How to Prepare for Your Competency Based Interview

Competency based interviews are the benchmark way to predict a candidate's future performance. Whether you are a tenured operator or just entering the job market, knowing about competency based interviews and how to prepare for them is essential for career success.

What is a competency based interview?

Competency based interviews were first developed over thirty years ago by organizational psychologists and are now an integral part of the recruitment process in most global and national organisations. Competency based interview questions are those that aim to find out how you have used specific skills, experience or qualifications and how you approach task, challenges and situations. Also known as behavioural or situational interviews, they work on the premise that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour.

Competency based interview questions all tend to follow the same format, examples being questions such as:

  • Tell us about a time that you achieved a goal. What steps did you take to achieve it?
  • Describe a time you have faced a significant challenge and how you overcame it.
  • Can you give an example of a situation where you had to change your approach midway through a project or task, following new input into the project or a change of client instructions?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a conflict within your team? How did you resolve the situation?
  • Describe how you have used your creativity to solve a serious work issue.

As you can see, these are open ended questions and require you to give a detailed answer. It’s therefore essential that you prepare for competency based interviews and have a strategy to answer these types of questions, whatever competency they are looking to assess.

Preparing for competency based interviews with the S.T.A.R. method

Using the S.T.A.R. method is the best way of answering competency based interview questions. This method works for whatever type of role you are looking for from entry level junior roles to senior executive positions, it’s a fantastic technique that is really simple and easy to learn. It’s simply a framework that you can use when answering such questions. The four stages are:

  • Situation: When answering the question, it is crucial that your interviewer understands the context of your story, so describe the situation of the example you are giving.
  • Task: What was required of you? Why was it important? What was to be achieved?
  • Activity: This is where you explain what action that you took, highlighting the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Always follow what you did with why you did it.
  • Result: Explain how the whole situation turned out, and how your personal actions helped to achieve the result. Make the interviewer understand how you achieved the specific outcome by taking specific actions.

By using the method as described above, you’ll have an effective framework to answer and competency based interview effectively.