10 Competency Based Interview Questions and How To Answer Them

In today’s extremely competitive job market, competency-based interviews are being used more and more to understand whether you’re right for a specific company. Competency-based interviews use past performance to understand how you’ll react to a particular situation and therefore, whether you’re going to add value to the team.

Competency-based interview questions are not difficult if you have done your job interview preparation. The problem is that most candidates don’t prepare. When that time comes to think of an example, because they’ve done no preparation, their mind is blank, and their job interview generally goes rapidly downhill.

Over the years, I have seen hundreds of candidates that were two questions away from an offer letter. The problem was those two questions were competency-based interview questions. If only they’d done thirty minutes of preparation they would have a job offer.

Competency-Based Job Interview

If you do your preparation and follow a few basic rules, there’s nothing to worry about. I would recommend that you use the STAR approach to answer any competency-based interview question.

Most importantly the STAR approach is a natural platform that you can remember, and follow, but will give your answer structure which is very important.

The STAR Approach

The STAR approach stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. When answering competency interview questions, you need to make sure that you explain the “Situation” you were in, the “Task” that you had, what you were responsible for, “The Action” and what was the end “Result.

“60% of giving a great answer to a competency interview question is making sure that you go into enough details. The general rule for answering competency-based interview questions is to keep your response to the point, but make sure that you go into as much detail as physically possible in the couple of minutes that it will take to answer the question.

Competency Based Interview Questions and Example Answers

Hiring managers are not acclaimed interviewers and are unlikely to step much out the traditional competency-based questions. Below, are five competency-based job interview questions that are likely to be asked in your next job interview.

Rather than just giving you the competency-based interview questions and answers, I have tried to explain how I would answer the questions while using the STAR approach.

Question – Tell me about a difficult problem you’ve had at work and how you were able to overcome this?

The interviewer is trying to test how you handle yourself in difficult situations in the workplace. They are looking for proof that you can tackle problems head-on and not just get bogged down.To create a strong answer, you need to make sure that you demonstrate a problem, what action you took and what the result was.

Example Answer:

  • Situation – Whilst working as a sales manager in company X, I often found it difficult to make sure that my team achieves our sales targets at the end of the month.
  • Task – I needed to improve consistency and increase the sales targets of my team
  • Action – I sought advice from the directors within the business to find out how they motivated their teams through the month.
  • Result – I implemented several different daily and weekly incentives over the course of the month and successfully increased my team’s sales figures by 30%.

Question – Give me an example of a difficult customer you’ve had to deal with and how you used your skills to overcome the problem.

If you learn one answer to a competency-based question, learn an answer to this question. Over the years I have seen candidates completely fall apart during their interview as they cannot think of a customer.

Make sure that you answer all customer-based questions where you resolved the problem, not where you had to refer the issue to your senior manager.

Example Answer:

  • Situation – while work as a sales manager in company X, I picked up the telephone to a client who was exceptionally unhappy because they’d not received their goods and were running out of stock in their shop.
  • Task – The client was very unhappy and wanted to know when their order would arrive as they urgently needed these products. My job was solving the problem.
  • Action – Firstly I listened carefully to what the customer had to say and both apologised and empathised with this situation. I then clarified that my understanding of the problem was correct and took responsibility to resolve the issue with the client. I gave the client, both my mobile number and email address and made it known to the client that they could call me directly any time they had a problem, and I would do my best to resolve it. I found out what had happened to their original order. It turns out that their order was lost in the system and would take another week to be delivered. As a temporary measure, I offered the client an alternative to send them a small order today which would give them enough stock to cover this period until the primary (much larger) order would arrive.
  • Result – I confirmed this solution was acceptable by the customer and both followed up to make sure that the smaller order arrives by the end of the day and the much larger order arrived by the end of the week. I followed up with the client after both orders had arrived and ensured the customer was happy with the products. The customer was delighted with my service and professional approach and promised to contact me directly again when they wanted to make their next order. After being in communication for a few months with the customer, I managed to meet the customer in person and introduce them to three other business lines which they also included in their next order, therefore increasing the value of further orders by 45%.

Question – Tell Me About A Situation Where You Lead A Team?

This is an excellent example of a competency-based interview question, where the interviewer is trying to understand how you relate, manage, motivate your team to complete the tasks on time. Ultimately this question tests your leadership skills.While you should spend time describing the situation, you need to make sure that you focus on your role as the leader. One point makes sure you tell the story with you as the team leader and not the dictator.

Example Answer:

  • Situation – During my last year at College, I was responsible for managing a few business events aimed towards potential employers coming to our college to meet with graduates who were going to start looking for jobs in the summer.
  • Task – I noticed that the numbers of both Students and Potential Employers to these events had been dropping over the years and wanted to do change this and ensure that future events were more successful.
  • Action – I designed a new promotional package that we could send out to employers and local business within the city outlining what we were doing and the location. I made sure I included both the address and a Map seeing as the location of our networking event was quite hard to find. I also designed a promotional leaflet for the students, which I had sent around to all the students that were graduating at the end of the year making them aware that this networking event was taking place.
  • Result – The result was brilliant, and we had a 25% increase in the number of employers visiting our college and a 60% increase in the number of students that attended the event. I also designed a “feedback” form, which we passed out to both students and employers asking for feedback on how the event went and what improvements we should make for the following year. We collected the feedback, and I passed this information onto the next president of the business club.

Question – Tell Me About A Situation Where You Worked in A Team?

The above question focuses on your team management skills whereas this question focuses on you, working in a team. At the office, there will often be times where you must work in a group and might not be responsible for the task even as a team leader. This question is frequently asked instead of the question, are you a team player?

Example Answer:

  • Situation – During my time working on the shop floor we would often have busy periods of the day where we need everyone to pull together and help out. An example would be around lunchtime during the week where people would often pop out of work to collect a few things.
  • Task – My job was to manage and lead the shop, however in these peak times, I had to roll my sleeves up and help out dealing with customers.
  • Action – During these peak times, I helped out to make sales for my colleagues and make sure that we did not miss any sales to our competitors.
  • Result – We were able to increase sales by 10% simply down to all pulling together during these peak hours, without increasing costs. I also learned that by helping out with the team during these peak hours, I did not have to increase my costs by hiring more people and therefore made more profit. I also feel that with me helping out the shop floor team rather than merely focusing on my own goals, it made for a much better working environment.

Question – Give Me An Example of a Situation Where You Have Found It Difficult To Communicate?

This question is aimed towards finding out how you deal with difficult personalities within the working environment. Anywhere you’ll work, there will be colleagues that you like and ones that you don’t, but how are you going to deal with conflict?

Hiring managers want candidates that can rise above any conflicts and sort out any problems within their teams. It’s not an opportunity for you to tell the interviewer how bad your last boss or colleagues were or how they treated you.

This question is your chance to get across your communication skills and your team-management skills. To answer the question well, you need to give an answer that shows your maturity, your ability to keep calm and how you worked with others to find a fix. Remember this is not about you. Often the best answers are when the credit for the solution does not go you.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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