20 competency-based interview questions and answers to evaluate top talent

Combine interviews with skills tests for optimal candidate assessment.

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Do you need to hire a new employee for your business? To avoid hiring the wrong applicant, you must evaluate your candidate’s competency, skills, and behavior first. 

It’s well worth using a data-driven skill assessment method that includes Cognitive Ability or Situational Judgment tests after you source applicants. Then, you can discover if your candidates’ values and competencies match your company’s mission and vision. But which interview questions are ideal for setting the correct tone during the interview?

It can be difficult to find the right questions to ask, so we’ve gathered 20 competency-based interview questions in this article for your reference. Select from our list to evaluate your candidates’ skills and behavior.

Table of contents

20 competency-based interview questions and answers about projects, skills, and teamwork , when should you use competency-based interview questions in the hiring process, use competency-based interview questions to hire an expert.

Ask candidates some of these 20 competency-based interview questions about projects, skills, and teamwork to evaluate their experience and aptitudes.

1. Could you tell us about a time you led a complex project? How did you handle it?

With this competency-based interview question, you can test your candidates’ management and project leadership skills. When responding, applicants should talk about a time they led a project and explain the steps they used to complete it. For example, an editor might lead a project by reading a style guide, learning about editing tools, and thinking about ways to provide feedback to writers.

Only 48% of employees consider their leadership high-quality, but you can manage this shortage by finding applicants with project leadership skills. The optimum way to assess your candidates’ leadership and project management skills is to use our Leadership & People Management, and Project Management skill tests .

competency based interview questions research skills

2. Have you ever helped a manager resolve an issue? Which method did you use?

Problem solving is a critical part of completing projects and assisting managers. Since this skill can help applicants achieve quality work, consider if they have a method to achieve this goal.

Some applicants may use software to handle project problems and help their manager solve them. Others might collaborate with team members to find the correct strategy and present the technique to their manager.

If you want to discover more about your applicants’ problem solving skills, you can ask them follow-up questions about the outcome of their efforts or use our Problem solving test .

3. Can you tell me about a time you learned something new to complete a task?

Upskilling and learning new abilities are essential in all roles as they can help candidates handle challenging or new tasks. Applicants should be able to name what they learned and how it enabled them to complete the project.

For example, a software engineer might learn a new programming language, framework, or more about Git version control software to handle complex projects.

Don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions to learn more about your candidates’ upskilling methods. You will notice that applicants hone their skills in different ways, such as by completing training courses or reading books. 

4. Describe a time you had to handle a customer’s difficult request.

To assess your candidates’ communication skills and customer service abilities, ask them this competency-based interview question. When dealing with customers and handling their requests, applicants should know how to:

Empathize with a customer

Use active listening

Avoid making a promise they can’t keep

Keep calm during the interaction

Offer options to handle the problem

competency based interview questions research skills

One data-driven method to assess applicants’ communication and customer service skills is to use our Communication and Customer Service tests . These tools will show which candidates can read the customer’s non-verbal cues, use professional etiquette, and improve customer satisfaction.

5. Could you tell us about a time you used attention to detail to complete a project?

Many projects require applicants to use attention to detail. Some examples of tasks that need extra focus and attention include writing articles with correct grammar for clients and programming with clean code.

Since it’s a skill that can enhance the quality of the candidate’s output, attention to detail is crucial for candidates. Check whether your applicants have attention to detail with our Attention to Detail test or ask them for work samples from side projects to check their accuracy.

6. Could you explain how you’ve increased your company’s revenue?

Applicants who can increase your company’s revenue are the ones to consider for your vacancy. They may achieve this goal in many ways. For instance, an HR professional might hire capable talent who increases the company’s profits. A software developer might fix an issue, enhance the user experience, and increase an app’s users.

Ask whether applicants have yielded good financial results for their organization to learn if they match your company’s expectations.

7. Can you tell us about a time you increased your output or the quality of your work?

Candidates should aim to enhance the quality of their work and output for customers since it can help to improve the company-client relationship. Whether applicants complete training courses or seek support from their manager, they should have a method to improve their work.

Be wary of candidates who think their work doesn’t need improving, and consider hiring candidates willing to undergo training with your company.

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8. Describe a time you collaborated successfully with a team.

Teamwork is a critical factor that can help companies complete complex projects. For example, a teacher could collaborate with other staff on their team to create fun and exciting lesson plans. Your applicants should understand the value of teamwork and explain how their efforts led to good results. 

Communication is an essential part of working on a team. Consider if your candidates communicate efficiently or use communication tools to discuss projects with team members. Use our Communication skills test if you need extra statistics or candidate data to assess your applicants.

9. Name a time you had to make a challenging decision in the workplace.

Not all workplace decisions are easy to make, but making difficult decisions is a crucial process. With this question, you can check whether your candidates have experience making decisions that require analytical skills and business knowledge.

The methods each applicant uses to make challenging decisions will differ — some may gather statistical data to help them proceed with a decision, others might hold a meeting with their team and gather opinions.

It’s worth considering that each decision-making process can depend on the context, but you can ask candidates to provide a five-step method that helps them with this goal. You can also assess applicants with skill tests such as our Problem solving or Critical Thinking tests .

10. Can you tell us about a time you had to work under pressure?

It can be impossible to avoid working under pressure in the workplace, but candidates should have methods that make this process easier. Some candidates might eliminate as much uncertainty as possible to help them make decisions faster under pressure. Other interviewees might take regular breaks and return to work when they feel most productive.

Ask more questions related to working under pressure to check if your candidates’ output improved with their stress management strategies, and consider if their methods match your company’s expectations.

11. Could you tell me about a time you used a creative strategy to solve a problem?

With this competency-based interview question, you can test your applicants’ problem-solving skills. Since each circumstance is unique, candidates will provide different answers. However, you should expect candidates to mention a time they thought of a unique method to solve a problem . 

For example, some applicants might alter project management strategies with Excel spreadsheets to clarify a process. Others might ask team members to switch roles for a day to understand each other’s duties. To determine their strategy’s effectiveness, ask questions like, “How did your creative method help you achieve the desired output?”

12. Have you ever had to handle changes in the workplace? Explain how you did it.

Encountering change in a work environment is generally inevitable, but it’s not impossible to navigate. Many methods can help team members handle workplace changes , including:

Staying positive

Establishing new targets

Accepting and transitioning to changes

For example, sales representatives might have to stay eager to adopt new software systems, achieve new sales targets with the help of the systems, and accept and transition to the changes.

Be cautious of applicants who resist or find workplace change difficult — if your company offers a fast-paced environment, these candidates might not match your requirements.

13. Could you tell us about a time you supported a struggling team member?

Being a team player often requires candidates to support junior or inexperienced team members. Candidates should know that while they shouldn’t sacrifice their targets to help co-workers, they should offer the correct advice to assist them.

One prime example of effective teamwork is an accounts payable team providing accounting tools and methods to help accounts receivable teams quickly process client payments.

Listen for responses that explain the outcomes of the candidate’s support. For example, the accounts receivable team members will have improved their client payment processes due to the extra advice, tools, and methods.

14. Name a time you failed to complete a project. What did you learn?

Project failures can have many causes. Candidates might underestimate the time required to complete a project or lack the resources to handle it efficiently. They may have to get more input from the client or manager, or they may have misunderstood the project brief. In these cases, candidates may have learned to:

Create accurate deadlines using time management methods

Request timely support from their manager 

Check that they understand the project brief and ask questions if they don’t

Find the correct resources to handle the project

competency based interview questions research skills

If candidates use the STAR method to structure their answers, you can expect them to explain the result of their acquired knowledge. They should mention the situation and specific task when responding to the question, as well as the action and results they achieved. When discussing the results, they may explain that they encounter fewer problems when estimating project deadlines and notice that their clients are happier with their work.

15. Describe your biggest work-related achievement so far.

This competency-based interview question will help you learn if your candidate is determined and ambitious enough to achieve significant career milestones. Each candidate will have a different work-related achievement, so you will receive different answers.

For example, an editorial assistant might receive a promotion to a junior editor role upon honing their editorial skills and learning about the company. Or after showing their skills in challenging projects, a software developer might become a project maintainer.

One way to assess answers is to consider how your candidates achieved their most significant goals. If their methods match your organization’s expectations, you should consider inviting them to a second interview.

16. Share a time you experienced a conflict while working with your team.

Although 26% of employees consider work conflict a common occurrence, your candidates should understand how to handle team disagreements. Team conflicts can happen for several reasons:

Candidates might find it difficult to work with team members who underperform

They might feel demotivated by co-workers who lack motivation

Applicants might find it difficult to collaborate with team members due to differences in personality or work styles

Some applicants might communicate with team members, while others might create plans to efficiently manage the conflict.

To assess your applicants, consider if your applicants’ conflict management methods match your company’s values, mission, and vision. 

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17. Have you ever used leadership skills to complete a project with a team?

If hiring a team leader or manager, ask candidates this competency-based interview question to understand their leadership abilities. Candidates should have experience with team lead and project management duties, and show management ability when they respond.

Consider if your applicants can communicate with their team, use appropriate task management strategies, delegate projects, and offer feedback to team members before you decide to hire someone.

18. Could you tell us about a time you used time management skills for a project?

Since time management ensures teams complete projects on time for clients, your candidates must have this skill. Whether they use time-tracking software or set small targets to achieve their milestones, your candidates should understand how to manage their time.

Check if your candidates understand why time management is important, and use our Time Management test for a straightforward candidate assessment method. 

19. Have you ever had to change your communication style to suit different team members?

Employees must interact with team members, stakeholders, and other teams in the company to complete their work. They should use the right communication style for each individual they communicate with.

For example, a software engineer might have to communicate with a non-technical team member about their project. It’s easy for them to achieve this if they use jargon-free language to share the appropriate information. What’s also ideal is to ensure the team member understands the facts by asking them a few questions.

Since using the correct communication style is important for candidates, check their skills with a Communication skills test.

20. Describe a time you had to collaborate with a team member whose methods differed from yours.

Not every team member will have the same working style as your applicant, so it’s worth checking if they can efficiently work with a diverse group of employees. Ask your applicants if they can compromise when team members use different methods.

To review your applicants’ responses to this competency-based interview question, check if their methods match your company’s project management methods.

For a simpler hiring process, we recommend using competency-based interview questions after you send all applicants a skills assessment. When your candidates have completed the assessment, you can use the results to make insightful decisions about which candidates to invite to an interview.

Skills tests have many benefits when you use them before the interview. This approach helps you:

Hire an applicant based on their skills

Reduce the chances of hiring the wrong applicant

Compare two candidates with similar competencies

Ensure you reap the benefits of skills testing methods to reduce your time-to-hire metrics and hire the best professional.

With competency-based interview questions, you can learn about your candidates’ abilities, experience, and project completion methods and find the best expert for your team. Pair this with skills tests for a winning combination to evaluate and hire applicants.

