Career Advice

Competency-Based Interview Questions: What They Entail with Samples

Employers can learn more about you and how well-suited you are for the position you are applying for with the use of competency-based interview questions. Your abilities, knowledge, and behavior are evaluated using them in the framework of your position and the workplace. Since there is usually more than one proper response to these open-ended questions, you should offer examples from your prior experience. You can showcase your relevant skills and dazzle hiring managers with a thorough response.

In this post, we present an explanation of why employers ask competency-based questions as well as sample queries and responses.

What are competency-based interviews?

Competency-based interviews are a type of interview where candidates are assessed based on their specific skills, abilities, and behaviors relevant to the job. Instead of focusing solely on qualifications and past experiences, these interviews aim to evaluate how well candidates can demonstrate the competencies required for success in the role.

During a competency-based interview, the interviewer asks questions that are designed to elicit examples of how the candidate has applied specific skills or behaviors in past situations. The questions typically start with phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”

The purpose of these interviews is to assess a candidate’s ability to handle various job-related scenarios and challenges. The competencies being evaluated can vary depending on the role and organization but may include skills such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, and decision-making.

The interviewer will listen to the candidate’s responses and evaluate them based on the level of proficiency demonstrated in each competency. Candidates are expected to provide specific examples from their past experiences, describe the situation or task they faced, explain the actions they took, and highlight the positive results or outcomes achieved.

Competency-based interviews are considered effective because they provide valuable insights into a candidate’s actual capabilities and how they may perform in real work situations. By assessing specific skills and behaviors, employers can make more informed hiring decisions and identify candidates who possess the qualities necessary for success in the role.

For candidates, competency-based interviews offer an opportunity to showcase their skills and experiences in a structured manner. By preparing well and providing relevant examples, candidates can demonstrate their ability to handle specific job requirements and stand out from the competition.

Why do companies do competency-based interviews?

Employers have the chance to discover more about your expertise by asking you competency-related questions. They can obtain a sense of your interpersonal, managerial, and cooperative skills. Additionally, hiring managers can learn more about your multitasking, problem-solving, and critical thinking abilities. Additionally, you can be questioned about issues unique to your field.

The STAR method can be useful when composing your responses. STAR is short for:

  • Situation: What is a recent occurrence from your life that is pertinent and specific?
  • Task: What part did you play in the difficulty?
  • Action: What specific steps did you individually take to get beyond any challenges?
  • Result: What was the result, exactly?

Using STAR, you may provide relevant examples that organically address several often-asked questions about your competencies in a competency-based interview. Using a narrative from your professional history to demonstrate your impact, mental processes, and working style gives employers important insight into who you are as a person during the interview process.

How to prepare for competency-based interviews

Preparing for competency-based interviews involves several key steps to ensure you are ready to showcase your skills and experiences effectively. Here are some tips:

  • Review the job description: Carefully read the job description and identify the key competencies required for the role. Make a note of the specific skills, qualifications, and experiences mentioned.
  • Identify relevant examples: Reflect on your past experiences, both personal and professional, and identify situations where you demonstrated the competencies mentioned in the job description. These examples will serve as the foundation for your responses during the competency-based interview.
  • Use the STAR method: The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a helpful framework for structuring your answers in a competency-based interview. For each competency, think of a specific example that demonstrates your proficiency and use the STAR method to describe the situation, the task or challenge you faced, the actions you took, and the positive results or outcomes you achieved.
  • Practice with mock interviews: Enlist the help of a friend, family member, or mentor to conduct mock competency-based interviews. Provide them with the competencies and sample questions related to the role, and practice delivering your answers using the STAR method. This will help you refine your responses, improve your delivery, and build confidence.
  • Research the organization: Gain a thorough understanding of the company, its values, mission, and culture. This knowledge will help you align your answers to the specific needs and expectations of the organization.
  • Prepare a list of potential questions: While you cannot predict every question that will be asked, research common competency-based interview questions and develop well-thought-out answers for each one. Practice articulating your responses in a clear, concise, and confident manner.
  • Highlight transferable skills: Even if you don’t have direct experience in a particular area, identify transferable skills from your previous roles or experiences that align with the competencies sought by the employer. Emphasize how these skills can be applied to the role you are interviewing for.
  • Self-assessment: Conduct a self-assessment of your skills, strengths, and areas for improvement related to the competencies required for the role. Be prepared to discuss your professional growth and development, as well as any challenges you have overcome.
  • Research industry trends: Stay updated on the latest trends, advancements, and best practices in your field. This knowledge will demonstrate your passion for continuous learning and professional development.
  • Dress professionally and arrive early: Ensure you dress appropriately for the competency-based interview and plan to arrive early to avoid any last-minute stress or delays.

