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How to answer competency based interview questions

Competency based interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a way to predict a candidate’s future performance. Essentially, this interview format entails a series of behavioural questions. The interviewer will ask you to describe a situation which demonstrates your abilities that will be integral to the role you’re interviewing for.

Key competency based questions

Drawing on our recruitment experience, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of key competency questions, grouping them into five categories- Individual, Managerial, Analytical, Interpersonal and Motivational.

Individual competencies

These refer to your personal attributes; your decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.

A typical question: Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.

Managerial competencies

Your ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.

A typical question: Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.

Analytical competencies

Your decision making abilities; innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail

A typical question: Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.

Interpersonal competencies

Social competence. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams and the more collaborative they are, the more likely they are to thrive.

A typical question: Describe a situation where you got people to work together.

Motivational competencies

The things that drive you; resilience, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.

A typical question: When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?

The trick to answering competency based questions

You can structure your answers to competency based questions using the STAR technique, which describes:

  • the Situation,
  • the Task required as a result,
  • the Action you took and
  • the Result of that action.


Utilising this technique will help you to answer the question in a clear and succinct manner, ensuring that your answer covers all bases and you don’t go off tangent. Structuring your answers in such a way will also help you to gain a deeper understanding of what is required of you.

Most importantly, be yourself when answering competency questions; use real life examples and relate them to your experience, how you reacted or how it made you feel. These are not trick questions, they’re designed to create the best match between an individual and an organisation. With a little bit of preparation, you’ll quickly realise that competency based interviews represent an unprecedented opportunity to describe some of your finer moments to a captive audience.

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