Competency-Based Interview Questions and Answers [+ Tips]

Competency-based Interview Tips
Created by CakeResume

Competency-based interviews are gaining popularity as an effective interview approach in many companies, especially when open positions require a high level of specific job-related skills and/or knowledge. Since qualifications and work experience are not enough to accurately evaluate applicants' skill levels, hiring managers have adopted competency-based interviews to ensure that they hire the perfect candidate whose skill set accurately matches the specific requirements of the job. 

As competency-based interviews can tell the interviewer whether the applicant fits the requirements for the role, your response should be clear and well-structured in a way that helps highlight your ability and behavior match to the position. 

In this article, we will equip you with useful answer tactics and examples for your next competency-based interview!

What is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based interviews or behavioral interviews include a group of questions aiming at evaluating how individuals perform certain tasks and handle specific situations related to real-life situations of the position. Questions in this type of interview will require you to demonstrate that you have the capabilities employers looking for, often by providing examples of circumstances you've experienced in the past and how you resolved those arising issues. 

The logic behind this interviewing method is that by asking candidates questions related to a particular situation in the past, interviewers will have enough data to predict how candidates might perform in the future. Rather than asking how the applicant would behave in a hypothetical situation, hiring managers tend to ask how the applicant did to handle a real-life situation in the past.

In general, when employers ask competency-based questions, you are expected to show that you can cope with the challenges of the job, work well with colleagues, and handle assigned tasks effectively. 

Depending on certain positions, competency-based interview questions may be directly related to the job; for example, interviewees for an internal communication position may have to answer questions about how they handled when encountering a moral conflict at work or their definition of effective communication. In some cases, interviewers will also ask follow-up questions to investigate further and get a more well-rounded picture of candidates' backgrounds.

A great candidate must be able to offer practical examples of how his skills can help companies achieve their vision.

Below is the list of ten possible skills that might be asked about in a competency-based interview:

  • Teamwork
  • Decision-making skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Leadership
  • Self-management abilities
  • Professionalism
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience

Competency-based interview questions and answers

It might be difficult for you to get a sense of what would be asked in a competency interview, or think of proper questions without examples of competency-based questions, especially when you haven't experienced any interview of this kind before. 

Therefore, here we have a list of ten competency-based interview questions and answers that might be helpful for your next competency interview preparation.

❓Describe a time when you successfully worked as part of a team.

I have years of experience in team projects in my previous job as a digital marketing specialist. About 8 months ago, I was working on a PR project for the company's new product launching with a tight deadline and we were struggling to find a focus. I suggested that we hold daily meetings where our team could brainstorm and share our ideas for PR strategy and finding new PR channels. By suggesting what should be done, I helped our team complete the task successfully and on time.

❓ Describe a situation in which you handled teamwork conflict in the workplace.

I was assigned as a leader for an IT project's workstream, and one developer was constantly late at finishing his tasks. When I had a confronting conversation with him about it, he reacted quite defensively. I was able to maintain calm and acknowledged the time constraint nature of the deadlines while asking how I could assist him in improving his performance. Being able to listen to his struggle, I helped the team move forwards without turning the existing discomfort into teamwork conflict.

❓ Describe a project where you had to adopt different leadership styles to achieve your goal.

I was participating in proceeding a marketing campaign as a project manager when the issue happened. My team at the time was not confident enough for such a difficult campaign, where we have to compete with several well-known brands in the market. I had to establish a weekly dialogue where I adopted different leadership styles such as fostering continuous learning and creativity, offering individualized support, and reinforcing a clear vision to prepare my staff for the project. By doing that, my employees were provided with not only knowledge but also emotional support that helped them gain more confidence in running the project.

❓ Tell me about a time when you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince your co-worker to see things your way.

When I was taking the role as a consultant at BFG Consulting group, I need to persuade my senior account manager into upgrading the system and replacing the current accounting software since those were the main factors affecting the staff's efficiency. Initially, he was susceptible. Then I had to prepare reports and presentations based on real-life data and the new tool's demo which demonstrated how beneficial it could be if we had a system migration. Finally, he agreed to my suggestion.

❓ Describe a time when you worked with a difficult person.