Skills tests provide the data-driven method many companies adopt to find top professionals. Try TestGorilla for free and find candidates that match your role and company.

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Guide to Competency-Based Interviews in 2023: Q&As

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Competency-based interviews assess a candidate’s ability to perform a specific job and their fit for the role. They have become increasingly popular with businesses today, especially for large companies that value culture. 

In cases where hiring managers find it difficult to find the best candidate based on technical interviews alone, they conduct competency-based interviews to find the best fit for their company. 

By exploring a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and experience, these interviews provide employers with a clearer picture of whether a candidate is a right fit for the job.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what competency-based interviews are, the most common interview questions, how to prepare for a competency-based interview, and will provide examples of competency-based interview questions and answers. 

What are competencies?

Competencies are skills, knowledge, behavioural attributes and capabilities that help employers determine whether you have what it takes to succeed in a job position. They can be learned through experience or training. Job seekers need to have the right competencies to demonstrate their abilities to their employers when they are presented with opportunities. 

Competencies are primarily categorised into three types . 

  • Technical competencies
  • Behavioural competencies
  • Leadership competencies

Technical competencies are the skills and expertise that are needed for a potential candidate to perform specific tasks related to the job successfully. This could be operating a particular piece of machinery, data entry, or industry-specific software applications.

Behavioural competencies are the soft skills and interpersonal abilities that allow the individual to be successful in a job position. They involve aspects like how the candidate interacts with others and their ability to solve problems efficiently. Other examples of behavioural competencies include decision-making, teamwork and collaboration, communication, organisation and customer support skills. 

Lastly, leadership competencies refer to the candidate’s ability to think, reason, use sound judgement, motivate themselves and others, and lead and manage a team effectively. While hiring managers primarily look for leadership competencies in candidates applying for management and leadership roles, that may not always be the case. Examples of leadership competencies include strategic-thinking skills, analytical skills, research skills, creativity, and critical thinking skills. 

When it comes to competencies, it heavily depends on the job requirements and the candidate’s current skills and experiences. Different companies may have different competency expectations, and the candidate must tailor their skills according to the job position and company they’re applying for.

Job seekers can work on their competencies by identifying their strengths and developing their abilities via training and experience. Take the time to understand the competencies that the hiring manager is looking for and focus on highlighting your abilities in those areas in your CV as well as during the interview.

What is a competency-based interview?

During a competency-based interview, the candidate has the chance to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and experience in a particular job role. 

A competency-based interview is designed to help hiring managers understand how well a candidate will fit within the team and the company culture. The questions asked during this interview are focused on the candidate’s ability to do the job effectively.

The hiring manager may ask about:

  • how you handle specific situations, 
  • your ability to communicate effectively, 
  • your attention to detail, 
  • how you manage customer service, 
  • your organisational skills, 
  • your ability to interact and collaborate with your colleagues, 
  • how you prioritise your tasks, 
  • how you approach problem-solving, 
  • how you delegate responsibilities, and more 

The first step towards preparing for a competency-based interview is to gain an in-depth understanding of the skills and competencies the hiring manager is looking for. Brainstorm specific situations you’ve been in that showcase your ability to handle the different responsibilities that come with the job. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to provide particular examples of how you’ve leveraged your skills and expertise within a workplace setting.

In addition to demonstrating your knowledge and skills, it’s critical to gain a good understanding of the company culture. Take the time to research the company and the role you’re applying for to gain an edge over your competitors while demonstrating why you’ll be the perfect fit for the role.

Hiring managers may throw in a few competency questions that probe the candidates on their familiarity with the industry and the company. They may also test the candidates on their commitment to their choice of career and the things that motivate them.

If you’re applying for a receptionist, assistant, or managerial role, the competency-based interview will typically focus on these areas:

  • Communication skills : You’ll be expected to communicate with a diverse range of stakeholders. Therefore, hiring managers expect candidates to have excellent written and verbal communication.
  • Technical skills : While these roles don’t require a lot of technical knowledge, candidates are expected to be familiar with computer devices, industry or company-specific software programs, and other office equipment. 
  • Organisational skills : A major part of a candidate’s responsibilities for these job roles involve the ability to organise and prioritise tasks effectively, maintain the company’s systems and procedures, and manage administrative staff.
  • Attention to detail : Candidates need to have the skill to complete tasks efficiently and accurately.
  • Leadership skills : This includes the ability to lead a team, make decisions on their feet, and coordinate internal and external events.
  • Interpersonal skills : Candidates should have the capacity to work collaboratively with their coworkers and customers, as well as the ability to negotiate and resolve conflict.

A competency-based interview typically lasts about an hour. Most businesses have a standardised interview process, where candidates are usually asked identical questions. 

What are the most common competency-based interview questions?

  • Can you think of a particularly challenging situation you have experienced at work? (could be people/scenario/team/environment based).
  • Can you describe the scenario, your role/challenge, the action you took and the outcome? 
  • What did the diary look like on a day-to-day basis?
  • How frequently did this change?
  • How far ahead was the diary typically full?
  • Can you give me some examples of particularly complex travel that you have organised?
  • Can you give me an example of an event that you have managed?
  • Can you talk me through the initial brief you were given, your approach/action taken and the outcome?
  • Can you describe the level and frequency of change you used to work with (how last minute can this be/how do you manage this)?
  • What kind of environment do you feel you excel in and why?
  • Which has been your favourite role to date and why?
  • Has there been a boss/person at work that you didn’t enjoy working with or found challenging to work with? What made it difficult/were you able to overcome this?
  • What is your greatest mistake, and what did you learn from it?
  • What makes you great at your job? And why should we hire you?
  • What could you improve on in terms of your working style?
  • What makes you a great colleague? Why would I enjoy working with you?
  • Can you describe the best team you have worked in/what made it successful?

How to prepare for a competency-based interview? 

1. explore the competencies and skills you believe you will be asked about.

The first step is to analyse the job description, requirements listed within the advert, any relevant job postings, and the company’s official website to gain an in-depth understanding of what the job role demands. List keywords and phrases that highlight the skills and competencies the hiring manager is looking for. 

Next, take the time to brainstorm your own skills and experiences. Create a list of your strengths and qualifications that make you a great fit for the position. This could include qualifications like communication, leadership, creativity, problem-solving, and other technical skills.

For example, let’s say the job description for a receptionist states that they’re looking for a candidate with exceptional communication skills while dealing with customers. This implies that the candidate may have to deal with a lot of customers and, consequently, their issues and complaints. Therefore, highlight instances where you’ve demonstrated empathy and understanding while being firm. 

2. Brainstorm a range of solid examples that are relevant to the role

To ensure you’re ready for a competency-based interview, it’s critical to brainstorm relevant examples that showcase your expertise and skill for the role. 

To help you get started, here are some tips on how to brainstorm examples for a competency-based interview:

  • List specific tasks you’ve completed in the past that are relevant to the position.
  • Based on the key skills listed in the job advert, brainstorm examples of situations where you’ve demonstrated these skills.
  • Take note of past projects you’ve undertaken or been involved in that may give you relevant experience or skills in the areas the company is looking for.
  • Prioritise experiences directly related to the role, like collaborating with team members or critical thinking.
  • Focus on qualities that will help you set yourself apart from the other candidates.

Take the time to think through and pick out examples that best demonstrate your skills and capabilities during a competency-based interview and are most likely to impress the hiring manager. 

You don’t need to find overly complicated examples or stories with extraordinary outcomes. The hiring manager is more interested in the role you played and helped achieve the goal you were aiming for.

3. Learn to narrate using the STAR method

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It’s an effective technique used by candidates to answer competency-based questions in a concise, structured and effective manner. It’s an excellent tool to highlight your relevant skills and experiences to the hiring manager.

If you’re asked to narrate a situation where you effectively handled conflict, you can use the STAR technique to provide the interviewer with a comprehensive story. STAR technique allows you to strategically outline the specific situation you faced, the task you had to do, the action you took and the result you achieved. 

The first step in the STAR technique is to give the hiring manager a brief overview of the situation. Share the context and background of the story, including when and where the situation took place and the challenge you were presented with. 

Next, discuss the task that was required of you. Explain what goals you were trying to accomplish and other relevant details like team members or deadlines. 

The third step is to describe the actions you took to successfully complete the task. Share the strategies and techniques you implemented to achieve the goal. 

Lastly, discuss the results you achieved. What was the outcome of the situation, and how did your actions help achieve the goal?

The STAR example allows candidates to be as specific as possible and provide solid examples while answering competency interview questions. This technique enables job seekers to demonstrate that they have the right expertise and skills for a specific job role and can handle the situations that come with it. 

The STAR technique will also help you stay on track during the interview and help ensure that you’ve answered the question in full.

Examples of competency-based interview questions and answers

Question 1. can you give me some examples of particularly complex travel that you have organised.

Answer: As an executive assistant, I’ve organised a wide range of complex travel over the years. One memorable example involves an executive’s business trip to Asia.

Situation: The executive manager had a difficult itinerary with multiple destinations and layovers in various cities over the span of 15 days. 

Task: It was my responsibility to organise the complicated itinerary to fit the executive’s desired schedule and the company’s budget. I had to coordinate all the logistics associated with their travel, including organising accommodations and transportation in each city and other services. 

Action: I began by researching the destinations and the best flight options, routes, and duration. I took the client’s individual needs, like preferred seating and dietary requirements into account. I secured their visa and insurance for each country and created a detailed itinerary that outlined all the necessary steps for the trip. I sourced the best and most suitable hotels in each city, including the best deals and discounts. I also researched the best ways for the executive to travel to and from their hotels in each destination and other additional activities they wanted to enjoy. Finally, I coordinated all of the logistics with the various service providers.

Result: The executive was able to travel safely and complete their business trip to Asia as scheduled. I had successfully planned a complex, long-distance journey for the executive with minimal disruption. The executive was also pleased with the efficient and well-thought-out plan. It was one of the many complex travel arrangements I’ve organised over the years. 

This experience taught me the importance of planning well in advance and the value of paying attention to detail when it comes to complex travel itineraries.

Question 2. Can you think of a particularly challenging situation you have experienced at work? (could be people/scenario/team/environment based).

Answer: One particularly challenging situation I faced was while working as a receptionist at a large medical facility. 

Situation: When I came to the hospital, I discovered that the previous receptionist had been on holiday due to illness. Therefore, there was a backlog of patient appointments that I had to process quickly and efficiently. 

Task: My task was to get the patient appointments processed as efficiently as possible.

Action: I built a systematic approach to organising appointments according to priority. I also made sure to get on a call with patients to ensure that their appointments were scheduled correctly and clarify any questions they may have.

Result: I worked diligently and systematically to process the patient appointments within a single day. This improved customer satisfaction since patients didn’t have to experience any unnecessary delays while booking their appointments.

Question 3. What makes you a great colleague? Why would I enjoy working with you?

