The Ultimate Guide to Passing Your Next Competency Based Job Interview

Given the considerable time and expense of trying to find candidates, companies are using more sophisticated interviewing techniques to make sure they find the best candidate for their company.

Competency-based jobs interviews are being used to help hiring-managers better predict what you’re going to be like as an employee. Competency-based interviews (otherwise known as behavioural interviews), use past performance in similar situations as a predictor of future performance.


According to Wikipedia, the term Competency is defined as the ability of an individual to do a job properly. Competency-based interviews are structured interviews where each question is designed to test specific skills, with the answers matched against pre-decided criteria. Generally, two types of competencies will be tested – Technical and Behavioural.

Technical Competencies are usually about your acquired knowledge, abilities and skills, which are much easier to train, develop and test. Behavioural Competencies such as leadership, communication or situation related competencies are much harder to train, develop and test, as they tend to be influenced by life, however, need to be tested as they can show how you will approach work.

What’s The Difference?

Competency-based interviews differ from the standard interviews as they are essentially a conversation where the interviewers ask questions that are relevant to what they’re looking for in a candidate. Questions in a standard interview are very open-ended where the candidate is judged purely on their answer. While in reality, it’s very difficult to achieve, it’s technically possible to learn the answer to every reasonable question and therefore have a successful job interview, even though you’ve never worked in that position.

Competency-based interviews, on the other hand, are much more structured with each question targeting a specific skill or Competency. Candidates are asked questions related to their behaviour in a particular circumstance, with their answers being back this up with concrete examples to support their case.

Why Are Competency-Based Interviews Used In A Selection Process?

Competency-based Interviews have been proven in the past to achieve an accuracy of over 80% for their predictive ability. They also eliminate bias and provide a consistent hiring platform. All too often, hiring managers have a very unstructured interview with their candidate. Over the last few years, studies have shown that structured interviews are 81% more accurate than unstructured ones. Overall, this means more consistency, better candidates and better decisions.

Studies also have shown that 94% of candidates want feedback from their job interview, however, only 41% get anything at all. If you’re using a scoring system to answer candidates’ questions, feedback becomes easier.

How Are Competency-Based Interviews Marked?

Competency-based interviews are marked on a points system where the number of points you receive for your answer, depends on the number of correct answers you give. If you want to do well in your competency-based job interview, you need to make sure you elaborate and describe your answers in as much detail as possible. This will give you the highest possible chance of scoring all the points on offer.

Generally, before your interview starts, the interviewer will have sat down and worked out what questions they want to ask and what answers they consider would be positive and thus gain points, and what answers they feel to be negative and therefore lose points.

An Example could be: Describe a Time Where You Have Had to Lead a Team in a Difficult Situation?

Your answer would be scored with something similar to the following method:

  • 1 Point – Provided little or no evidence to suggest any compatibility with leadership is a difficult situation
  • 2 Points – Provided some evidence to suggest leadership but did not suitably explain where and how
  • 3 Points – Provided an excellent answer but lacked examples
  • 4 Points – Provided a superb response and backed this up with examples that demonstrated solutions to the problem
  • 5 Points – Provided a Great answer and backed this up with a great example and explanations that showed practical solutions, leadership while effectively leading the team during a difficult situation and creatively solved the problem faced

What Competencies Can Be Tested

Generally companies will not provide you with a list of competencies that they’re planning to test you on, and while it can vary from interviewer, to the position you’re interviewing for, (for an Assistant Position, the competencies tested would generally include organisational and communication, while a Senior Manager would likely be tested on their leadership, negotiation skills and their ability to cope with pressure and stress), below are some key competencies that employers would look for in candidates and will most likely test for in a competency-based in job Interview.

  • Personal Competencies – Knowledge, Personal Values, Independence Experience, Time Management, adaptability, flexibility, External Awareness
  • Managerial Competencies – Delegation, Influencing, Team Work, Leadership, External Awareness, Risk Taking, Sensitivity
  • Analytical Competencies – Decisiveness, Decision-Making Abilities, Creativity and Innovation
  • Interpersonal Competencies – Communication, Tenacity, Conflict Management
  • Motivational Competencies – Drive, Ambition, Initiative,

How To Answer A Competency-Based Interview Question

To make sure that you score top marks on your competency-based interview, you need to make sure that you’re giving great answers to the questions that are being asked. Firstly, make sure that you listen to the question, and provide an answer, that answers the question.

Often candidates will provide a fantastic response, but it doesn’t answer the question. This shows that you have a lack of maturity and cannot structure your thoughts correctly which, when translated into business means that you’re likely to be very un-organised in your work.

To ensure that you answer competency-based interviews correctly, I would highly recommend that you use the STAR approach as it will give your answer structure and ensure that you do not miss out any crucial details. The STAR approach to questions stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.

Use The “STAR” Approach

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The STAR approach is a universally recognised communication technique that is designed to help you provide thoughtful answers to questions where examples are needed. At the same time, it’s simple which gives you the added benefit that most likely you’re going to be able to remember it.

Situation + Task

The situation means that you need to give some background to your answer. This does not have to be long, but it’s a great idea to say a few words. For Example – Let us imagine that you have been asked the question “Give me an example where you have showed your team-working skills”. The wrong answer here would be to dive right in and provide examples. The right answer would be to set the scene (Situation) and describe what you had been asked (Task) to do.


This section within the STAR approach to answering questions as generally considered the most important as it’s where you will need to show off your skills, knowledge and personal attributes. The action section comes second after you have set the Situation and the Task that you have been instructed to complete.

In this section, you need to explain what you did. Most importantly, you need to make sure that you talk about what you did and not what your team did. It’s essential within this section to explain what you did and how you did it and to make sure that you go into the details, thus creating an exciting story, however, steer clear of technical information. You can also use this section to sell some critical skills to the interviewer.


What was the result? Use this section to explain how it all ended; however, make sure that you describe what you accomplished and what you learnt from the situation. For example, some companies view leadership as competency on its own, while others prefer to split command between a wide range of components (creativity, flexibility, strategic thinking, vision, etc.).

Follow Up

Hiring is a nightmare for candidate and hiring manager and when you consider the fact that hiring managers that cannot hire correctly will also be overlooked for further promotion thus there is an importance to get the right candidate for the right job.

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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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