Competency-based interviews are commonly used by organisations and hiring managers as a way of assessing specific skills required by the role. Also known as behavioural or situational interview questions they seek to understand your prior experience and your approach to certain tasks or challenges. By asking competency-based interview questions, organisations are essentially looking to predict, based on your previous experience, your future performance.

Why do employers use a competency-based interview?

During a competency-based interview you will be asked to describe a particular situation, for example a time when you have had to overcome a certain challenge to achieve an objective. The answers you provide will help the interviewer assess your capabilities against the skills they consider to be integral for the role you are interviewing for.

What skills do competency-based questions assess?

Competency based interviews look to assess a wide range of skills and attributes including teamwork, responsibility, communication skills, decision making, leadership, problem solving and organisation. These are the most common type of questions you will likely encounter. 

How to answer competency-based interview questions?

As with any interview, preparation is key. The first step is to really understand the key skills required by the job. Refer back to the job description and highlight the key skills it asks for. This will help you to prepare your answers around these core competencies. If you are in doubt, speak to the recruiter who will be able to clarify these for you. The next step is to prepare your answers. Answers to competency- based questions tend to be very structured. The STAR technique is a great way prepare your response.


star technique


  • Situation – briefly set the scene.
  • Task – describe the task, activity or challenge.
  • Action – explain what you did.
  • Result – Share the outcome.

One important tip is to keep your answer succinct and to the point. There is a fine balance to be had between going into too much irrelevant detail and not providing enough. Be prepared for additional questions as the interviewer looks to delve deeper to understand any learnings you have taken from these experiences. 

Competency-based interview questions

Below are a list of key competency questions, grouped into four bite size areas - Individual, Managerial, Analytical and Interpersonal– for easier digestion. 

Individual Competencies 

These refer to your personal attributes; your flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity. A typical question may include something along the lines of “Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.”

Managerial Competencies

These refer to your ability to take charge of other people; management style, leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control. A typical question could include something along the lines of “Tell me about a time you have had to adapt your leadership/management style.”

Analytical Competencies

These refer to your ability to use information or data to make decisions; your critical thinking, ability to analyse/evaluate information, problem solving, judgement, risk taking and logic. A typical question may include something along the lines of “Describe a time when you had to make a decision, but didn’t have all the information you needed?”

Interpersonal Competencies

These refer to your ability to build successful and productive relationships with others; how you communicate, collaborate and engage with others, respond to feedback and your overall emotional intelligence. A typical question may include something along the lines of “Tell me about a time you had to provide difficult feedback to a team member? What was the outcome?

For further information about preparing in the right way for your next interview, download our FREE Interview guide here.