Competency-Based Interview Questions and Answers – 2021

employment test interview

What Is a Competency-Based Interview?

Competency-based interviews, or behavioural interviews, are designed to allow interviewers to determine what behaviours and attitudes an applicant will bring to the role, if they are hired. Competency-based interviews may also include a few questions regarding your technical skills and knowledge, but the majority of questions will be focused on an applicant’s approach to their work. The questions asked in this interview will be open-ended questions that require a candidate to provide real-life examples of instances in which they have demonstrated specific competencies. The most common competencies asked about in these interviews include:

  • Adaptability
  • Decision-making
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Responsibility
  • Teamwork

 

How to Prepare for a Competency-Based Interview?

The best way to prepare for an interview is to prepare answers to potential ahead of time. For a competency-based interview, though, there are a few specific steps candidates can take to make sure their answers will be as strong as they can be.

  • Before sitting down to plan out answers, it can be helpful for applicants to speak with current and former coworkers to get feedback from others regarding their work habits and ability to work within a team. Feedback from colleagues can also give candidates a clearer view of their strengths and weaknesses as an employee.
  • After getting an outside perspective or two, applicants should read over possible interview questions. This will give candidates an idea of the type of questions they will encounter in their competency-based interview. This also provides an opportunity for candidates to consider examples of situations in which they have demonstrated the competencies asked about in each question.
  • Once an applicant has gotten a good idea of the real-life examples that demonstrate the various competencies they will be asked about in this interview, they should set aside time to rehearse their presentation of these answers. This can be done alone in front of a mirror, or a friend or spouse can role play as the interviewer to give a more realistic feel. Rehearsing presentation in front of another person also presents the opportunity to receive feedback on whether an applicant’s answers are concise or whether they need to alter their tone or body language.

It is important, however, that candidates do not over-rehearse their answers. Practising the delivery of these answers too many times may result in a robotic and inauthentic presentation during the actual interview. While applicants will want to come across as prepared, interviewers will want to see that the candidate is authentic and personable.

 

How Do You Answer Competency-Based Questions?

It is key that applicants go into a competency-based interview with a thorough understanding of the behaviours desired for the role for which they are interviewing. This is especially important when preparing for a competency-based interview, because the questions asked during this interview will be aimed at determining whether or not a candidate displays a specific set of qualities. However, it is important that candidates answer honestly, rather than attempting to craft what they believe to be the “ideal answer”.  Strong answers to competency-based questions will include real-life examples of situations in which the applicant has displayed a certain trait; that will be easier and more convincing when it is honest.

 

There is a basic format, though, that interviewees can use to structure their answers. This format is commonly referred to as the STAR technique. This acronym stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Keep in mind that while the majority of your examples will naturally come from work situations, but examples from non-work situations can be used, as well.

 

Situation

Begin your answer by explaining the background of the situation. This part of your answer should be as brief as possible; you only need to include the details that are absolutely necessary for the interviewers to be able to understand the position you held at the time of the scenario, as well as why you were given the task you will be describing. If there were any special circumstances or potential implications you had to consider, you should also mention those at this point.

Task

After explaining the background and problem, introduce the task you undertook in order to resolve the situation. Try to choose an example in which your approach exemplified one or more of the behaviours the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. This may be a task you were assigned, or it may be a task you were self-motivated to accomplish. However, be sure that if the interviewer asked a question regarding your willingness to follow directions or work with a team, your example clearly demonstrates that characteristic.

Action

At this point, you want to describe your approach to the problem and to your responsibilities. You will want to briefly explain any preparations you undertook and the steps you took to accomplish the task you introduced previously. If there were any adjustments you needed to make during the process of completing your task, be sure to include this in your answer.

Result

Finally, you want to give a description of the results of your actions. Specifically, you want to close out your answer by detailing the positive effects of your work. The project or assignment does not need to have been successful, but be sure your part in the assignment shows you in a positive light. Your aim is to demonstrate through your answer that:

  • You respond to problems constructively.
  • You are aware of your own weaknesses and limitations.
  • You can compromise and work within a team.
  • You can learn from your experiences and have the desire to grow.

 

Reflection/Evaluation

In some circumstances, you may want to use a slightly adapted version of the STAR technique, referred to interchangeably as STARE or STARR. In this adaptation, the final piece to your answer is Reflection or Evaluation. If it adds to your answer, share your reflections on the results of the assignment and the approach you used. Taking this extra step can strengthen your answer by showing that you are able to learn from past experiences and you want to improve yourself and your work.

 

Examples of Competency-Based Questions and Answers

  • Describe a time when you were required to work as part of a team.
    • Situation: When I was a marketing analyst, my team and I were responsible for developing a rebranding campaign for a client. This was a long-time client who asked our company to revitalize and update their brand to appeal to younger consumers.
    • Task: We had to perform market research, synthesize the data, provide a written report, and present our recommendation to the client.
    • Action: My team and I discussed the component responsibilities of our task and agreed upon a division of these responsibilities. I undertook the research portion of the project, as well as the part of coordinating communication and synchronizing tasks to be sure our presentation was as polished as it could be. Additionally, I suggested that my team meet weekly as a way to share our progress and make ongoing adjustments to our plan.
    • Result: My team presented a compelling solution to our client’s needs, which they implemented. They continued to work with our company, and additionally saw their customer base grow among younger consumers.
    • Evaluate: This project was an excellent opportunity for me to grow, as I took a significant leadership role in my team. I learned the necessity of communicating with my colleagues regularly and came to appreciate their creative contributions.
  • Describe a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.
    • Situation: When I took a position as case manager, I encountered a situation in which a patient from Korea had been brought to the US for medical care. After the procedure, the man’s son took the lead in making decisions regarding his aftercare. When the medical staff tried to explain that the patient’s condition had stabilized and they wanted to move the patient to a nursing facility to complete his recovery. The son, however, proved to be very difficult during this process, ultimately travelling back to Korea without communicating this to hospital staff. The hospital’s personnel were naturally frustrated and asked our company to help resolve this situation.
    • Task: In order to develop an effective solution, we needed to determine the root of the miscommunication regarding the patient’s recovery services. As opposed to attempting to directly contact the patient’s son, I considered the fact that both the patient and the patient’s son were Korean citizens. Realizing that this may have resulted in certain expectations or needs may have been lost in translation, I reached out to our staff in Korea.
    • Action: Working with our Korean staff, I learned that while the hospital staff working with this patient were steeped in the American medical system and understood all of its ins and outs, the patient and his son were understandably overwhelmed by its intricacies. This had caused a great deal of anxiety for the patient’s son, which was compounded by challenges his family was facing back home in Korea. My team and I then worked to reunite the patient with his family and ensure he was able to receive the recovery services he needed.
    • Result: Approaching this scenario with a fresh perspective allowed my team and I to truly hear what this patient and his family needed. Working together with our staff in Korea, we were able to ensure he recovered near his loved ones and that his family’s distress was alleviated. In addition, we were able to help the hospital staff conclude their care of this patient and turn their attention fully to those remaining in their care.