Preparing for a competency-based interview

Are you getting ready to prepare for a behavioural or competency-based interview, but have no clue where to start? We’ve got you. You’ll find all the info you need on how to prepare for a competency-based interview in this article. We’ll help you ace your interview with just a 5-minute read. We’ll start off by explaining what a competency-based interview is and how to prepare for it. This article also provides you with some examples of competency-based interview questions and answers. Dive right in!

What is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based interviews are where questions are asked to find out your strengths, weaknesses, and behaviour. It’s one of the many different types of interviews. Behavioural and competency-based interviews are used to find out how you’d demonstrate certain behaviours and skills in the workplace. The hiring managers will want examples of how you handled certain situations in the past. For example, they’ll want to find out how you approach problems and challenges, as well as your way of working.

The hiring managers will want to know things like: are you an independent person? Do you need a lot of guidance? Do you tend to avoid conflict? We’ll dive deeper into different examples of competency-based interview questions and answers, and what you can expect later on.

How to prepare for a competency-based interview

There are different ways on how to prepare for an interview. Here are 4 easy steps you can take in order to ace your behavioural or competency-based interview:

1. Read the job description

Most people quickly scan through a job vacancy. If you’re really interested in the job, that’s not the way to go. In the ‘what’s required’ section is where you can pinpoint what skills they’re looking for, and if you can identify with them. Grab a pen and paper, and write down the skills and abilities you need. Now determine what your key competencies are, and what to mention in your behavioural interview.

2. Think about your capabilities

Try to remember any challenges and issues you’ve encountered in the past. Now think about how you tackled these situations using your strengths/skills.

Still have that pen and paper? Jot down your strengths and weaknesses, and see how they fit into the job function. Unsure what your strengths and weaknesses are? Take a look at your CV; you might find them there. Don’t have your strengths and weaknesses on there? Update your CV while you’re at it using our free CV maker.

3. Think about possible situational interview questions

We provide a couple of example competency interview questions later in this article. But, it’s also helpful to think about what questions could be asked in relation to your specific skills.

You already wrote down your skills, and the skills needed for the job. Now you can narrow it down to the competencies that are a match with the vacancy. Think of questions that you’d ask a candidate with those key competencies. This’ll help you come up with example situations for your competency-based interview easier.

4. Think about the answers for your situational interview questions

So, by now, you’ve already written down what examples you could give during your competency-based interview. You can have great examples, but if you don’t know how to properly word your answers, they’ll fall flat. So you don’t end up rambling and giving too much information, use the STAR interview technique.

If you follow these behavioural interview tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your competency-based interview.

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Examples of competency-based interview questions

An interviewer can ask you questions related to your competency in communication, leadership, and critical thinking. The type of questions asked will depend on what’s essential for the role you’re applying for. Furthermore, hiring managers usually focus on soft skills during competency-based interviews. Why? Well, employers like candidates that have transferable skills.

The most common competency-based interview questions for different roles are:

  • Could you describe a situation where you led a team?
  • Describe a situation where you took the initiative
  • How do you maintain a good working relationship with your colleagues?
  • Tell us about a situation where your communication skills were put to use
  • Give an example of a challenging situation you encountered and how you handled it
  • What does professionalism look like to you?
  • Have you ever encountered conflict in a workplace? If yes, how’d you handle it?
  • What’s been your biggest achievement up until now?
  • What are you passionate about?

As you may have already noticed, most behavioural or competency-based interview questions are things like: ‘tell us about a time’, ‘give an example’, or ‘describe how you handled’.

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How to answer behavioural interview questions

Have no idea on how to answer behavioural or competency-based questions? We’ve got you covered with some tips on formulating your answers. First thing you can do is list your key competencies. Some examples are:

  • Good communication
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Quick thinking/learning

After listing your key competencies, think about a situation, task, action, and result in which you used each competency. If you need a more detailed view on how to describe your answer using the STAR technique, check out our tips and tricks to using the STAR technique during interviews.

Competency-based interviews: key takeaways

Most people get scared or nervous when they hear they have a competency-based interview. Which is totally understandable; it’s an interview where you have to show off and talk about your skills and abilities. And, by doing that, you should be able to convince the hiring managers that you’re the right person for the job.

However, by preparing for your competency-based interview, you’ll see that it’s a walk in the park. The most important things to keep in mind are to read the job description and identify the skills needed for the job. After doing this, see where you can find a match, and come up with examples of competency-based interview questions. When coming up with example questions, keep in mind to start with ‘describe a time’ or ‘give an example’. Need some help? Use the example questions and answers we provided for a head start. Done? Now try to answer these questions using the STAR technique. If you follow these steps, you’ll be golden.

FAQs about competency-based interviews

  • How will I know if my competency-based interview went well?

  • You can observe whether you had an engaging conversation during your competency based interview. Furthermore, check if the body language is positive, and if the interviewer explains the detailed steps of the hiring process.

  • What’s a good score in a competency-based interview?

  • Most organisations work with a scorecard for behavioural or competency-based interviews. Normally, you can score between 0-5, with 0 being the lowest score, and 5 being the highest score.

  • How long does it take to prepare for a competency-based interview?

  • It depends on every person and how well they know themselves. However, on average, it can take between 3 and 5 hours to prepare for a competency-based interview.

  • What’s a competency-based interview?

  • Behavioural or competency-based interviews are used by hiring managers to find out how you’d fit into the team/role, using your skills. One thing’s for sure: they’ll ask you to give concrete examples of how you handled past situations.

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