Remember, the key to success in competency-based interviews is preparation, practice, and the ability to effectively showcase your skills and experiences. By following these steps, you will be well-equipped to impress the interviewer and demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Example responses to competency-based interview questions

The following competency-based questions and suggested responses might help you prepare for your competency-based interview:

1. Can you give an example of a moment when you had to operate under pressure?

Certain jobs necessitate meeting numerous deadline-bound responsibilities. Consider an instance when you handled the pressure well. It might have happened while you were working with a limited budget, a challenging coworker or client, or maybe when you possessed fewer tools than usual.

Example Response: “During the busy Christmas season, I managed a retail store. Despite falling short of our sales targets, we realized it was essential to keep offering top-notch customer service. I made a thorough weekly calendar with extra staff coverage to boost our sales. To motivate the team, I also arranged daily team meetings before every shift to answer questions and recognize top achievers. That month, we were capable of maintaining customer satisfaction while 22% exceeding our revenue targets.”

2. Describe a situation when you had to convince management or a coworker.

You might have to defend your ideas to coworkers or clients at some point in your career. Describe a time when you used your communication talents. Try to formulate a comprehensive response that exhibits your capacity to actively listen, come up with a solution, and persuade others to accept your recommendation. Think about an occasion when you convinced someone to adopt your viewpoint or plan.

Example Response: “I used to coordinate events. I kept in touch with clients and coworkers regularly. My manager and a client disagreed on the time that an event should begin. I was successful in getting them to accept my proposal to start the event later than normal through numerous interactions in person, via email, and through video calls. Everyone would have enough time to arrive after work, but not so late that the visitors would be worn out. They valued my event management expertise and the assurance with which I presented my arguments.”

3. What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Many companies admire the thorough planning, time management, and perseverance needed to complete a long-term professional goal. A strong response can demonstrate your resolve and goals. Think about all of these things as you prepare your response, and don’t forget to include any challenges you faced.

Example Response: “My goal for graduating from university was to land a job as an editorial assistant at a reputable book publisher. This is a crowded field, so I realized I had to figure out how to set myself out from the competition. I achieved this by gaining as many contacts as I could while working as an intern at three publishing houses over the summer. I participated in events and book releases, and I volunteered for extra tasks.

I also met with a career advisor at the institution multiple times to prepare my academic and internship schedule. She assisted me in establishing helpful contacts in the publishing industry. I was given an editing assistant post before I even graduated because of my diligence.”

4. Have you ever experienced conflict on a team?

A lot of businesses want to know if you work well with others. This entails creating and maintaining positive professional connections, having the ability to handle conflict coolly, and doing well in a team environment. In your response, emphasize your ability to resolve disputes and to communicate and make decisions. Consider an instance when you relied on your coworkers to help you overcome a challenge.

Example Response: “I joined the sales department in a marketing position to assist in developing more successful advertising strategies for our clients. One time, we were unable to agree on how to promote a certain client’s goods. The client presentation was due in one week. Each strategy was thoroughly discussed during the week, and we eventually developed a campaign using the finest ideas from each team member. The campaign was successful, and the customer was pleased with the decision.

After that incident, we made a concerted effort to get together for conversations and figure out how to combine the finest aspects of everyone’s solutions whenever there was discord within the group. We’d come up with a fantastic plan as a team. Our team chemistry improved as a result, and during the subsequent four months, our sales figures rose by 10%.”

