How to tackle competency-based interview questions and land your dream role

You’ve done it! You’ve just bagged an interview for the perfect role and the next step is a competency-based interview. This is an interview style used by many employers as they assess the skills, behaviours and knowledge you’ll bring to the role. They’ll ask open-ended questions to discover real-life scenarios where you can demonstrate you used your skills and expertise to the best effect, whilst learning and developing as you go.

Although interviews can seem daunting, if you do your homework and properly prepare, you’ll boost your confidence and chances of landing your dream job. That’s why we’ve put together our top tips and techniques to nailing a competency-based interview, as well as exploring what questions you may be asked on the day, along with how to craft a suitable response.

What are competency-based interview questions and answers?

Competency-based questions are interview questions that require candidates to provide real-life examples as the basis of their answers. Candidates should explain why they made certain decisions, how they implemented these decisions and why certain outcomes took place.

The main competencies that an employer may look to investigate during an interview / assessment process are as follows…

  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Teamwork
  • Delivering Results
  • Influencing Skills
  • Planning
  • Communication Skills
  • Leadership
  • Customer Service
  • Motivation

Examples of competency-based questions

There are many different kinds of competency-based questions that you could be asked in an interview, but we have compiled a list of examples for each of the main competencies listed above to help you prepare.

Building and maintaining relationships

  • How do you build and develop relationships with new people?
  • Give an example of when you have had to deal with people who are highly demanding.
  • Provide an example of a time when you have built a new client relationship, how did you go about doing it and how did the relationship develop?
  • Give an example of a time you have had to repair a damaged relationship. How successful were you in doing so?

Teamwork

  • Describe a situation where you positively contributed as a team member.
  • Give an example where you worked in a dysfunctional team. Why was it dysfunctional and how did you attempt to change things?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to deal with a conflict within your team, what did you do to help resolve the situation?
  • How do you build relationships with other members of your team?
  • How do you bring difficult colleagues on board?

 Delivering Results

  • What has made you successful in your current role?
  • What value have you added to your job this year?
  • How do you define ‘doing a good job?
  • How do you ensure you will deliver the results required of you?
  • Give an example of when you have failed to deliver results.
  • Give an example of when you have overachieved. How did you ensure your continued success?

 Influencing Skills

  • Describe a situation where you were able to influence others on an important issue. What approach or strategies did you use?
  • Describe a time when you failed to sell an idea that you knew was the right one.
  • Tell us about a time when you have been influenced (for better or worse): What did you learn from that experience?
  • Describe a time you changed the mind of someone more senior than you.

 Planning

  • Give an example of when you have had to change plans as a result of a new priority.
  • How effective are you as a planner and how can you demonstrate success in this area?
  • Provide an example of a time when you failed to plan properly, what impact did this have?

 Communication Skills

  • Tell us about a situation where your communication skills made a difference to a situation.
  • Describe a time when you had to win someone over who was reluctant or unresponsive.
  • How do you prepare for an important meeting?
  • Tell us about a situation when you failed to communicate properly.
  • Demonstrate how you vary your communication approach according to the audience you are addressing.
  • Give us an example where your listening skills proved crucial to an outcome.
  • Tell us about a time when you were asked to summarise complex points.
  • Tell us about a time when you have failed to listen properly – what impact did it have and how did you handle the situation?

 Leadership

  • Tell us about a situation where you had to get a team to improve its performance. What were the problems and how did you address them?
  • Describe a situation where you had to drive a team through change. How did you achieve this?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to inspire a team. What challenges did you meet and how did you achieve your objective?

 Customer Service

  • How have you ensured that your level of service consistently exceeds customer’s expectations?
  • Give an example of a time you successfully dealt with a customer complaint.
  • Give an example of a time when you have made suggestions to improve the experience of your customers and successfully implemented your ideas.

 Motivation

  • Describe a situation when you have had to remain focussed under significant pressure.
  • Describe a situation when you have received constructive criticism. How did you respond?
  • What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career to date?
  • Describe a situation when you have set yourself a challenging goal and achieved it.
  • What makes you frustrated or impatient at work?
  • Tell us about your biggest failure. How did you recover and what have you learned from that incident?

How to answer competency-based questions

When presented with a competency-based question, the answer you provide should always be delivered in the following format:

  • Situation (or task)
  • Options
  • Action
  • Result (or response)
  • Learning

You will be tasked with two things – giving a strong example of demonstrable behaviour but also, a structured response that clearly shows your approach to a situation and how you have modified your behaviour as a result of what you have learned.

To nail competency-based questions, answer using the following structure:

Situation

 Describe the situation (or task) confronted with or that needed to be accomplished. This will set the context and it needs to be concise and informative – concentrate only on what is relevant to the ‘story’.

Action

You need to be able to explain the chosen course of action what, how and why you did that, by:

  • Explaining your own actions, what was your own personal contribution.
  • Giving details and sensible/rational reasons behind your actions.
  • Demonstrating that you are calculating your actions and the potential results in order to remain in control of the situation.

Results

Explain what happened eventually and how it all ended. What was accomplished is described here – can you demonstrate that you saw it through ‘to the end’?

Options

You need to be able to demonstrate a clearer understanding of a situation by describing the range of options available to you.  Show your thinking process is logical, creative and intelligent.

Learning

Perhaps the most crucial part of the answer – what did you learn during this event? Ask yourself the following questions and provide responses to:

  • What will you use/do differently as a result of your experience (for the better) in future?
  • Can you evidence your behaviour has changed at all?

Good luck!

 Advance your career with Foundation Recruitment

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We support you in every stage of your recruitment journey, from interview tips and techniques to onboarding and aftercare, we are committed to finding you the right role for you. Whether you’re starting out in the real estate or placemaking arena or you’re a seasoned professional with years of experience, we’d love to hear from you.

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