Career Toolkit


Competency based interviews are becoming increasingly more common and work on the principle that past behaviour is the best indicator of how people will behave in the future.

The interview is focussed around a group of competencies / behaviours that are required for success in the role, with the interviewer asking a number of questions which will allow you to demonstrate how your previous experience and expertise relates to these competences. As you move through the questions, the interviewer will take you through what each question is asking and the information that is being sought. The information will require you to refer to your past experiences within / outside work and will be centred on your own actions and learning.

Competencies can be split into five areas:


These refer to the personal attributes required for the role and can include decisiveness, initiative, knowledge, independence, integrity, tenacity and flexibility.

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without being in possession of the full facts.
  • Describe a situation where one of your projects suffered a setback due to an unexpected change in circumstances. How did you overcome this?


These refer to your ability to manage others and can include leadership, empowerment, planning, organisation, strategic thinking and project management.

  • Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve a specific objective.
  • Tell me about a time that you had to manage a difficult employee.


These refer to your ability to interact with others and can include communication, openness, relationship building and ability to work as part of a team.

  • Tell me about a time that you had to work as part of a team to achieve a goal.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a business presentation to clients.


These refer to your decision making abilities and can include analytical skills, problem solving, attention to detail, innovation and practical learning.

  • Describe a situation where you came up with an innovative solution to a problem.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to see a problem no one else had identified.


These refer to the things that drive you and can include motivation, results focus, resilience, initiative, energy and quality focus

  • Tell me about a situation where you did something that you felt really proud of.
  • Tell me about a time your enthusiasm dwindled regarding a project or work situation. What did you do to overcome this?

The job description may include a list of the key competences required for the role. If not it may be worthwhile phoning the HR department for the information. This will allow you to reflect on your past and prepare a good number of relevant examples in advance. Some interviewers may even allow you to refer to your notes.

We recommend using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach, to ensure that you answer the questions in a structured manner.

Situation – Describe the situation or problem.
Task – Outline the task that was required to solve the issue or problem.
Action – Describe the positive actions that you took and any obstacles that you overcame.
Result – Describe in detail the positive result.

  • If you are unsure about what the interviewer is asking then ask for clarification.
  • Take your time and think about the question before answering.
  • Make sure you pick the best example to illustrate the competency they are interested in.
  • Try to make three or four key points about what you have been asked and make them relevant.
  • If using examples from outside of the workplace make sure that these have strong relevance to the workplace.
  • Remember that the interviewer is interested in you, so say ‘I’ a lot to show your personal involvement rather than ‘the team’, ‘we’ or ‘they’.

If you require any further guidance on preparing for a competency based interview, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Good luck!