Answer: As a personal assistant, I have consistently demonstrated excellent communication and organisational skills. I personally believe my best attribute is my ability to get along exceptionally with my coworkers. I’m an extremely detail-oriented and motivated individual who strives to ensure that all tasks are completed efficiently and well within the deadline. 

I’ve always been able to connect with my colleagues and build a strong relationship with them to ensure they are comfortable coming to me with their issues related to the tasks assigned to them or other work problems.

One particular situation which highlights why I would be a great colleague is when I was working as a personal assistant for a CEO of a large company. My task was to create an agenda for an upcoming meeting, but I wasn’t provided with any direction on how it was supposed to be structured. 

I took the initiative to speak to my colleagues about the meeting and their expectations to draft an agenda that took care of everyone’s needs and requirements. I understand the importance of working together and fostering positive relationships with everyone around me. I’m an effective communicator and am always open to feedback to learn from my errors and grow as a coworker.

Final Thoughts

Competency-based interviews are structured interviews that focus on the skills and capabilities required to do a job. They help job seekers demonstrate their potential and showcase precisely why they would be a good fit for a job position. 

At Joss Search we connect job seekers with the best roles in top private equity and alternative investment firms. You can take a look at our live vacancies or chat with our friendly consultants about your upcoming career steps. We’re waiting to help on 020 3096 7050 and [email protected].

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Competency-Based Interview Questions (19 Questions + Answers)

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Competency-based interview questions are designed to assess specific skills and qualities relevant to the job you're applying for. Rather than focusing on hypothetical scenarios, these questions ask you to provide real-life examples from your past experiences.

The interviewer is looking for evidence of how you've applied your skills and handled certain situations, typically using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) as a framework. 

This approach helps employers predict future behavior and performance based on how you've handled similar situations. Here are some of the most common competency-based questions along with their answers to help you prepare for your next interview.

1) When have you completed a difficult task as part of a team?

Competency Based Interview Questions

Pick an example where your contribution to a team was significant. It should showcase your problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership skills.

Give enough detail to paint a clear picture, but be concise.

Sample answer:

"In my role as a Project Coordinator at ABC Corp, a leading software development company, we faced a challenging situation when a key project was running behind schedule due to unforeseen technical difficulties. I was part of a team of five tasked with delivering a critical software update for a major client.

To address this, I proposed a revised project plan, breaking down the remaining tasks into smaller, manageable units. I coordinated with team members to reallocate resources effectively, ensuring that the most critical aspects were prioritized. My role involved constant communication, maintaining transparency with both the team and the client about our progress.

Despite the tight timeline, our team successfully delivered the update two days ahead of the revised deadline. This not only pleased our client but also resulted in a 15% increase in efficiency in subsequent projects. This experience taught me the importance of agility and clear communication in teamwork, especially under pressure."

This is a great response because it demonstrates key competencies like teamwork, problem-solving, and communication. It also mentions a specific role (Project Coordinator) and company (ABC Corp), adding authenticity.

2) Describe how you have positively contributed to a team

Choose an instance from your professional experience where you played a key role in a team's success. Focus on skills like teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and communication.

"In my previous role as a Marketing Analyst at XYZ Tech, I was part of a team responsible for launching a new product. We were facing challenges in aligning our marketing strategies with the target demographic's preferences.

Recognizing this, I initiated a comprehensive market analysis to better understand our audience. I collaborated with the team to gather data, and my analysis provided insights that significantly shifted our approach. I suggested focusing on digital platforms popular among our target demographic and tailored our content accordingly.

This strategy led to a 25% increase in customer engagement and significantly boosted our pre-launch sign-ups. My contribution helped the team achieve a more targeted and effective marketing campaign, and it was a key factor in the successful launch of the product."

The response focuses on specific actions taken and how they positively impacted the team. It also includes measurable outcomes (25% increase in engagement), demonstrating the effectiveness of the contribution.

3) Give an example of a time when you showed initiative

When answering this question, it's crucial to choose an example that highlights your proactive approach and ability to innovate or improve processes.

"While working as a Software Developer at TechInnovate, a fast-growing tech startup, I noticed that our code deployment process was causing delays in project timelines. Despite not being part of my designated tasks, I took the initiative to address this issue.

I researched and proposed the implementation of a new Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, which I believed could streamline our deployment process. After getting the green light from my manager, I led the effort to integrate this system into our workflow. I also conducted training sessions for the team to ensure everyone was up to speed with the new process.

As a result, we reduced our deployment time by 40%, significantly improving project turnaround times and efficiency. This initiative not only enhanced our team's productivity but also received positive feedback from clients for faster delivery."

This response provides a structured narrative with a specific situation, task, action, and result.

It also highlights the ability to identify and solve a problem independently.

4) How did you handle negative feedback from a manager, employer, or coworker?

First of all, avoid speaking negatively about the person who gave you the feedback or the feedback itself. You need to emphasize how you used the feedback to improve your work or behavior, demonstrating your adaptability and commitment to self-improvement.

"In my previous role as a Junior Developer at Startech Innovations, I received feedback from my manager about my tendency to rush through tasks, which sometimes led to errors. While initially disheartening, I recognized the importance of this feedback for my professional growth.

I took the initiative to organize my tasks more efficiently, allocating more time for quality checks and testing. I also sought advice from senior colleagues on best practices for meticulous coding. I also enrolled in a time management workshop to further hone my skills.

As a result, within a few months, the quality of my work improved significantly, and I received recognition from my team for my enhanced attention to detail. This experience taught me the value of constructive criticism and the importance of continuous learning in a fast-paced tech environment."

The answer reflects an understanding of the importance of feedback and a willingness to learn and grow. It also includes specific actions taken and the positive outcomes, showcasing tangible improvements in work quality.

5) Describe a difficult situation you resolved at work

Choose a scenario that showcases your problem-solving and decision-making skills. Focus on the problem and your professional response, avoiding personal opinions or emotions.

"At my previous job as a Financial Analyst at FinCorp Solutions, I was responsible for managing a major client's portfolio. A difficult situation arose when a significant investment underperformed, causing concern for the client and our team.

I took immediate action by conducting an in-depth analysis of the investment, identifying alternative strategies to mitigate the loss. I then presented these options to our senior management and the client, explaining the rationale and potential outcomes of each.

Based on this, we restructured the client's portfolio, diversifying into more stable investments. This not only minimized the loss but also positioned the portfolio for stronger future growth. The client appreciated our proactive approach and remained with our firm, trusting our expertise and commitment to their financial goals."

This is a great response because it highlights analytical thinking, problem-solving, and client communication. It also shows how the actions taken led to a successful resolution.

6) Tell me about a time when you took on a leadership role

The key thing to do here is to focus on a situation where you demonstrated leadership qualities like initiative, decision-making, team coordination, and problem-solving.

"At TechStart Solutions, a rapidly growing startup where I worked as a Lead Developer, we faced a critical deadline for launching a new software product. As the launch date approached, it became evident that we were falling behind schedule.

Recognizing the urgency, I volunteered to lead an ad-hoc team to tackle the most critical tasks. I started by delegating tasks based on each team member's strengths and set up daily stand-up meetings to track progress and address any roadblocks immediately. I also worked closely with other department leads to ensure all aspects of the launch were synchronized.

Thanks to our collective efforts, we met the deadline with a successful launch. This experience not only honed my leadership skills but also taught me the importance of adaptability and clear communication in a fast-paced environment."

Not only does this response provide a structured narrative (with a specific situation, task, action, and result), but it also showcases key leadership qualities like initiative, teamwork, and problem-solving.

7) How did you resolve a customer complaint?

Pick a scenario where you effectively handled a customer complaint. The goal is to show your problem-solving skills, empathy, communication abilities, and commitment to customer satisfaction.

"While working as a Customer Support Specialist at Innovatech Solutions, a tech startup, I encountered a customer who was frustrated due to a recurring software glitch. My role involved not only technical support but also ensuring customer satisfaction.

I first listened carefully to understand the customer's issue in detail, expressing empathy for the inconvenience caused. I then walked them through a temporary workaround and assured them that their issue would be prioritized for a permanent fix. I coordinated with our technical team to fast-track the bug resolution and kept the customer updated on our progress.

Within a week, the issue was resolved, and I personally called the customer to confirm the fix. They were appreciative of the proactive updates and the swift resolution. This experience underscored the importance of active listening and clear communication in customer service and strengthened our company's reputation for responsive support."

This response is effective because it focuses on the successful resolution and the customer's satisfaction, showcasing your effective complaint handling.

8) Describe a time you were given a responsibility you've never had before

Emphasize how you quickly adapted to the new responsibility and what you learned from the experience. Even if the experience was challenging, highlight any positive results or improvements that came from it.

"At my previous job as a Junior Developer at NextGen Tech, a fast-paced startup, I was suddenly tasked with leading a small team for a critical project due to an unexpected absence of our team lead. Having never managed a team before, this was a significant step up from my usual responsibilities.

I immediately took the initiative to organize a team meeting to understand everyone's current progress and concerns. Recognizing my inexperience in leadership, I sought advice from a mentor and invested time in quickly learning basic team management skills. My focus was on clear communication, setting realistic deadlines, and ensuring team morale remained high.

Despite the initial challenges, the project was delivered on time and received positive feedback from our stakeholders. This experience significantly boosted my confidence and taught me the importance of adaptability and effective communication in leadership roles."

This answer showcases your ability to quickly adapt to new responsibilities and the eagerness to learn. It also focuses on successful project delivery and personal growth, highlighting your potential for future leadership roles.

9) Give an example of your lateral thinking

Lateral thinking is all about looking at problems from a new perspective and finding innovative solutions. Focus on how you approached the problem differently from standard methods.

"While working as a Software Engineer at TechPioneers Inc., we faced a significant challenge with data storage inefficiencies affecting our application’s performance. The standard approach would have been to upgrade our storage infrastructure, but that was cost-prohibitive.

I suggested an alternative: optimizing our existing data architecture by implementing advanced compression algorithms and reorganizing the data for more efficient access. This solution was unconventional in our context but had potential.

After getting approval, I led a small team to pilot this idea. We successfully implemented the changes, which resulted in a 30% improvement in data retrieval speeds and a significant reduction in storage costs.

This experience showed me the power of lateral thinking in finding effective solutions while considering constraints like budget and resources."

This answer clearly demonstrates your ability to think laterally and creatively by choosing an unconventional solution over the standard approach.

10) Describe the most challenging decision you’ve made at work

Choose a scenario where you faced a tough decision. The goal here is to showcase your critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and ability to handle complex situations.

"In my previous role as a Product Manager at InnovateTech, a fast-growing tech startup, we were developing a new software product. A major decision I faced was choosing between releasing the product on schedule with minimal features or delaying the launch to include more advanced features.

The challenge was balancing market entry timing against product completeness. After thorough market analysis and consulting with the development team, I decided to go for a phased release. Initially, we launched a basic version to establish a market presence and gather user feedback.

