9 common competency questions (and how to answer them)


Competency-based interviews are an employer’s way of discovering whether you are as good as you say you are on your CV. It’s an effective way to understand what you will add to their company if you are successful in your application. 

In this article, we’ll look at nine questions employers ask in competency-based interviews and how you can answer them to boost your chances of success. 


1 – What are your greatest strengths?


Probably the most popular interview question of them all, this question is your chance to show them what you’re good at. But how do you do it in a relatable and believable way?


The STAR method is the best way to approach this and any competency-based question. Tell a story that is structured as follows:

  • Situation – A (brief) context to the story you’re about to tell
  • Task – What were you asked to do which required you to display the skill you want to talk about?
  • Action – What did you do to complete the task?
  • Result – What was the impact of what you did?


So, in this case, talk about what you believe are your greatest strengths (related to the job description) and tell a story where you displayed each skill, following the STAR sequence. 


2 – What impact will your skills and ideas bring to our organisation?


This is your chance to show the interviewer how you stand out from the crowd. 

The key to answering this question lies in how well you have researched the company, including its vision and goals. Tell a story that shares a relatable example of how your actions can get the company nearer to where it wants to be.


3 – What makes you a good fit for this company?


Similar to the previous question, this is about what you will bring to the company, but more from a cultural perspective than a practical one. 

It’s the part where you can share what impresses you about the company and why you want to make it your next career move.


4 – What did you achieve at your current/previous company?


When they ask this question, the employer wants to see your confidence in discussing your previous successes.

Tell a story that shows something you did that produced tangible results. Try to make it relevant to the job you’re applying for.


5 – Tell us about a time you improvised to achieve success


There will always be situations where you’ll have to react to something you hadn’t planned for. In this competency-based question, the employer wants to see how you can think on your feet.

Talk about a time when you were out of your comfort zone, but stayed calm under pressure and delivered success.


6 – Talk about a big decision you had to make


In this question, you must talk the employer through your decision-making process. They want to see someone who makes decisions in a way that someone in the vacant role would.

If the role you’re applying for is analytical, perhaps talk about a time you used data, as well as logic and reasoning, to make your decision. In certain situations, however, you might prefer to go with a story of gut instinct and intuition. 


7 – Tell us about a time you helped someone on your team


By asking this question, the employer wants to see how you can work in a team. They also want to show someone who leads with compassion, even if you’re not trying out for a leadership role.

If you can, talk about times you’ve helped teammates who were struggling with something. You could also talk about times you’ve acted as a trainer or mentor.


8 – Talk about a time you’ve had to deal with a difficult person


Whether it’s a colleague, a customer or anyone else, we’ve all experienced times when other people can be challenging. When they ask this question, the interviewer wants to find out how you would deal with problem people in your new role.

The key to success in your story is not to pass around blame. Instead, be honest, admit your role in the situation and talk about how you worked through it to leave both sides satisfied. 


9 – How have you developed in the last year?


Finally, the employer wants to see how you address your weaknesses, as we’ve all got them. They want to see someone who is self-aware enough to know where they need to improve, and hungry enough to make it happen. Talk about a story that displays both of these traits. 

Now you know what to do, spend as much time as you can before your interview preparing your stories. Then, tell them confidently and show the employer how you possess all the competencies they’re looking for.


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