How to Prepare For A Competency-Based Interview: Questions & Tips

To begin, you may ask what is a competency based interview?

A competency based interview is designed to gain information on technical and behavioural competencies – or in other words, the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you possess. Competency based interviewing is based on the principle that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. It is a systematic, fair, customisable and proven process that has been used by interviewers for many years.

How best to answer competency based interview questions?

In a competency based interview, the interviewer is ultimately looking for you to demonstrate examples of when you have used certain skills and abilities. Quite often, the competencies the interviewer is looking for can be found in the job description provided, so take some time to think about the times when you have demonstrated the core skills listed on there in the past.

Most competency based interviews will follow this format:

Key Background Review
You may be asked specific questions about your educational background and work history, including your current role.

Competency based interview questions

Where you are asked to relate prior job-related experiences allowing the interviewer to assess your strength in a number of specific capabilities/competencies.

Aim to:

  • Listen carefully to the question
  • Take a second or two to compose your thoughts before you answer
  • Ask for clarification if you need to – be sure you really understand what the interviewer is asking.
  • Speak succinctly and clearly, minimise jargon, eliminate slang.
  • Try to phrase your responses using the STAR interview technique, and keep them brief.
  • Try to vary your examples – though it is okay (and sometimes efficient) to use the same example to illustrate different competencies.

The STAR interview technique:

As mentioned above, once you are in the interview, you must ensure that you structure your answer. When the interviewer asks you to describe when you have worked in a team or when you have dealt with conflict, for example, you must answer the question having thought back to your examples, but in a set manner. The STAR interview technique is a good way to structure your answers and is easy to remember in those stressful interview situations.

STAR interview technique infographic


Set the scene by explaining the background behind the example you are about the give. This should only take around 10-20 seconds.


Next, talk about the task. Remember to focus on your responsibility in the situation. For example, when talking about teamwork, it is a common mistake for people to refer to terms such as ‘the team did this…’ or ‘we did that…’ It is extremely important that you bear in mind that you are there to talk about yourself, your skills, and your experience. Remember to talk about the role you personally played in previous jobs.


Describe what you did to overcome the problem or challenge and how was the task completed.


Finally, what were the successes or failures of the action? Talk about what you have learned from the experience. If the outcome was negative, explain how you would have handled it differently. Don’t be afraid to talk about when a task didn’t have the result you wanted, the interviewer is looking to hear that you have learned and developed from the experience.

Remember to:

Avoid making vague statements that may sound good but provide no specific information about what you did, such as “the project team created a plan…”
Avoid making theoretical statements such as “I would do…” or “I always…” as these provide no information about what you actually did.

If you prepare in advance and practice these competency-based interview tips and techniques, you should feel confident going into the interview and be able to deliver the answers succinctly.

As always before any interview, you should research the company, review your CV and job description, practice or test run the route, get there slightly early and dress fit for the occasion.

If you would like more interview tips, take a look at the below:

Top tips for your next video interview

Performing a personal swot