This decision proved beneficial. The initial release generated early interest and valuable customer insights, which we used to enhance subsequent versions. This approach not only established our product in the market but also ensured continuous improvement based on real user feedback."

This response demonstrates a thoughtful decision-making process. It focuses on the successful strategy and learning from the experience, showing your adaptability and strategic thinking.

11) Have you ever had to bring others around to your way of thinking?

Show that you value others' opinions and can bring people together through respectful persuasion. Briefly mention what you learned about teamwork and communication from the experience.

"In my role as a UX Designer at StartUpTech, I was part of a project where the team was divided on the user interface design of our new app. While many favored a traditional layout, I believed a more innovative design would enhance user engagement.

To bring the team around to my perspective, I conducted user research and compiled data on current UI trends. I presented this information in a team meeting, highlighting how our target audience preferred interfaces that were intuitive yet visually appealing. I also created a prototype to demonstrate the feasibility and impact of my design.

After seeing the evidence and the prototype, the team agreed to trial my design approach. The result was a 40% increase in user engagement in our initial tests. This experience taught me the importance of backing up ideas with data and the power of constructive communication in achieving consensus."

This answer is great because it highlights the use of data-driven decision-making, persuasive communication, and collaboration. It focuses on the successful implementation of the idea and its tangible benefits.

12) Give an example of when you had to change plans last minute

When answering this question, showcase your ability to adapt quickly to new situations and think on your feet. Even if the change was challenging, highlight any positive results or improvements that came from it.

"While working as a Project Manager at DynamicTech, a fast-paced startup, we were in the final stages of developing a new software feature. Just days before the scheduled launch, a major bug was discovered that required immediate attention.

Despite the tight deadline, I quickly reorganized the team's priorities. I convened an urgent meeting to reassess our resources and timelines. We decided to delay the feature release to ensure quality. I communicated transparently with stakeholders about the delay, explaining the situation and our commitment to delivering a high-quality product.

This decision to postpone allowed us to fix the bug effectively, and we successfully launched the feature two weeks later with positive feedback from users. This experience reinforced the importance of flexibility and clear communication under pressure."

This response effectively conveys your adaptability and problem-solving skills. It also focuses on the successful resolution and the importance of maintaining quality under pressure.

13) Have you ever had to work with someone you didn't get along with? If so, how did you make the situation better?

Focus on how you maintained a professional attitude and found ways to collaborate effectively. Most importantly, speak respectfully about the colleague and avoid blaming or using negative language.

"In my previous role as a Software Engineer at TechForward, I was paired with a colleague for a critical project whose working style differed significantly from mine. He preferred a more independent approach, whereas I advocated for frequent collaboration and team meetings.

To address this, I initiated a conversation to understand his perspective better and explain my approach. We agreed to set clear expectations and compromise on our working styles. We established a schedule that balanced independent work with regular check-ins to ensure we were aligned.

This strategy improved our communication and allowed us to leverage our individual strengths effectively. We successfully completed the project on time, and it was well-received by our stakeholders. This experience taught me the value of open communication and flexibility in working with different personalities."

This response effectively conveys your ability to handle conflicts and work constructively with colleagues, a crucial skill in a collaborative environment.

14) When have you previously delivered excellent customer service?

Talk about a scenario where you went above and beyond to meet or exceed a customer's expectations. Show how you prioritized the customer's needs and satisfaction.

"At my last position as a Customer Support Specialist at InnovateTech, a tech startup, I handled a case where a client was struggling with our software’s new update. They were frustrated and considering discontinuing our service.

Understanding the urgency, I first listened carefully to understand their issues and empathize with their situation. I then guided them through a step-by-step solution, ensuring they were comfortable with each step. Realizing the broader implications, I also coordinated with our development team to streamline the update process for future releases.

The client was extremely grateful for the personalized support and not only continued using our service but also became one of our most loyal customers. This experience underscored the importance of empathetic listening and proactive problem-solving in customer service."

This is a great response because it highlights the importance of understanding and empathizing with the customer. It focuses on the successful resolution and the long-term impact on customer loyalty.

15) Give an example of a situation when you worked on a tight deadline

When answering this question, show how you prioritized tasks and managed your time efficiently. Mention any lessons learned about time management or working under pressure.

"In my previous role as a Web Developer at TechSprint, a fast-paced startup, we had a project where we needed to deliver a new website feature for a key client within a week. This was a challenging deadline given the complexity of the feature.

To manage this, I quickly outlined a plan, breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks with daily goals. I communicated clearly with my team about our priorities and collaborated closely with them to troubleshoot any issues promptly. To stay focused, I minimized distractions and extended my work hours when necessary.

We successfully delivered the feature on time, and the client was extremely satisfied with the results. This experience taught me the value of clear planning, effective communication, and dedication in meeting tight deadlines."

This response conveys your ability to handle tight deadlines, a critical skill in a fast-paced environment. It also highlights time management, prioritization, and teamwork under pressure.

16) Describe a time when you used creativity to solve a problem in the workplace

Choose an instance where you applied a novel or unconventional approach to solve a problem, then show how your creativity led to a unique solution.

"In my role as a Product Designer at StartUpTech, we faced the challenge of low user engagement with our mobile app. The conventional approach would have been to revise the content, but I proposed redesigning the user interface to make it more interactive and visually appealing.

I spearheaded a brainstorming session with the team to generate fresh ideas. Inspired by gamification, I suggested incorporating elements like progress trackers and reward-based achievements. After receiving positive feedback on the concept, we developed a prototype and tested it with a user group.

The new design significantly increased user engagement by 40%. This experience taught me the value of thinking outside the box and the impact of gamification on user experience."

This response is effective because it conveys your ability to use creativity to solve problems. It also highlights the use of innovative thinking to address a common problem in a unique way.

17) Give an example of a time when you faced an ethical dilemma

First, describe the ethical dilemma you faced, then explain what your role was and why the decision was challenging. Next, detail how you approached the dilemma, including any consultation with colleagues or reference to company policies.

Share the outcome of your decision and any lessons learned.

"While working as a Data Analyst at NextWave Tech, I encountered an ethical dilemma when I noticed a colleague using client data in a way that wasn't compliant with our privacy policy. This was a sensitive situation as the colleague was well-respected and had more experience than I did.

I first reviewed our company’s data privacy guidelines to confirm my understanding. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, I decided to address it directly with my colleague. I approached them in a private and respectful manner, expressing my concerns and referencing specific policy guidelines.

The colleague hadn't realized their mistake and was appreciative of my discreet approach. They corrected their practice immediately. I learned the importance of addressing ethical concerns promptly and respectfully, ensuring compliance while maintaining a positive work environment."

This response effectively conveys your commitment to ethical standards, a crucial quality in any professional. It also highlights the ability to identify an ethical issue and address it appropriately.

18) What has been your biggest failure?

The key when answering this question is to show how your biggest failure was a valuable experience for learning and development. Acknowledge the failure, but keep the overall tone of your answer positive and forward-looking.

"In my previous role as a Junior Developer at InnovateTech, I was tasked with leading the development of a new feature for our software. Eager to impress, I rushed into coding without proper planning or consultation with the team. As a result, the feature was full of bugs and missed the deadline for testing, causing a delay in our release schedule.

This experience was a significant professional failure for me. It taught me the importance of thorough planning and teamwork. I took responsibility for the setback and worked diligently to rectify the issues. I also started to actively seek feedback and collaborate more with my team.

The feature was eventually released successfully, and the lessons I learned from this failure have stayed with me. I now approach projects with a more structured plan and value the input of my team members, which has improved both my work and our team dynamics."

This is such a great response. Despite the initial failure, the answer ends on a positive note, highlighting improved skills and team dynamics.

19) What would you consider your biggest workplace achievement?

Set the scene by describing the context of the achievement. Explain what you were tasked with or what goals you aimed to achieve, then detail the specific actions you took to accomplish the task.

Most importantly, highlight the positive outcomes, including any measurable results or recognition received.

"At my previous position as a Software Engineer at TechStream, I led a project to develop a new feature that would automate a key process for our clients, which was previously done manually. This was a challenging task due to the complexity of the process and the tight timeline.

I spearheaded a team of four developers and adopted an agile methodology to efficiently manage the project. Through rigorous coding, testing, and iteration, we successfully developed the feature within the deadline.

The automation feature was a major success, reducing the clients' process time by 50% and significantly improving accuracy. It led to a 20% increase in client satisfaction scores and was a key factor in securing two major contracts for the company. This achievement not only demonstrated my technical and leadership skills but also had a tangible impact on the company’s growth and client relations."

This answer demonstrates technical expertise, leadership, and the ability to deliver impactful results. It also focuses on measurable outcomes, such as improved process time and client satisfaction, showcasing the significant impact of the achievement.

What to expect from a competency-based interview

During a competency-based interview, the interviewer focuses on assessing specific skills or 'competencies' that are crucial for the role in question.

Each question targets certain competencies - be it teamwork, leadership, adaptability, problem-solving, or communication skills. Knowing the key competencies for the role you're applying for helps tailor your responses effectively.

For example, if you’re applying for a managerial role at a tech startup company, you’re likely to encounter questions about your leadership skills as well as your tech proficiency.

The key is to understand what interviewers are looking for during a competency-based interview. Some of the most foundational things they look for include:

Concrete Examples: Interviewers seek specific, detailed examples that demonstrate your skills and experiences. Vague, generic answers won’t make the cut. They look for clear evidence of how you’ve applied relevant skills in real-world situations.

Problem-Solving Abilities: Demonstrating how you've navigated challenges and found effective solutions is crucial. Interviewers assess your analytical skills and how you approach and resolve difficult situations.

Adaptability and Learning: How quickly you adapt to new situations and learn from experiences is a key competency. Sharing instances where you’ve successfully adapted to change or learned from a mistake shows resilience and a growth mindset.

Teamwork and Collaboration: In today's collaborative work environments, your ability to work effectively with others is paramount. Illustrating this through past team experiences can be very impactful.

Leadership and Initiative: For roles with leadership components, showing examples of your leadership and initiative - even in non-managerial roles - is important. Highlight times when you've taken charge, motivated others, or brought innovative ideas to the table.

To prepare for a competency-based interview, reflect on your past experiences and prepare stories that showcase your competencies. Practice the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses coherently.

Last but not least, research the company and the specific competencies they value in the role you're applying for. Doing these should boost your chances of landing your dream job.

Related posts:

  • Team Leader Interview Questions (16 Questions + Answers)
  • Project Manager Interview Questions (14 Specific Questions + Answers)
  • Retail Worker Interview Questions (16 Questions + Answers)
  • Boots Interview Questions (17 Questions + Answers)
  • Tesco Interview Questions (14 Questions + Answers)

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How to Run Competency Based Interviews

Measuring skills for specific roles.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

competency based interview questions research skills

When you're recruiting for a role that has specific skill requirements, how can you be sure that you get the right person with the right experience?

Often qualifications and even work experience are not enough to accurately determine skill level. Competency based interviews can help here. They are a rigorous interview format you can use to help ensure that you hire someone whose skill set accurately matches the specific needs of the job.

