How to prepare for competency interview questions

14 October 2016

Topic: Careers

How to prepare for competency interview questions

It’s natural to be nervous before an interview: you don’t know what kind of questions they might ask you, but your career might depend on your answers.

However, as with many things, the key lies in preparation – particularly when it comes to competency-based questions, which focus on your practical skills.

What is the purpose of competency questions?

Interviewers who ask you this type of question want to test how well you will perform in the position you’ve applied for, and whether you are the kind of employee that they want.

For example, they might ask for an example of how you would react in a certain scenario, such as dealing with a challenging customer; or they might give you a test or task to complete (this could be before or during the interview).

This will help them to decide whether your skills are at the right level for the position or not.

What can you expect?

There are a wide range of skills that can come up in this type of interview, such as teamwork, problem-solving, and communication.

The interviewer is likely to ask you for concrete examples of times when you have displayed these skills, often in the format of “Give me an example of…” or “Tell me about a time when you…”

You will need to explain exactly what you did and the effect it had on the situation.

How can you succeed at a competency interview?

If the job description mentions specific competencies, you need to think of ways that you have demonstrated this in the past. These can be experiences from your previous job, an internship, or even relevant hobbies – for example, you might be a volunteer for a charity or have experience through university societies.

Preparation is key for this kind of interview, so make sure you know the job description inside out and that you have an answer for each skill that has been mentioned (preferably from a wide range of your experiences). They may also ask you to elaborate on certain subjects, so it’s important to always be truthful.

The ideal way to answer competency questions is by using the STAR model: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This means you should briefly describe the general situation, the specific task you had to do, what action you took to complete the task, and finally what happened as a result of your actions.

If you prepare and remember to use the STAR method, you’ll increase your chances of success.