Competency-based interviews can provide employers with a detailed insight into how a candidate might perform any given task and whether they’ve got the experience and skills you’re looking for.

In the frame

Framing competency-based questions, relevant to a role or organisation, will allow you to better assess whether candidates come up to scratch on any number of skills such as: leadership, communication, decisiveness, delegation, risk taking, team work etc.

What are the indicators? 

While employers will no doubt have a clear idea of the type of candidate they’re looking for, the process of scoring candidates by their answers to competency-based questions can prove an ultimate deciding factor. For example, for a fairly straight forward question such as: “Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem”, you should be able to gauge on a scale of one to five, whether a candidate has “no skill/experience” or has “excellent skill/experience” in the relevant area.

It is also possible to gauge a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses through their answers by assessing whether they demonstrate a willingness to learn, an ability to perform or, if they show a negative approach towards a task.

Key competency questions

With 40 years of recruitment experience, we know the value of competency-based interviews and have worked out a list of key competency questions, grouping them into five areas, illustrating a wide range of skills.

Individual competencies - These refer to a candidate’s flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.

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

Managerial competencies - These refer to a candidate’s ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.

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

Analytical competencies - These refer to a candidate’s decision making abilities, innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail.

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

Interpersonal competencies - These refer to a candidate’s social competencies, leadership and ability to work as part of a team.

A typical question might be: describe a situation where you brought people together to work as a team.

Motivational competencies - These refer to a candidate’s drive, resilience, energy, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.

A typical question might be: tell me about a time you worked especially hard and felt the greatest sense of achievement. 

When conducting a competency-based interview, employers should be looking for authentic answers where candidates are being themselves by providing real life examples which relate to their actual life and work experiences. Remember, these are not trick questions; they are designed to create the best match between an individual and an organisation.

Read our interview tips from recruiters for more advice on conducting an effective interview.

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