In this article, we'll look at what competency based interviewing is, how to use it, and the benefits that it can offer.

What Is a Competency Based Interview?

A personal competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, judgment, and attributes. Examples of competencies might include teamwork, leadership or decision-making.

Competency based interviews test whether a candidate has the precise knowledge, skills or values that are necessary to be effective in the role that you are recruiting for.

This method is very different from an informal "getting to know you" interview style, which focuses on the candidate's personality, and can be better used to assess whether they are a good "fit" with your organization's culture and values.

In a competency based interview, questions are designed to assess a candidate's strengths and weaknesses in the key competencies required by the role. You can then score their responses against agreed criteria to build up an objective picture of their suitability.

The Benefits of Competency Based Interviewing

Research has shown that unfocused interview techniques lead to huge numbers of unsatisfactory hires every year, each one costing the equivalent of around one-fifth of the position's salary. [1]

Hiring the wrong person can result in sub-standard work and missed deadlines, causing team overload, as other people are forced to pick up the slack. You may find that you need to spend on more training and development than you'd planned, or even a second recruitment drive.

Competency based interviewing can help organizations to avoid this inefficiency, by focusing effort on the early stages of recruitment.

The strict selection criteria used ensures that you can identify and eliminate candidates who have a distorted view of their ability, and removes the need to rely on a "hunch."

Both the organization and its employees can benefit. After all, a competent and capable recruit will likely be much happier in the job than someone who's struggling, or afraid of being "found out," and will more likely stay. Conversely, an applicant may discover before they commit to a role that they wouldn't enjoy it, and they'll save you time and money in the long run if they choose to leave the process.

Finally, competency based interviewing can help with the governance of your recruitment processes. It is an evidence-based, transparent process that uses specific criteria to test all candidates equally, fairly and consistently.

How to Use Competency Based Interviewing

You can hold an effective competency based interview by following these three key steps:

Step 1: Develop Clear Selection Criteria

It's important to be crystal clear on the skills, attributes, knowledge, and behaviorial traits that you need a recruit to demonstrate, so that you can test and compare candidates fairly and intelligently. So, you'll need to develop a watertight set of selection criteria.

Your organization might already have a competency framework and you'll likely have a team skills matrix . Supplement these by researching the particular role you are intending to fill.

For example, for an existing position, focus on the job description : does it accurately reflect the competencies needed to perform the job? Talk to the person currently in the role about what they do to check whether the job description needs to be updated.

You'll need to start from scratch for a new post. Think about what a new recruit's responsibilities will be and how you'd like them to progress in the role. Consult people who do similar work, or who will be in the same team. Look at similar roles being advertised elsewhere as well for further tips.

Decide what skills are essential to the role, and which are merely desirable. You may find that a candidate fulfills most but not all of your competency criteria. This doesn't mean that you should automatically "write them off." The candidate could still make a great addition to your team as long as they are willing to learn and you're able to provide support and training.

Step 2: Prepare Effective Questions Using the STAR Technique

Once you've decided your selection criteria, it's time to draw up some questions that focus on each core competency. Think carefully about how you'll word each one and structure them in a way that enables the candidate to provide specific examples of each competency.

For instance, asking, "When was the last time you had to deal with a colleague who struggled to organize their workload? What did you do?" is more informative than asking the hypothetical, "What would you do if you had a team member who was disorganized?"

Similarly, a description of what the candidate did as part of a team won't tell you what they did or what decisions they took as an individual. So, be ready to probe further with follow-up questions.

The STAR technique can be particularly useful here. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It's usually used as a method for answering interview questions, but can provide an excellent framework for structuring your competency based questions.

For instance, you could use it to frame a question about conflict resolution as follows:

  • S ituation: "Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict on your team?"
  • T ask: "What did you decide to do to resolve it and why did you decide to handle it that way?"
  • A ction: "What action did you take and what skills did you use?"
  • R esults: "What did you achieve? How did your team benefit?"

It's perfectly OK to ask for examples of when things didn't go so well. In fact, this can help to test how well the candidate works under pressure and whether they demonstrated resilience. But be sure to keep a balanced and reasonable tone, and avoid focusing on the negative. Good candidates may be turned off if they feel they are being interrogated!

You will also need to think about how you are going to test the attributes that you have identified. Consider a range of aptitude, proficiency and personality tests as appropriate.

If you're struggling to think up some competency based questions, see our article Hiring People: Questions to Ask for ideas.

Step 3: Conduct a Structured Interview Process

A good competency based interview should be structured and have precisely defined goals. So, remember to be disciplined and to keep your focus.

You're asking for a lot of information from the candidate, and you need to be able to retain, manage and use the information that they give you, effectively.

The following points can help you to do this:

  • Have a set structure. Ask each candidate exactly the same initial questions. Make sure that each interviewer on the panel understands the scoring system and how to use it, so that each candidate is graded fairly and consistently.
  • Listen carefully. Active listening is particularly useful when you need to process and understand complex information. Pay attention to the candidate and acknowledge their responses by nodding or giving the occasional "uh-huh." However, make sure that your actions are mindful, and not mechanical, and don't allow yourself to get bored or to lose focus.
  • Allow thinking time. Don't be afraid of silence. You're asking questions that require a lot of thought, so give the candidate the space that they need to think through their answers. It's also important to give yourself time to evaluate what they are telling you.
  • Take notes. Competency based interviews are in-depth, and interviewers sometimes disagree on what they remember was said, so be sure to take full and accurate notes. However, take care to avoid unconscious bias in your observations. For instance, "they looked down a lot" is more objective than the interpretation "they were embarrassed and nervous."
  • Evaluate and discuss. Spend some time afterward discussing the candidate's test performance and looking at any examples of their work that they've brought with them.

Don't let the interview structure become too rigid. Give each candidate space to talk about any additional expertise, or to explain something unusual in a resumé. Otherwise, you might both miss out in a way you could never have foreseen!

No matter how well the candidate meets your selection criteria, be sure to consider wider issues, too, when you make your final decision.

For instance, do their values align with the organization's? Will their personality fit with those of their colleagues? Will their commute be sustainable?

Competency based interviews can be used to precisely assess whether a candidate has the necessary skills, knowledge and personal attributes required to fulfill a specific role.

They can be particularly useful in helping organizations to improve the transparency of their recruitment processes, to reduce costs and employee turnover, and to improve job satisfaction.

You can use competency based interviewing by following these three steps:

  • Develop clear selection criteria.
  • Prepare effective questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) technique.
  • Conduct a structured interview process.

[1] Boushey, H. and Glynn, S. J. (2012). There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees [online]. Available here .

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Competency-based interviews

Taking your existing experience as an indicator of future performance, competency-based interviews allow recruiters to easily compare lots of candidates

Also known as structured, behavioural or situational interviews they are designed to test one or more skills or competencies.

What is a competency-based interview?

The interviewer has a list of questions, each focusing on a specific skill, and your answers will be compared against pre-determined criteria and marked accordingly.

Working on the principle that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance, competency interviews can be used by employers across all sectors but are particularly favoured by large graduate recruiters, who may use them as part of an  assessment centre . 

They differ from normal or unstructured interviews, which tend to be more informal. In unstructured interviews recruiters often ask a set of random, open-ended questions relevant to the job, such as 'what can you do for the company?' and 'why did you apply for the job?' to get an overall impression of who you are. A competency-based interview is more systematic, and each question targets a skill needed for the job.

Key competencies regularly sought after by employers include:

  • adaptability
  • commercial awareness
  • communication
  • conflict resolution
  • decisiveness
  • independence
  • flexibility
  • problem solving
  • organisation

Competency-based interview questions

Questions asked during a competency-based interview aim to test a variety of skills and you'll need to answer in the context of actual events. The skills tested will depend largely on the job you're interviewing for and the sector you'll be working in.

Expect questions opening with 'Tell us about a time when you…', 'Give an example of…' or 'Describe how you…'.

Competency questions you may be asked at interview include:

  • Describe a situation in which you led a team.
  • Give an example of a time you handled conflict in the workplace.
  • How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?
  • Tell me about a big decision you've made recently. How did you go about it?
  • What has been your biggest achievement to date?
  • Describe a project where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.
  • Tell me about a time when your communication skills improved a situation.
  • How do you cope in adversity?
  • Give me an example of a challenge you faced in the workplace and tell me how you overcame it.
  • Tell me about a time when you showed integrity and professionalism.
  • How do you influence people in a situation with conflicting agendas?
  • Give an example of a situation where you solved a problem in a creative way.
  • Tell me about a time that you made a decision and then changed your mind.
  • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you'd never attempted previously.
  • Tell me about a time when you achieved success even when the odds were stacked against you.

How to answer competency questions

Using the STAR (situation, task, action and result) method to structure your answers is a useful way to communicate important points clearly and concisely. For every answer you give identify the:

  • Situation/task  - describe the task that needed to be completed or the situation you were confronted with. For example, 'I led a group of colleagues in a team presentation to potential clients'.
  • Action  - Explain what you did and how and why you did it. For example, 'We presented to around 20 big industry players in the hope of winning their business. I delegated sections of the presentation to each team member and we discussed our ideas in a series of meetings. After extensive research and practise sessions our group presentation went off without a hitch'.
  • Result  - Describe the outcome of your actions. For example, 'As a result of this hard work and team effort we won the business of 15 clients'.

Where possible, try to relate your answers to the role that you're interviewing for. While your responses to the interview questions are pre-prepared try to avoid sounding like you're reading from a script.

Don't attempt to wing it by thinking on your feet, as the quality of your answers will suffer. Also, avoid embellishing the truth at all costs - any lies or invented examples can be easily checked.

Preparing for a competency-based interview

The key to providing successful answers to competency questions is preparation, and the good news is that this is relatively easy to do.

Firstly, it's essential that you read and understand the job advert. Next, from the job description or person specification pick out the main competencies that the employer is looking for and think of examples of when and how you've demonstrated each of these. Try to draw on a variety of experiences from your studies, previous employment or any work experience you've undertaken.

Familiarise yourself with the STAR approach to answering questions and practise your responses with a friend or family member. You could also make an appointment with your university careers service to practise your technique at a mock competency interview.

Find out more

  • Take a look at how to prepare for an interview .

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Complete Guide to a Competency-Based Interview

Guide to Competency-Based Interviews | Resume.com

There are several different types of interview formats that employers may choose to use including the competency-based interview. Competency-based interviews are used to analyze a candidate’s competencies and skills as they relate to the job. Learn what a competency-based interview is, the industries that most frequently use this type of interview, common questions asked during a competency-based interview and tips for preparing for this interview type.

What is a competency-based interview?

A competency-based interview, also referred to as a behavioral or situational interview, is a type of interview method used to assess a candidate’s skills and competencies as they relate to the position. During a competency-based interview, candidates are asked questions that are designed to determine their ability to handle certain job-related situations and challenges.

