How to Ace Competency Questions for Interviews

Companies often conduct competency questions for interviews to see if a candidate has the requisite knowledge and skills for an open position. 

It’s common practice to ask candidates a battery of competency-based questions at the outset of an interview.

An interviewer can quickly gauge a candidate’s reaction to a given scenario and the subsequent course of action by asking them the appropriate questions. 

The best way to succeed in a competency-based interview is to anticipate and prepare for questions. Here we’ll discuss the most common forms of competency-based interview questions and offer advice on how to answer them.

Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash

How to Go About a Competency-Based Interview

In a competency-based interview, you may be asked questions regarding how you handled workplace issues. Interviewers often ask competency-based questions to learn more about candidates’ past experiences demonstrating desirable skills and behaviors in real-world contexts.

Organizations can learn if an applicant has the “key competencies” for a position by conducting this interview style. You may be more familiar with the terms “behavioral interview” or “criterion-based interview” when referring to a competency-based interview.

To convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job, you need to be confident and know your “onion.” You can get both of these things by preparing for a competency-based interview.

If you know that you will be asked competency-based questions at an interview, you can prepare answers ahead of time. When you put in the time and effort to prepare for this interview, you show that you have the core competencies.

  • How recently did you last collaborate with others on a challenging project? 
  • Describe an instance in which you assisted a group.
  • Give an example of a time you had to take charge and make a significant change at work. 
  • Tell me about the last time you had to handle a customer complaint. 
  • Describe an experience in which you were given responsibility outside your usual sphere of expertise. 
  • Give me an example of a time when you contributed to a team’s success. 
  • Describe the hardest decision you’ve ever made in your professional life.
  • Share a story in which you struggled to maintain objectivity.
  • Tell me about the last time you had to tell others that you did not agree.

How to Ace a Competency Questions for Interviews

Prepare yourself as best you can for the interview by reading up on competency-based questions and interviewing techniques. It is important to give answers highlighting your skills and experience.

Here are some strategies you may use to prepare for competency-based interview questions.

1. Identify Fundamental Skills Required

Companies and HR departments often develop interview questions following a list of desired skills and abilities for a given position. To determine the perfect candidate’s qualifications, read the job description and any other available documents.

An editor interview may question your communication skills, time management, and decision-making.

2. Demonstrate Your Core Talents

When preparing for an interview, it is helpful to anticipate the main topics that will be covered. Also, provide concrete instances of how you have demonstrated these competencies in the past. Explain briefly how you edited the company magazine to show your time management skills.

Describe your steps to finish the job or fix the problem in detail. Preparing for your competency-based interview will allow you to feel more at ease and to answer questions with more conviction.

3. Apply the STAR Technique

When thinking about responding to competency-based inquiries, the STAR approach is a useful strategy.

The acronym STAR describes the four components of any given scenario or endeavor and their subsequent outcomes. This strategy will help you provide concrete and persuasive examples of your skills and abilities. Here’s an example of an answer organized using the STAR method:


Provide background information about the setting of the event you’re describing. In this context, you can say, “The manager at my previous employment was never around and had trouble keeping in touch with employees. Because of this, there was a breakdown in communication on our team and widespread misunderstanding about our objectives.”


Describe what it was you had to do to resolve the issue. Include relevant details related to the situation and task. The key here is to be brief and to the point. Briefly mention the problem you faced and the action you took, then provide the specific details of your task attempt.

For example:

“As the assistant editor, it was my responsibility to ensure that each writer had something to do and that it was completed on time. I was also in charge of coordinating the magazine’s layout and finding guest contributors for each issue.”


Justify the steps you took to fix the problem or better the circumstance. For instance, “To eliminate misunderstandings and effectively explain expectations and deadlines, I implemented a system for managing the writing process. It detailed each writer’s responsibilities and when they were due. Additionally, I arranged weekly meetings with the writers to address any concerns and offer direction.”


Describe fully the outcome that occurred as a direct result of your efforts. For instance: “We were able to meet all future magazine deadlines. We also engaged additional authors to aid production by implementing the writing management system. We ensured all writers clearly knew their goals and deadlines.”

Wrapping Up

Interviewers are more confident in the candidate’s professional competence after competency questions for interviews. However, to succeed in these types of interviews, you have to make sure you’re prepared.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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