5. What has been the largest change you have ever had to deal with at work?

You might have to alter your typical working methods at some point in your career to accomplish a task. You may stand out as a candidate for a job based on how effectively you adapt and adjust to changes made by the organization. To demonstrate how effectively you can adapt to change, consider a case when you had to adjust your working habits or pick up a new skill.

Example Response: “As a teacher at elementary school, a significant portion of my students spoke languages other than English as their first language. The atmosphere of my classroom frequently shifted as families frequently moved within and outside of the neighborhood. I understood that my initial lesson ideas would be less successful because every pupil had a distinct foundation for their knowledge. Based on what my pupils required, I decided to radically change my teaching approach and lesson plans. Higher test scores and improved classroom behavior were the outcomes of personalized instruction. Other teachers quickly started adapting my instructional materials to fit their own needs.”

6. Have you ever been asked to do something by your superiors that you didn’t agree with?

You may occasionally be asked to perform a work that you are uncomfortable with or for which you have no clear understanding. You can demonstrate your capacity to analyze a situation and communicate your ideas clearly by answering this question. Describe an instance when you questioned a decision you had to make and any suggestions you may have had for a different course of action.

Example Response: “I once worked for a car dealership where the management established a high monthly sales quota. As a salesman, I believed that the objective made it challenging to provide the highest level of client service. Even though it required being flexible on price, I wanted to treat every one of my clients honestly and fairly. My ability to fulfill the quota and please my customers worried me, so I requested a private conversation with my manager.

Instead of changing the quota, my manager and I decided that I should follow the top-performing salespeople to understand their strategies. I was able to discover useful tactics from this to boost my sales. I quickly achieved 9% or more sales quota excess for six straight months.”

7. Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict within a team.

This question assesses your ability to handle interpersonal conflicts and resolve them collaboratively and constructively. It also evaluates your communication and conflict-resolution skills.

Example Response: “In my previous role as a project manager, we encountered a conflict between two team members who had differing opinions on the project direction. I took the initiative to schedule a meeting where I facilitated an open and respectful discussion. I actively listened to both sides, acknowledged their perspectives, and encouraged them to find common ground. Through effective communication and compromise, we were able to reach a solution that satisfied everyone and allowed the project to progress smoothly.”

8. Describe a time when you had to adapt to a significant change in the workplace.

This question assesses your adaptability and flexibility in handling unexpected or challenging situations. It examines your ability to embrace change, adjust your approach, and maintain productivity and performance.

Example Response: “During a company-wide restructuring, my role and responsibilities changed significantly. Instead of being overwhelmed, I approached the situation with a positive mindset and saw it as an opportunity for growth. I quickly adapted by proactively seeking guidance from my superiors, attending training sessions to acquire new skills, and collaborating with colleagues who were facing similar changes. By embracing the transition and leveraging my adaptability, I successfully adjusted to the new role and contributed to the team’s overall success.”

9. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills.

This question assesses your leadership abilities and your capacity to take charge, motivate others, and guide a team toward achieving a common goal. It evaluates your decision-making skills, ability to influence others, and the impact of your leadership style.

Example Response: “As the team leader on a complex project, I encountered a situation where we faced a tight deadline and were falling behind schedule. To address this, I organized a team meeting to discuss the challenges and brainstorm solutions. I took a proactive approach, delegating tasks effectively, and motivating team members by recognizing their contributions and offering support where needed. Through clear communication, prioritization, and maintaining a positive team spirit, we successfully met the deadline and delivered a high-quality project.”

Remember, when responding to competency-based interview questions, provide specific examples and focus on the actions you took, the skills you utilized, and the positive outcomes achieved. This demonstrates your competency in the given area and showcases your ability to handle similar situations in the future.