For example, a candidate may be asked to describe a time in which they handled conflict within the workplace. Based on their answer, an interviewer will be able to better understand the candidate’s ability to face challenging situations at work as well as their interpersonal and conflict-resolution skills. The premise behind competency-based interviews is that a candidate’s past behavior in the workplace can give insight into how they will perform in a new position.

How are competency-based interviews different from normal interviews?

A typical interview is one in which a candidate and hiring manager partake in an unstructured conversation that often involves questions related to the candidate’s experience, skills and interest in the position. Normal interviews are often subjective and based on the candidate’s personality, experience and/or the interviewer’s impression of the candidate. Additionally, unstructured interviews often do not have a concrete rating system and candidates are therefore often rated based on the hiring manager’s opinion of the candidate.

On the other hand, competency-based interviews are structured and often have a systematic rating system in place. Most behavioral interviews will also include specific questions that each candidate is asked. These questions are often chosen based on the specific position and the skills required to be successful in the job.

When are competency-based interviews used?

Competency-based interviews are typically used when a position requires a specific set of skills or competencies. For example, technical jobs such as those in the IT field often require in-depth skills that many unstructured interviews cannot accurately assess.

Behavioral interviews are also frequently used when interviewing college students or recent graduates. These individuals often do not have adequate work experience to properly assess their abilities, so asking competency-based questions can give the interviewer a more accurate idea of their skills.

Some interviews may consist of both unstructured and competency-based questions. If you are unsure whether your interview will be behavioral-based or unstructured, it’s best to prepare for competency-based questions to ensure you are able to sufficiently answer these questions.

Skills and competencies tested in a competency-based interview

The following are common skills that are tested through competency-based interview questions:

Leadership and management

Examples of skills and competencies tested:

  • Decisiveness
  • Problem-solving
  • Organization
  • Goal setting
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability

Interpersonal

  • Listening skills

Communication

  • Flexibility
  • Collaboration
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Public speaking
  • Negotiation
  • Interviewing

Examples of competency-based interview questions

While the specific questions will depend on the position being interviewed for, the following are examples of common competency-based interview questions that can apply to various job types:

  • Describe a time in which you had to adjust to a significant change within the workplace and how you handled it.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to handle an internal conflict within the workplace and how you resolved the situation.
  • How do you foster and maintain good relationships with peers in the workplace?
  • Give an example of a time in which you had to learn a new skill in order to perform your job effectively.
  • What would you consider your most successful project to date?
  • Describe a situation in which members on your team did not get along. How did you resolve the situation?
  • Provide an example of a time in which your communication skills were lacking and caused challenges in a project. What would you do differently?
  • Tell us about a time in which you were asked to follow a policy or procedure that you did not agree with. How did you go about handling the situation?
  • Describe a time when you had to help a team member improve their skills.
  • Provide an example of a time when you were given constructive criticism that was negative. How did you handle the situation and what changes did you make as a result of the feedback?

How do employers rate the responses to competency-based interview questions?

The following is an example of a rating system that may be used during a competency-based interview:

  • No experience/skill. This rating would be given when a candidate has no understanding or experience in a particular area and/or exhibits no skill level for a competency being tested.
  • Inadequate experience/skill.  This rating may be given when a candidate displays very little experience or skill level.
  • Adequate experience/skill.  This rating is often used when a candidate demonstrates competence in a particular area and has the skill the interviewer is looking for.
  • Exceeds experience/skill.  The candidate demonstrates that they have ample experience using a certain skill.
  • Above skill level.  The candidate has a skill level that is higher than what is required.

The interviewer may rate the candidate using a number system or may use wording similar to the above list. Employers typically determine how they will rate a candidate’s answers to competency-based interview questions before the interview is performed. A standardized rating system is often used to ensure objectivity in how a candidate is rated. Once all candidates have been interviewed, the hiring manager will then compare the ratings and determine which candidate most closely meets the criteria for the position.

Tips for competency-based interview preparation

Here are a few tips to consider when preparing for a competency-based interview:

Know what skills will be tested

Before you can prepare for this type of interview, you must first know what competencies the interviewee will be looking for. You can get a better understanding of this by reviewing the job listing as well as researching the position you are applying for and the skills required for this job.

Use the STAR method

A successful way to approach competency-based questions is by using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. For each question, be sure you incorporate each part of the STAR method into your answer for a well-rounded description. For example, if you are asked to describe a time in which you handled conflict at work, you would begin by describing the specific situation followed by the task in which the conflict arose. You would then provide the action you took to handle the conflict as well as the result that came about.

Brainstorm past work-related examples before the interview

Most competency-based questions require you to provide specific examples of when you demonstrated a particular skill. Take the time to brainstorm some examples you can use during the interview beforehand. This will help ensure you are prepared and prevent you from being taken off guard and have to spend several minutes thinking of an appropriate answer.

Practice with another person before the interview

A great way to prepare for a competency-based interview is to have a friend or family member asked you competency-based questions before the interview. Make sure they ask questions related to the skills that will likely be tested in the interview and take the time to thoroughly prepare each question.

If you need help writing a resume, use our data-backed resume builder .

Interview Forge

What Are Competency Based Questions? The Ultimate Guide

Interviewforgeteam.

Updated on: March 4, 2024

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A competency-based interview will focus on testing your knowledge, abilities, and character traits as they pertain to the position for which you are seeking. These questions want you to draw on actual instances from your life rather than make assumptions.

Competency-based questions are a crucial tool in the modern job-seeking landscape, yet they often intimidate even the most seasoned candidates. With over a decade of experience in  recruitment and human resources , I’ve witnessed firsthand how these questions can unravel nerves but also highlight the true potential of candidates.

They are designed not to trip job seekers but to illuminate their past achievements and  problem-solving capabilities  accurately. This insight is invaluable in  matching individuals with roles  where they will thrive.

Understanding  competency-based questions  goes beyond just preparing for an interview; it’s about comprehensively showcasing your skills and experiences in scenarios that matter. Notably,  77% of companies use competency interviews  as part of their hiring process, underscoring their significance.

This article aims to demystify these types of questions, offering you strategies and examples to approach them with confidence. Ready to dive deep?.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Competency – based interviews  ask about your  skills and past work  by making you give examples. They see how you solved problems before.
  • You should use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to talk about your experiences in these interviews. This helps tell your story clearly.
  • These questions are important because they help bosses decide if you  fit the job well . They look at things like  how you work with others  and  solve tough problems .
  • Always  be honest when answering  and use real stories from your past jobs to show why you’re right for the role.
  • Learning about the company and  practicing questions can make you do better  in these types of interviews.

Competency-based interviews  assess specific skills and abilities by asking situational questions. They differ from traditional interviews, focusing on past experiences to predict future performance.

What are they?

Competency-based interviews test a candidate’s  specific skills and competencies . Interviewers ask  structured questions  that focus on various abilities relevant to the job description.

Each question targets a different skill, allowing interviewers to compare candidates’ responses directly against the requirements of the position.

These interviews move away from simply looking at qualifications. Instead, they provide an opportunity for applicants to showcase evidence of their competence in key areas such as  team leadership ,  decision making , and  communication skills .

Candidates get the chance to demonstrate how their experiences align with the job role through detailed examples and answers.

The goal is to assess suitability for a role by examining how  past behavior predicts future performance  in similar situations. This approach helps employers make  improved hiring decisions  based on tangible evidence of each candidate’s abilities.

How are they different from traditional interviews?

Competency-based interviews are  structured very differently  from traditional interviews. Each question in these interviews targets a  specific skill or competency  necessary for the job, making them more systematic and focused.

Traditional interviews often involve open-ended questions that allow conversation to flow in any direction. This approach can miss crucial details about a candidate’s aptitude for the job.

In these interviews, candidates must share examples from their work experience that demonstrate they have used certain skills effectively. The focus is on  relevant competencies or behaviors  needed for the role within the organization.

Traditional methods might not zero in on specifics like this, relying instead on general discussions about past jobs or qualifications. This method ensures interviewers systematically evaluate each required skill through  direct questioning about past actions and results .

Questions here are targeted and invite detailed responses about times when the candidate successfully applied their knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills in real-world situations.

Unlike traditional formats where discussions may veer off into less relevant territories, competency-based techniques keep both parties centered on what matters most – the  alignment of candidate capabilities with job requirements .

The Purpose of Competency Based Interviews

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Competency-Based Interviews aim to assess specific skills and abilities of candidates, providing a structured and objective way for employers to evaluate their suitability. They help in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of candidates, enabling employers to make more informed hiring decisions.

Assessing skills and abilities

Competency-based interviews dig deep into your specific skills and abilities crucial for the job you’re applying for. These interviews are structured to unveil how well you fit into the team and build effective relationships.

They focus on  past behaviors, knowledge, and skills  as indicators of your future performance. Employers aim to uncover your  strengths, weaknesses, decision-making capabilities ,  problem-solving skills , and ability to meet goals through this approach.

During these discussions, recruiters will ask about times you’ve faced challenges at work or had to use critical thinking to solve problems. Your answers help them gauge if you possess the key competencies needed for success in their organization.

It’s a chance to demonstrate how your experiences align with the job role’s demands using  real-life examples . This method ensures that hiring decisions are based on evidence of what candidates can actually do, rather than just what they say they can do.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

During  competency-based interviews , candidates are evaluated to determine their suitability for a particular role. This includes identifying their  strengths and weaknesses  in  key competencies  relevant to the position.

The questions asked during these interviews are designed to provide  insights into how candidates handle various situations , leading the interviewer to gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidate’s overall profile.

Furthermore, competency-based interviews serve the purpose of  assessing a candidate’s abilities  in  specific areas required for the job . This approach helps employers understand whether an individual possesses the  necessary skills and attributes  needed to excel in the role they are applying for, ensuring an  alignment between their competencies and the job requirements .

Common Competencies Assessed in Interviews

Interviews assess various competencies including individual, managerial, analytical, interpersonal, and motivational skills. Understanding the specific competencies evaluated can help applicants prepare effectively for the interview process.

Individual competencies

Individual competencies are the specific skills and abilities that an employee possesses, such as  critical thinking ,  decision-making ,  creativity ,  communication , and  conflict resolution .

These competencies are essential for carrying out tasks effectively within their role. Employers assess these  individual competencies  during competency-based interviews to determine a candidate’s suitability for a position.

Competency-based interview questions seek to evaluate how candidates have previously applied these individual competencies in various situations. Therefore, it is vital for job seekers to prepare examples from their past experiences that demonstrate their proficiency in these areas when preparing for such interviews.

Managerial competencies

Moving from individual competencies to  managerial competencies , the focus shifts towards assessing skills related to management roles. These include supervisory and  leadership abilities ,  strategic thinking ,  decision-making prowess , and  team management skills .

Questions probing into these competencies aim to evaluate a candidate’s capacity to lead others effectively, make sound judgments in complex situations, prioritize tasks efficiently while ensuring team productivity and cohesiveness.