During my recent role at XYZ company, I had to work with someone who wasn't giving me the necessary information to do my job promptly. I had been quite frustrated and struggling in performing my tasks because of that. Later, I decided to sit down with him and had a conversation to inquire why he was being so difficult with me. Thanks for the straightforward talk where none of us took things personally, we could learn how to work well together from then on.

❓ How did you face challenges in the past workplace and tell me how you overcame them?

I encountered quite a significant challenge when working in the production team at my previous job. This happened when it was the peak season with plenty of customized orders coming in, but we were in a shortage of staff. It was such a stressful time when I had to work nearly twice the amount of tasks compared to normal days. But I learned to manage time better and speed up the course of work, and in the end, I was able to complete all assigned orders.

❓ Describe a time you created a goal and achieved it.

When I first started in the marketing field as a digital marketer, I did not have a lot of technical knowledge. I thought I could get hands-on experience and learn a lot from my job. After about one year in the field, I realized I needed professional help if I wanted to advance in my career. That is when I decided to sign up for certified courses from Google and Facebook. I listed all the courses' modules and created a detailed schedule to follow it. For that, I was able to get my certification sooner than I expected, and later got promoted thanks to these helpful certifications.

❓ Describe a time when you had to manage conflicting priorities.

As a software developer, it’s common that I had to work on multiple projects at the same time. Sometimes that put me in a difficult situation, where I had to deal with several tight deadlines at once. To finish these deadlines on time while ensuring the quality of my work, I had to create a document where I listed down the tasks and ranked each task's priority. I also actively reported my work progress to my project manager, so he knew if he needed to adjust the deadlines for me. 

❓ Tell me about a time you had to cope with pressure.

I’ve been in several stressful positions before and therefore have great opportunities to learn how to adapt to each situation without stressing myself. When I was working for a publishing house, our deadlines were always changing since we had to work with multiple stakeholders for each book's publishing events. We usually had less time than our initial plan, and it put everyone under great pressure. But instead of getting stressed, I tried to focus on my work and made certain priorities for everything I needed to do. I learned to change my way of thinking, so every difficult situation could be an exciting journey.

❓ Tell me about a time you were assigned a task you've never had before.

In my previous role as a brand assistant, I was assigned an analytical task that I had no experience of. Instead of worrying too much and stressing myself, I talked to my manager and asked him for additional resources that I could refer to. I also used those materials as a direction for my further research. Eventually, I completed the task and received positive comments for my proactive working manner.  

Tips on preparing for competency-based interviews

Since employers often use competency-based interviews to look for certain skill sets and capabilities of candidates, you'll need to invest more time and effort in preparing for your competency interview questions, other than just looking at examples and answers. For such reasons, here are three useful tips that you might need to increase your passing rate at the next competency interview.

💡 Identify the core competencies needed for the role

Each specific role requires a certain skill set and interviewers often make job-related questions to identify such skills in a competency-based interview. Therefore it's necessary that you do research beforehand to know the skill requirements of the position you are applying for. 

You might start with reading the job description thoroughly to see what specific skill set the employers are looking for. Knowing the core competencies of the position helps you get a sense of what you might be asked, and how your current skill set can meet the demand of employers.

💡 Think of specific situations where you’ve demonstrated those skills

Interviewers who ask competency-based questions usually want to know what kind of experiences and incidents from your past can help you deal with your new role’s tasks. So when you have a picture of what you might be asked in your mind, you should think of several real-life examples that you have been through. You can keep a list of those situations, then elaborate on how you use your skills to manage each situation and in what way it’ll also be helping you with taking the new role. 

💡 Use the STAR method

The STAR technique is a useful method for preparing for a competency-based interview. It helps you organize your ideas and content in a way that makes your response more cohesive to the interview manager. 

The STAR method represents four main content pillars that you should include in your competency-based interview answers, which are situation, tasks, action, and result. This is a guideline of how you should structure your response. It suggests that you should describe the situation to give employers a context, present the tasks, elaborate on your action, and finally state the result. Using this framework can help demonstrate the key competencies that you've gained in your experience while also presenting your performance tendencies for the future role.

Further reading: STAR Interview Method: Definition, Tips, and Examples

🔑 Key Takeaways

Competency-based interviews are getting more and more popular with employers as a method to scan for ideal candidates. To successfully register for any position, it's important that you prepare well in advance. We hope that our article on competency interview examples and tips provides you with just what you need for your next competency-based questions!

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--- Originally written by May Luong ---

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