareness and trustworthiness
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Organisation
  • Commercial awareness

Once you’re aware of the areas likely to be tested within the interview, you’re in a better position to prepare thoroughly for this meeting. Remember a job interview is a two way process, you are making a decision on whether you wish to be work for this employer, too.

For more detail on skills and competencies that are tested in competency-based interviews, read our free information here.

Typical Interview Structure

You should expect your interview to last about an hour, all candidates will be asked the same questions and answers will be judged or graded according to criteria the employer sets prior to the interview sessions.

Many competency-based interviews will take the “STAR” approach – which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This enables the candidate to provide a meaningful ad complete answer to any questions which require certain examples. Many interviewers will have been trained with this structure in mind, and if you take the same approach, they will recognise its value, and become more receptive to what it is you are trying to communicate. For extra information on this method, read our free guide here.

Expect competency questions based on types of activities in which you participated throughout your education or based on your lifestyle. You should anticipate needing to speak about the types of activities you do which illustrate specific competencies. An example of a typical question, geared towards answering a number of the key competencies highlighted above, would ask you to describe situations where you had to work as part of a team. Take several minutes to address this question, speaking of ways in which your sense of teamwork helped lead, motivate or otherwise develop the team and led to successful completion of any project.

Your interviewers will be happy if you take a few moments to prepare any answers to competency questions. Just let them know you need a little time to think of the best examples from your past history, then give your answers once you have thoroughly prepared yourself. Jumping into answer questions of this nature without thorough preparation can lead to weak responses; although it’s a good idea to not continuously repeat this for each question, as it will come across that you are ill-prepared for the interview.

Many of the topics which are addressed at your interview would relate to the competencies already mentioned within the person specification you will have received prior to the interview. Reading through this specification, and gleaning particular pieces of information which could inform what questions that may ask, can prove invaluable in preparing for certain questions, and having a good idea of which topics may come up.


If you have an upcoming competency-based interview, then get in touch with us in order to ensure you are fully prepared. If you really want to excel in particular interview situations, Interview Skills Consulting has the expertise and professionalism to assist you and ensure your techniques are polished and honed.

Our personalised interview coaching services provided you with the confidence you need to reach your goals in employment interviews, while our 94 percent success rate speaks for itself.

Interview Skills Competency Based Interviews

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