Competency-based interviews explore a candidate’s experience in goal setting, performance evaluation of subordinates, conflict resolution strategies as well as their approach towards motivating and managing diverse teams.

Analytical competencies

Moving from managerial competencies to analytical competencies, it’s essential for job candidates to demonstrate  strong analytical thinking skills . Analytical competencies are crucial as they reflect a candidate’s ability to process information, think critically, and make sound decisions.

In competency-based interviews, candidates can expect questions that evaluate their  problem-solving abilities ,  decision-making processes , and their approach towards  implementing effective solutions  in the workplace.

Employers value candidates with robust analytical competencies due to their significance in  handling complex situations  and driving successful outcomes. Solid analytical thinking is an asset when dealing with challenges, managing risks effectively, and contributing to the overall success of the organization.

Interpersonal competencies

When discussing interpersonal competencies, it’s important to highlight the significance of  effective communication  and  relationship-building skills  in a professional setting. In competency-based interviews, candidates are often evaluated based on their ability to collaborate with team members,  resolve conflicts diplomatically , and  demonstrate empathy  towards colleagues and clients alike.

Employers seek individuals who can effectively convey ideas, actively listen to others, and adapt their communication style to suit diverse audiences.

Furthermore, interpersonal competencies encompass the capacity to build rapport with team members while displaying  leadership qualities  when necessary. Candidates are often assessed on their aptitude for motivating others and fostering a positive work environment through constructive feedback and mentorship.

Motivational competencies

Motivational competencies are essential traits that reflect how well an individual can motivate themselves and others to achieve goals. These competencies include factors like resilience, determination, and the ability to stay focused even in challenging situations.

During  competency-based interviews , candidates may be asked questions specifically designed to assess these  motivational competencies . It’s crucial for job seekers to prepare examples that showcase their self-motivation and their ability to inspire and encourage others in a professional setting.

In addition, being able to articulate personal experiences where motivation played a significant role can greatly enhance one’s performance during a competency-based interview. Employers value individuals who not only possess the necessary skills but also have the drive and passion needed to excel in their roles.

Structuring Responses to Competency-Based Questions

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Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) for structuring your responses to competency-based questions. Provide specific examples and details to support your answers.

Using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a structured approach for effectively answering  competency-based interview questions .

  • Situation : Set the scene by describing the context within which the situation took place. This helps provide clarity and background for your response.
  • Task : Clearly outline the specific task or goal that needed to be accomplished in the given situation. This demonstrates your ability to identify and prioritize objectives.
  • Action : Explain the actions you took to address the situation and fulfill the task at hand. Emphasize your  individual contributions and problem-solving skills .
  • Result : Describe the positive outcomes achieved as a result of your actions. Highlight measurable results and any lessons learned from the experience.

Providing specific examples and details

Competency-based questions require candidates to provide  real-life examples  as the basis of their answers. For instance, when asked about a time they demonstrated leadership skills, candidates should share a specific situation, the task at hand, the actions taken, and the results achieved.

In addition, discussing  strengths and areas of improvement  is crucial in addressing  top 10 competency-based interview questions  to find the perfect candidate. These examples help assessors understand how candidates approach challenges and make decisions based on their intuition and expertise.

Sample answers are available for common competency-based interview questions, making it easier for job seekers to prepare effectively. By utilizing these resources, individuals gain insight into  structuring responses  in a way that showcases their key skills while demonstrating brand awareness through relevant experiences.

Example Competency-Based Questions

– Competency-based questions assess skills like delivering at pace and  managing a quality service .

– They also evaluate traits like leadership and the ability to handle difficult situations professionally.

10. Tell me about the most difficult choice you’ve had to make on the job?

Let me tell you about a time when you had to make a difficult choice. Your capacity to think critically, solve problems, and deal with difficult situations should be on full display here.

We were working on a new software product while I was the product manager at Innovative, a rapidly expanding tech firm. Delaying the launch to include more sophisticated features or delivering the product on time with fewer features was a big choice I had to make.

9. Provide an instance when you demonstrated creative problem-solving ?

Thinking laterally entails approaching issues from several angles in order to generate fresh ideas for fixing them. Rather than focusing on conventional solutions, highlight the unique way you tackled the issue.

“As a software engineer we encountered a major obstacle with inefficient data storage that was impacting the performance of our application. The conventional wisdom was that we should have upgraded our storage infrastructure, but doing so would have been financially impossible.

8. Tell me about a moment when someone entrusted you with a newly acquired duty.

Put an emphasis on how you stepped up to the plate and what you took away from the experience. Regardless of how difficult the event was, be sure you emphasize the good things that came out of it.

During my time as a junior developer at NexGen Tech, a dynamic startup, I was thrust into the role of team leader on a crucial project when our team leader unexpectedly left. This was a big jump from my normal duties, as I’ve never led a team before.

7. How were consumer complaints addressed?

Choose an example of a situation where you resolved a client complaint satisfactorily. Demonstrating your problem-solving, empathy, communication, and dedication to customer satisfaction talents is the objective.

I had a client who was very irate because of a persistent software issue while I was working as a client support specialist at the tech firm. Ensuring client happiness was a part of my responsibility, in addition to providing technical help.

6. Please describe an occasion in which you were the leader of your group.

Here, what really matters is that you dwell on an instance when you showed signs of leadership, such as taking the initiative, making a decision, coordinating with others, and overcoming problems.

We were up against a crucial deadline to release a new software product while I was the lead developer at TechStars Solutions, a fast-expanding firm. Our disarray became more apparent as the launch date drew near.

5. Tell us about a challenging issue you handled at work.

Pick a situation that will test your ability to think critically and make quick decisions. Refrain from expressing your feelings or ideas, and instead concentrate on solving the situation in a professional manner.

In my prior role as a financial analyst, I oversaw the investment portfolio of a large customer. An issue developed when a substantial investment failed to meet expectations, which worried both the customer and our staff.

4. What was your strategy for dealing with constructive criticism from superiors, employers, or colleagues?

To begin, you should not criticize either the feedback giver or the feedback itself. Demonstrating your flexibility and dedication to self-improvement, you could highlight how you used the comments to enhance your work or conduct.

When I was a junior developer at Star tech Innovations, my boss would tell me that I was too eager to get things done and would make mistakes as a result. Even though it was discouraging at first, I realized that this criticism would be useful in advancing my career.

3. Please describe an instance in which you took the lead ?

Pick an example that shows how you’re proactive, creative, and good at making things better when you answer this question.

At Tec Innovate, a rapidly expanding tech firm, I was a software developer when I saw that our code release procedure was dragging down project deadlines. Although it was not part of my assigned responsibilities, I took the initiative to address and resolve the issue.

2. Tell me about a time when you were an asset to a team?

Please provide an example from your work history in which you were instrumental in the achievement of a common goal. Prioritize developing abilities such as collaboration, direction, communication, and problem-solving.

Before this, I worked as a marketing analyst at XYZ Tech, where I helped introduce a new product to the market. Aligning our marketing efforts with the tastes of the target population was proving to be rather challenging.

1. Describe a time when you worked with a team to accomplish a challenging assignment.

At ABC Corp., a top software development business, I was the project coordinator, and we had a tough scenario when a critical project got behind schedule because of unexpected technical issues. A big customer needed a software upgrade, and my team of five was responsible for providing it.

My solution was to suggest reworking the project plan to divide the remaining work into more digestible chunks.

Top Most Asked UK Competency Based Interview Questions

Competency-based interviews in the UK commonly ask about situations where the candidate has demonstrated  leadership skills , handled conflict, and worked under pressure. Here are some of the top most asked UK competency-based interview questions:

  • Describing a time when you had to make a difficult decision at work, and what was the outcome.
  • Sharing an example of a project you managed successfully from start to finish, including any challenges faced.
  • Discussing a situation where you had to resolve a conflict within your team or with a colleague.
  • Detailing how you have demonstrated effective leadership skills in a previous role or project.
  • Explaining how you prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively in a fast  – paced work environment.
  • Providing an example of when you had to adapt to change and how you approached it.
  • Describing a situation where you identified an innovative solution to a problem within your role.
  • Sharing an experience of working collaboratively with colleagues from different departments or backgrounds.
  • Detailing how you have handled challenging situations with clients or customers in the past.
  • Explaining how you continuously develop your skills and stay updated with industry trends.

How to Answer Competency Based Interview Questions Like Professional?

Transitioning from the most commonly asked UK competency-based interview questions to effectively answering them, here are practical tips for showcasing your skills and experiences like a pro:

  • Know the competencies : Understand the  key competencies  required for the role and align your examples with these.
  • Use the  STAR method : Structure your responses by describing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of a past experience related to the competency being tested.
  • Be specific : Provide  detailed examples  that clearly demonstrate how you applied each competency in real-life situations.
  • Show learning : Discuss what you learned from each experience and how it has contributed to your growth and development.
  • Prepare  multiple examples : Have several instances ready for each competency to showcase versatility and depth in your abilities.
  • Practice articulating your responses : Rehearse your answers to ensure clarity, conciseness, and confidence during the interview.
  • Stay authentic : Be genuine in sharing your experiences, ensuring they reflect your true capabilities and approach to work.
  • Tailor responses to the role : Customize your examples to match the specific requirements of the job you are applying for.

Delivering at pace

–  Competency-based questions  about delivering at pace focus on your  ability to meet deadlines ,  handle pressure , and  prioritize tasks efficiently .

– Prioritizing tasks based on urgency is an example of delivering at pace. It’s about  getting things done efficiently  while  maintaining quality work   under pressure .

Managing a quality service

Competency-based interview questions often assess your experience in managing a quality service. It’s essential to showcase your ability to uphold high standards and ensure  customer satisfaction .

Prepare examples that demonstrate how you’ve maintained  service excellence , resolved customer issues, and improved overall service delivery. Emphasize your  attention to detail ,  problem-solving skills , and the strategies you’ve implemented to enhance service quality.

Consider sharing tangible achievements or instances where you’ve received positive feedback from customers regarding the service provided. Highlight any initiatives you spearheaded to streamline processes or elevate the overall standard of service delivery within previous roles.

By showcasing these experiences, you can effectively convey your competence in managing a quality service and stand out as a strong candidate for roles requiring this skill set.

To succeed in competency-based interviews focusing on “Managing a Quality Service,” be ready with specific examples illustrating your commitment to providing exceptional services calibrated with  organizational goals .

Competency-based questions frequently evaluate leadership abilities. These can involve  decision-making ,  delegation , and  team management . Candidates must provide specific examples of their leadership experiences to showcase their ability to lead and inspire others in a professional setting.

Leadership skills hold great significance in competency-based interviews as they are vital for success across various roles.

These interviews aim to understand a candidate’s capability to lead and motivate others based on past achievements and experiences. It is crucial for job seekers to prepare compelling examples that highlight their  leadership competencies  when responding to such questions.