Guidelines for Responding to Competency-based Interviews questions

You can differentiate yourself from other candidates by bringing your character traits and professional background to the interview through competency-based interview questions. Here are some other pointers to assist you:

  • Before you go to the competency-based interview, give yourself some time to come up with numerous instances from your past that demonstrate how you respond positively and confidently to a variety of situations.
  • Clearly describe the issue, how you resolved it, and the result, highlighting your contributions.
  • Make connections between what you accomplished and how that talent might be put to use in the position for which you are seeking.
  • Understand the job requirements: Familiarize yourself with the job description and the key competencies required for the role. This will help you identify the skills and experiences you should emphasize during the competency-based interview.
  • Prepare specific examples: Think of situations from your past experiences where you demonstrated the competencies relevant to the role. Prepare specific examples that highlight your skills, accomplishments, and problem-solving abilities.
  • Use the STAR method: Structure your answers using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Describe the situation or task you faced, explain the actions you took, and highlight the positive results you achieved. This provides a clear and concise framework for answering competency-based questions.
  • Focus on transferable skills: Even if you don’t have direct experience in a particular area, emphasize your transferable skills. Highlight how skills from previous roles can be applied to the competencies required for the job.
  • Be specific and concise: When providing examples, be specific about your role and the impact you had. Use clear and concise language to effectively communicate your accomplishments and contributions.
  • Tailor your answers: Customize your answers to align with the specific competencies and requirements of the job. Show the interviewer that you have the skills and experiences they are seeking.
  • Practice beforehand: Practice answering competency-based questions with a friend or by recording yourself. This will help you refine your responses, improve your delivery, and increase your confidence during the competency-based interview.
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and growth: Showcase your ability to reflect on your experiences and learn from challenges. Discuss how you have developed and grown in the areas related to the competencies being assessed.
  • Be honest and authentic: Provide genuine examples and avoid exaggeration or embellishment. Interviewers value authenticity and want to understand your true capabilities.
  • Ask for clarification if needed: If you are unsure about a question or the specific competency being assessed, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. It’s better to seek clarification and provide a thoughtful response than to make assumptions.

Remember, practice and preparation are key to performing well in competency-based interviews. By showcasing your skills and experiences effectively, you can demonstrate your suitability for the role and increase your chances of success.


Competency-based interviews have become increasingly popular in the hiring process as they provide a comprehensive and objective assessment of a candidate’s abilities. By focusing on specific skills and behaviors, these interviews offer employers valuable insights into a candidate’s potential for success in the role. For candidates, competency-based interviews offer a chance to showcase their relevant experiences and demonstrate their ability to handle job-related challenges.

By preparing thoroughly, providing specific examples, and highlighting their competencies, candidates can make a strong impression and increase their chances of securing the position. Competency-based interviews ensure that the hiring process is fair, transparent, and aligns with the specific requirements of the role, ultimately leading to better hiring decisions and successful outcomes for both candidates and employers.

Frequently Asked Questions about competency-based interviews

  • What are competency-based interviews?

Competency-based interviews are a type of interview where candidates are assessed on specific skills, behaviors, and competencies relevant to the job. The interviewer asks questions that require candidates to provide examples of how they have demonstrated these competencies in previous situations.

  • How should I prepare for a competency-based interview?

To prepare for a competency-based interview, review the job description and identify the key competencies required. Reflect on your past experiences and think of specific examples that demonstrate your proficiency in those areas. Practice articulating your responses, focusing on the situation, actions you took, and results achieved.

  • What types of questions are asked in a competency-based interview?

Competency-based questions typically start with phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” The questions are designed to assess your ability to handle specific job-related scenarios and challenges. Examples include questions about teamwork, problem-solving, communication, leadership, adaptability, and decision-making.

  • How should I structure my answers in a competency-based interview?

When answering competency-based questions, use the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Describe the specific situation or task you faced, explain the actions you took to address it and highlight the positive results or outcomes achieved. Be specific, concise, and focus on your contributions.

  • What if I don’t have direct experience in a certain competency?

It’s common to encounter competencies for which you don’t have direct experience. In such cases, look for transferable skills or experiences that demonstrate your potential to develop those competencies. Draw from academic projects, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities that showcase relevant skills or behaviors. Emphasize your ability and willingness to learn and adapt to new challenges.

Remember, competency-based interviews provide an opportunity to showcase your abilities and demonstrate how you have successfully applied relevant skills in the past. By thoroughly preparing and providing specific examples, you can effectively demonstrate your competency and increase your chances of success in the interview process.

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