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What Are the Competency-Based Interview Questions?

Also called behavioral or competency questions, the competency-based questions are posed during the face-to-face interview to evaluate job candidates’ major capabilities. These questions are so constructed that applicants’ answers to them yield important insights into their working style and help make predictions about their behavior in the new workplace. Far from looking for information about candidates’ work experience, competency-based questions are directed at learning about their skills and core competency. To answer the competency-based questions, applicants should refer to their personal observations, bringing up examples from their firsthand experience in the previous workplace. By giving examples from their life, job candidates help interviewers see a comprehensive picture of their personality and their individual abilities.  

Another set of questions posed during the interview may assess job candidates’ knowledge of the company for which they are being interviewed. It is advisable to browse the company’s website and learn about its mission, business goals, structure, and revenue before coming to the face-to-face interview. Expect also to be asked about the industry in which the company works, because employers want to ensure that you have a clear understanding of what tasks your future position will involve. Note also that in most interviews, the competency-based questions are standardized. This can play right into the hands of applicants, because standardization makes it easier to prepare for the interview. Go over a list of the competency-based questions presented below on this page and formulate clear and crispy answers to them. Chances are that most of these questions you will be asked during your upcoming interview. If you arm yourself with winning answers in advance, you will sound prepared, composed, and smart during your actual interview, thus securing for yourself a place at the top of the list of job candidates.  


What Competencies Do Employers Seek in Their Potential Employees?

Before you start working on developing various competencies in yourself, it is essential to understand what competencies are and which of them employers want their potential employers to possess. The definition of the word “competence” is “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.” In other words, employers are looking for people who can perform tasks skillfully and conscientiously. Each company adumbrates its own set of the desirable qualities they look for in its new employees, which largely depends on the industry in which it specializes and on its particular business goals. Then, interviewers use these competencies as a yardstick to rate and estimate applicants’ potential. To find out whether candidates have a required set of qualities, interviewers asks them the competency-based questions. These questions are so constructed that to answer them, applicants should rely on their personal experience and bring up examples from their lives. When applicants elaborate on the difficulties they faced in their previous workplaces and tell how they solved them, recruiters can understand their personality and working styles more fully and accurately.  

Some of the main competencies that employers want their employees to possess are the following:

  • Responsibility – At work, having responsibility means to make job-related decisions independently. By measuring how responsible job candidates are, recruiters try to predict how much responsibility is possible to lay at their door in the future.
  • Career Motivation and Commitment – Applicants should demonstrate that they want to make a distinguished career in the new company. Being career-driven ensures that they will make an all-out effort to work well and conscientiously.
  • Communication – Few of the existing positions entail working in isolation. As a rule, in companies, everyone cooperates with other people, working together on shared projects and tasks. Having good communication skills is thus crucial for interacting with one’s co-workers in a meaningful way.
  • Leadership – Those who apply for managerial positions should demonstrate the ability to lead and motivate their co-workers. They also need to know how to train others and develop in them those skills that their positions require.
  • Work Ethic – Work ethic is vital for achieving goals. It develops the right mindset in the working individual. Employers with strong work ethic display moral principles that inform their behavior in the workplace inspiring them to produce work of very high quality and motivating them to carry on with their tasks equally diligently, no matter what are the circumstances in which they work.
  • Trustworthiness – Employers want to ascertain that their employees have strong moral fiber and thereby will not engage in criminal and counterproductive activities at work. They want to ensure that new employees will decline a bribe, if offered, and will always put their self-interests aside for the benefit of the company.
  • Result Orientation – Being result oriented means to know that achieving results are highly important in one’s work. This also implies that a person who is result oriented will surely put forth an effort to achieve these results. By assessing this competency in applicants, recruiters try to find out what kind of results are important to them and whether they understand how to produce them.
  • Teamwork – An ability to work productively in a team is essential for the thriving of any business. Companies succeed only if their employees are able to work well in tandem with their co-workers. Even if employers’ role involves independent thinking and working on their own, they are still expected to understand what they are doing in the context of the company as a whole.

How Is the Competency-Based Interview Structured?

When they ask the competency-based questions, interviewers want to learn about the activities in which job candidates were engaged while studying in college or working in other companies. Questions posed during the competency-based interview are directed at ascertaining whether applicants have a set of competencies the company considers crucial for excellent performance at work.

Usually, interviewers will ask you to tell them about a specific situation which you were called to improve in your previous workplace or in dealing with which you demonstrated specific qualities and skills. Prior to the interview, think about certain situations about which you can tell your interviewers when answering their questions. It will be good if you can bring up at least two examples for each competency that you will be invited to show. If during your interview you suddenly realize that you do not have an illuminating example at hand, do not panic. Ask your interviewers to give you a moment to think about your experience, search your memory, and try to recollect the situation where you rose to the occasion.  The competency-based questions are difficult and tricky, and your recruiters will understand that you may need a few minutes to collect your thoughts.


Questions Posed during the Competency-Based Interview

Below is the list of the most frequently asked competency-based questions. You are advised to go over them and formulate winning answers to them. It is highly probable that many of these questions will be asked during your upcoming interviews:

  • Tell us about a time when you had to be assertive.
  • Give us a specific example of how you reconciled your differences with a difficult co-worker.
  • Tell us about a time where you demonstrated leadership qualities?
  • What was the situation when you gave excellent service?
  • When did you experience a disgruntled customer and how did you communicate with him or her?
  • Describe a time when you had to resolve a misunderstanding with your manager. How did you approach the problem?
  • Describe a situation when an employee did not follow the company’s policy. How did you deal with such behavior?
  • Describe a situation when you succeeded in making your co-workers work cooperatively in a team?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to put your interests aside for the benefit of your co-workers?
  • Describe a situation where you failed to complete a project or a task, despite your best efforts.
  • Describe a time where you put forth an all-out effort to ensure the completion of a project.  
  • Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond your responsibilities.

How to Answer the Competency-Based Questions?

To impress your interviewers with your comprehensive answers, construct them according to the CAR method. The word “CAR” in this approach is an acronym formed of three words: “Context,” “Action,” “Result.” First, when you are asked to recollect a past situation in which a certain event occurred, as illustrated in the list above, bring up an example from your life that may be pertinent to the situation in question. It will be wise to think of some situations from your past in advance, before you show up for your interview. Once you have zeroed in on a specific event, dwell on its context. Tell about the place and time of its occurrence and about co-workers and managers involved in the scenario.   

Then, focus on the actions that you initiated to solve problems appertaining to the situation you are describing. Remember that your personality is shown most conspicuously in your decisions and actions. Hence, dwell on this part of your narrative at length. If you cooperated with your colleagues on projects or tasks, talk not only about your personal contribution to the joint venture but also about that of your co-workers. It will be even more illuminating if you adumbrate also alternative courses of events that you considered taking but refrained from doing so in the end. When you explain why you declined to follow certain alternative routes, you highlight your decision-making abilities and logical skills most effectively.

The final part of your answer should concentrate on results. Emphasize what you achieved after you had taken the described actions and what conclusions you made from your experience. Interviewers should know what you have learned from the situation to evaluate your main competencies more precisely and fairly. Answering interviewers’ competency-based questions according the CAR format will also increase your chances of leaving a lasting impression on them. If you employ this method on your interview, you will be likely to inspire your recruiters to make a hiring decision in your favor.   

JobTestPrep does everything in its power to help job applicants to pass their competency-based interview with success. In addition to the information presented on this page, we have also brought together in one exclusive PrepPack™ the interview materials of high quality, with which you can practice at home before you enter the interview room in your chosen company. Purchase our interview kit and answer all competency-based interview questions confidently and well.    

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