Don’t be daunted if you secure that all-important interview, only to discover that it’s of the competency question variety. You may be used to more traditional interview techniques, but you can turn this to your advantage. By asking you competency questions, your potential employer is giving you the chance to showcase your best qualities. All you need to do is prepare, prepare, prepare.


Get to know the job!

First thing’s first, take that job description and analyse it. From the summary you’ve been given, you should be able to list which competencies they’ll be looking for.


This should be pretty simple with a quick Google search. For example, a customer service role such as a cashier in a shop will be looking for someone who’s able to think on their feet, can do basic maths and deliver brilliant service. A managerial role will require delegation, planning and admitting to mistakes.


They will want to know how you’ve come across these in a workplace before and how you responded to the situation. Be careful though, as they may not ask you in a straightforward way.


Once you’ve identified exactly what they’re after, you can turn the focus back on yourself. After all, you’re the perfect candidate, and you’re preparing to wow them.


The Big Three

Remember that there are three types of competency question that could be asked in your interview.


  • The first is analytical. These questions are designed to assess how you problem solve and use your analytical skills to tackle tasks. An example of what an analytical question will look like is:
    • Your manager gives you x, y and z tasks to do before your shift is over. How do you prioritise these?
  • The interviewer may follow up with another problem-solving question relating to the first. Bringing in another issue unrelated to the first tests how quick you can think on the fly. A good example of this is asking the first question, then asking this:
    • You’ve just started task x and it’s an hour until your shift is over. A customer comes over and asks you for help. You know if you help them you won’t leave on time. What do you do?


  • Secondly, there are the interpersonal questions. Most businesses are looking for people who can work as part of a strong team, contribute fully and be a positive force in their workplace. An example of an interpersonal question is:
    • Can you name a conflict that you had in your last workplace and what you did to resolve it?


  • Finally, there are motivational competencies. These will tell the employer what makes you tick, how driven you are and what motivates you. An example of a motivational competency question is:
    • When have you worked the hardest and feel the greatest achievement?


If you can prove competency across all three areas, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.


How do you fit in?

So you’ve discovered which competencies they’ll be testing you on. Now you need to prove you have them in your skill-set. Take a look back through your life and your employment history. How can you demonstrate a time in which you used and showcased each one? Once you’ve found examples to fit, you can start practising your answers.


Questions that they might ask relating to your skillset are:

  • How did your communication skills improve a situation?
  • Give an example of a time you led a team to success.
  • What is your biggest achievement?


These questions will probably be asked at every interview across every industry. The trick is relating it to the job you’re applying for as well as being prepared to field any follow-up questions. Different job roles will have different questions so it’s important to properly research your industry to see what the top interview questions are.


The right reply

It’s not all that tricky to craft the perfect response to a competency question. The easiest way is to use the STAR technique.


Situation – What was the problem? What were you trying to fix?

Time – Was there a deadline? Did you finish earlier than expected? How long did you have?

Action – What did you do?

Result – What was the result? Was it what you expected? What did you learn?


Build your answer to explain the situation, time, action and result. You can tell your story your way.  Even if the result wasn’t exactly what you expected, you can demonstrate in your answer what you learned from the experience and how it shaped the way you do things now.


Practice makes perfect

Having carved out the answers, now you need to learn how to deliver them correctly. The best way is to get someone close to you to play interviewer. They might ask follow-up questions you hadn’t considered, which will give you the chance to cover all bases.


Being able to handle what’s thrown at you in the interview with a cool head will work in your favour. If you explore as many scenarios as possible, you’ll be well prepared. You can walk into your interview knowing you’re ready to show them what you are made of.


If you feel as though you’re not ready for a big interview, why not check out our interview techniques coaching package? We walk you through 3 hours of interview techniques including types of questions and how to answer, ending with feedback from a mock interview where we cover everything you need to succeed.


If you need more help with your job search, check out our blog for more free resources.


Good Luck!