Competency Based Interviewing – A Guide

Competency Based Interviewing –  A Guide

What is a competency based interview?

Normal interviews (also called unstructured interviews) are essentially a conversation where the interviewers ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for but without any specific aim in mind other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual. Questions are fairly random and can sometimes be quite open.

In an unstructured interview, the candidate is judged on the general impression that he/she leaves; the process is therefore likely to be more subjective.

Competency-based interviews (also called structured or evidenced based interviews)

Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.

It is an interview in which each candidate is asked the same broad questions which are designed to obtain information about the match between the candidate's competencies and those required for the job. It is a method of interviewing that looks at ‘past behaviours to predict the future’

Questions are asked about how the candidate actually behaved in a job related situation.

Candidates can also assess whether the job matches their competencies and decide whether they would also be happy in the role.

What is a Competency?

Competencies are those behaviours that you demonstrate at work that make you effective.

They are a mixture of knowledge, skills, motivation and personal characteristics. In demonstrating your competence (how you do something) you will show the interviewer you skills and the background knowledge necessary for you to perform a future task effectively, together with the motivation and drive to make things happen.

Interview Preparation

Job description: Please take time to read the job description, consider the important factors of the role and look at your experience and think how these factors match the competencies you have in your current role.

Consider your past achievements:

  • The things that you have done that you are most proud of
  • Situations you feel that you have handled particularly well
  • Ways in which you have contributed to the success of the team that you work in as a whole 

What competencies do these achievements suggest

For each achievement think about the part that you played - what did you do, what did you say, what did you think?

Then consider how to present these achievements in competency terms at the interview.

It may be helpful for you to consider these in terms of ‘STAR’ :
Situation – Context of the example
Task – What you had to do
Action – What you did, how and why?
Result – Outcome, how did it turn out?

The Interview:

Typical competency based questions:

  • "Tell me about a time when…" 
  • "Describe an occasion when…"
  • "When has it been important to…"

Remember the interviewer is interested in finding out about you and what you have achieved, not about your team, project or manager's achievements. It is important that you talk about what contribution/ achievement you have made.

These initial questions may then be followed by further questions to enable the interviewer to get as much detailed evidence as possible, such as: 

  • What was the outcome?
  • How did you measure the success of what you did?

The interviewer will compare your answers to the competencies required for the Job and your evidence of competencies against other candidates.