Surviving Competency Based Interviews

If you think that job interviews are an art rather than a science you’re not alone – most interviewers would agree.However, a different kind of assessment, the competency-based interview, is becoming increasingly popular because many think it’s more accurate and reliable than the traditional job interview we all know and love.

So, what do you need to know about competency-based interviews? How are they different?

The answer is: they’re not terribly different. In fact, you may have already attended a competency-based interview and not even noticed.

The key to understanding them is to remember that competency-based interviews will ask about the ways you have reacted to and dealt with situations in the past. In a traditional interview the questions are often hypothetical – “What would you do if…?” or “How would you…?” But in a competency-based interview you will be asked instead to “Give an example of when…” or “Describe an occasion…

Competency-based interviews look at past behaviour in order to predict future performance, so you will be asked about things you have accomplished and how you accomplished them. In order to judge your aptitude and attitude questions will relate directly to the essential criteria and competencies for the post.


These will very likely cover:

  • Past behaviours and performance
  • Learning from past behaviours
  • Knowledge and understanding of issues in relation to the post
  • Future adaptability to new post

And a standard list of competencies might be:

  • Adaptability
  • Compliance
  • Communication
  • Decision making
  • Encouraging and influencing others
  • Leadership
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork

So prepare beforehand by recalling past situations that clearly demonstrate these skills because you have used them before. Your answers will be matched against pre-defined competencies so it’s important to clearly match your experience to the competency being tested.
For example, you may be asked how you deal with stress (a standard question in traditional interviews), but in a competency-based interview you will further be asked for a specific example of a situation where you were under pressure and how you dealt with this.

Your interviewer will be armed with a pre-defined list of the key competencies required by the role and looking for evidence that you possess those competencies so she/he can tick the box next to it. This is one of the reasons businesses are so keen on competency-based interviews: because they are seen as more efficient and objective.

The key thing to remember is that competency-based interviews attempt to judge how you will perform in the future based upon how you have performed in the past. So take some time to match your experiences to the above competencies before an interview and your aptitude for a role should be self-evident to any competency-based interviewer.

Share with:

job, Job Interview, jobs, jobsearch