Dealing with difficult situations

During  competency-based interviews , candidates should anticipate questions about handling  challenging situations . These inquiries aim to assess how individuals navigate and resolve tough predicaments, particularly with clients or colleagues.

Be prepared to share  specific examples  of difficult interactions and demonstrate the outcomes of those encounters using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Employers seek evidence of  adaptability and problem-solving skills  in such scenarios.

Following an understanding of dealing with difficult situations in competency-based interviews, let’s explore essential tips for structuring responses effectively.

Tips for Success in Competency-Based Interviews

Prepare thoroughly by researching the company and role, practicing with sample questions, being honest and authentic in your answers, using relevant examples, and remaining focused throughout the interview.

Thoroughly research the company and the role

Prepare for the interview by thoroughly researching the company and understanding the role you are applying for. This will help you  tailor your responses  to align with the  company’s values and objectives , demonstrating that you are a good fit for their organization.

By gaining insight into the  company’s culture, mission, and recent achievements , you can also prepare  thoughtful questions to ask  during the interview, showing your genuine interest in becoming part of their team.

Understanding the  role’s requirements and responsibilities  is essential to effectively communicate how your skills and experiences make you an ideal candidate. Analyze the job description carefully to identify  key competencies sought by the employer  so that you can frame your answers around these desired attributes.

Additionally, learning about the  company’s industry trends or challenges  it might be currently facing will enable you to discuss how  your expertise can contribute positively  towards addressing those issues.

Practice with sample questions

Prepare for your  competency-based interview  by practicing with sample questions. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses effectively. Be ready to provide  specific examples and details  that showcase your skills and abilities.

Utilize resources such as free examples of competency-based interview questions and answers to familiarize yourself with common competency-based questions. Remember to be  honest and authentic  in your answers, using relevant, detailed examples to highlight your capabilities.

Through  thorough research of the company and role , you can align yourself better during the interview process. This preparation will help you remain focused and engaged throughout the interview.

Be honest and authentic in your answers

When preparing for  competency-based interviews , practicing with  sample questions  can help you craft  genuine and authentic responses . Giving honest and relevant examples will allow interviewers to assess your skills accurately.

Sharing specific experiences using the  STAR method  will demonstrate your capabilities effectively.

Remember that providing  truthful and detailed answers  is key in  showcasing your competencies  and  suitability for the role . This approach strengthens your candidacy by presenting a clear picture of how you handle challenges and contribute positively in various situations relevant to the job.

Use relevant, detailed examples

When answering  competency-based interview questions , it is crucial to back up your skills and experiences with  specific examples . Employers seek  detailed instances  of how you have previously demonstrated the competencies they are looking for.

Providing specific scenarios and outcomes from your  past experiences  will help showcase your abilities effectively.

In a competency-based interview question about leadership, for example, instead of simply stating that you possess  leadership skills , provide a detailed example of a time when you successfully led a team through a  challenging project , highlighting the actions you took and the positive results achieved.

Remain focused and engaged throughout the interview

When answering  competency-based questions , it’s essential to  remain focused and engaged  throughout the interview. Stay attentive to the interviewer’s prompts, showing enthusiasm in your responses.

Demonstrating  active engagement  can help convey your genuine interest in the role and company, highlighting your motivation and commitment to potential employers.

To maintain focus during the interview, practice  active listening skills  by paying close attention to each question asked. Engage with the interviewer through  affirmative body language  and  verbal cues , such as nodding or providing brief affirmations like “yes” or “I understand.” These non-verbal signals demonstrate your attentiveness and eagerness to participate actively in the conversation.

Interview Tips for Supervisory Positions

Prepare examples showcasing your ability to  manage workload ,  deliver results , and  demonstrate leadership . Thoroughly research the company and role while practicing with sample questions.

Remain honest and authentic in your answers using specific examples to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Stay focused and engaged throughout the interview to showcase your supervisory skills effectively.

Competency-based interviews often focus on how you would react in specific situations related to a supervisory position. Examples of  past experiences  can help craft effective responses during the interview, making it essential to prepare ahead of time for these scenarios.

Identifying  key competencies  relevant to the supervisory position will aid in structuring confident and detailed responses during the interview process.

Benefits of Conducting Competency-Based Interviews for Employers

Evaluate skills and abilities effectively. Improve hiring decisions. Achieve consistency in the interview process. Identify top candidates efficiently.

Effective evaluation of skills and abilities

Competency-based interviews provide an effective way for employers to assess the  specific skills and abilities  of job candidates. By focusing on behaviors and competencies required for the role, employers can gain a more accurate understanding of a candidate’s potential suitability.

This approach allows for a  thorough evaluation , ensuring that the selected candidate possesses the necessary skills to excel in the position, leading to  better hiring decisions  based on concrete evidence.

Employers utilize competency-based interviews as they target  key competencies  relevant to the job role, enabling them to identify top candidates with precision. This approach ensures consistency in evaluating candidates’ capabilities and provides insight into how well an individual’s skills align with the demands of the position, ultimately leading to improved hiring decisions and  successful employment outcomes .

A competency-based interview: what candidates may anticipate

The interviewer seeks evidence of mastery of a set of abilities essential to the position being filled in a competency-based interview.

Cooperation, leadership, flexibility, problem-solving, and communication abilities are just a few of the characteristics that each inquiry aims to assess. One way to make sure your answers are tailored to the position you’re seeking is to know the essential skills.

Problem-Solving Abilities : It is Vital to Showcase Your Ability to Handle Difficult Situations and Discover Workable Solutions. Throughout the interview process, we evaluate your analytical capabilities and attitude towards challenging circumstances.

One of the most important skills is the capacity to learn from past mistakes and adjust quickly to new circumstances fast. You may demonstrate resilience and a growth mindset by sharing examples of when you learned from mistakes or successfully adjusted to new circumstances.

Improved hiring decisions

By conducting  competency-based interviews , employers can make  improved hiring decisions . These interviews allow for  effective evaluation of candidates’ skills and abilities , leading to a more accurate selection process.

As a result, employers are better equipped to identify top candidates who possess the competencies necessary to excel in the role. With this approach, companies can enhance their workforce by ensuring that individuals with the right skill set and capabilities are chosen for the job.

Competency-based interviews provide a  structured framework for assessing candidates , enabling employers to gain deeper insights into each individual’s suitability for the position.

This method results in a more  thorough evaluation of applicants , enhancing the likelihood of making informed and beneficial hiring decisions that align closely with organizational needs.

Consistency In The Interview Process

Consistency in the interview process is crucial for both employers and job candidates. By using  competency-based interviews , companies create a  standardized approach  to evaluating candidates’ skills and abilities.

This ensures that all applicants are assessed on the same criteria, providing a  fair and objective hiring process . Additionally, this consistency allows employers to make  informed comparisons between candidates , leading to  improved hiring decisions  based on merit rather than subjective factors.

Employers can benefit from consistent interviewing processes by effectively evaluating skills and abilities across all applicants. This enables them to identify top candidates more accurately, leading to better hiring decisions and ultimately improving the quality of their workforce.

For job seekers, this means having an equal opportunity to showcase their strengths based on specific competencies required for the role they are applying for.

Consistency in the interview process not only benefits employers but also provides a  level playing field  for job seekers competing for the same position. It ensures  fairness and objectivity throughout the hiring process  while enabling employers to identify top talent accurately.

Ability to identify top candidates

Competency-based interviews enable employers to pinpoint top candidates by evaluating their skills and responses. Through this structured approach, employers can compare the competencies of candidates with the specific requirements of the role, leading to more accurate hiring decisions.

This method allows for a  comprehensive assessment  that helps in identifying individuals who possess the necessary skills and abilities, ultimately contributing to improved hiring outcomes for both job seekers and employers.

Employers rely on  competency-based interviews  to assess candidates thoroughly, ensuring a strong alignment between the candidate’s capabilities and the job role. By utilizing this evaluation method, they can effectively  identify top candidates  who not only meet but exceed expectations, providing them with an opportunity to excel in their roles while enhancing organizational productivity and success.

Importance of Competency-Based Interviews for Job Seekers

Competency-based interviews provide job seekers an opportunity to showcase their relevant skills and experiences. Mastering these interviews can set you apart from other candidates.

Keep reading to discover how to excel in competency-based interviews!

Opportunity to showcase relevant skills and experiences

In competency-based interviews, candidates have the chance to highlight their  relevant skills and experiences  gained from previous roles. This allows job seekers to demonstrate their  decision-making process  and share  specific examples  of how they’ve handled  challenges or achieved success  in various situations.

By showcasing their capabilities, candidates can prove that they possess the  necessary experience and expertise  to excel in the job they’re applying for.

Competency-based interview questions provide an opportunity for candidates to narrate anecdotes from past experiences, offering insights into their  thought processes  and demonstrating how they approach  problem-solving and decision-making .

Potential for strong alignment with the job role

Showcasing your  competencies in a job interview  provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how well your skills and experiences align with the requirements of the position. By carefully studying the  role description  and understanding the  key competencies sought by employers , you can tailor your responses to showcase your strengths effectively.

This alignment not only highlights your suitability for the role but also sets you apart from other candidates, giving you a competitive edge.

Employers seek  specific skills and attributes  when evaluating potential candidates. Understanding these requirements gives you an advantage in showcasing how your competencies closely match what they are looking for, increasing your chances of standing out as an ideal fit for the job role.

It’s vital to thoroughly research and identify these required competencies before the interview to ensure that you can effectively communicate their relevance through specific examples and achievements.

When engaging in  competency-based interviews , it is crucial to be aware of what precisely each competency entails and provide  detailed examples  that clearly illustrate how you have utilized those skills in previous experiences or situations relevant to the job at hand.

Your ability to articulate this strong alignment between your competencies and the job role will significantly enhance your candidacy.

Ability to differentiate yourself from other candidates

Showcasing your unique skills and experiences effectively is crucial to setting yourself apart in  competency-based interviews . By providing specific examples that demonstrate your competencies using the  STAR method , you can stand out among other candidates.

Thoroughly  researching the company and role ,  practicing with sample questions , and remaining authentic in your answers can further distinguish you as a top candidate. Additionally, utilizing relevant details and staying engaged throughout the interview will help showcase your suitability for the position effectively.

By showcasing your unique skills using specific examples through the STAR method, thoroughly researching the company and role, practicing with sample questions,  staying authentic in your answers , and highlighting relevant details throughout the interview process can help differentiate you from other candidates effectively.

In conclusion,  competency-based questions  aim to assess  specific skills and abilities  of job candidates through  systematic interviews . These questions require real-life examples to demonstrate  problem-solving and decision-making skills .

By understanding the purpose and structuring responses using the  STAR method , candidates can prepare effectively for these interviews. Ultimately, competency-based interviews offer job seekers an opportunity to showcase their strengths in a targeted manner, increasing their chances of securing their desired positions.

1. What are  competency-based interview questions ?.

– Competency-based interview questions are designed to assess  specific skills, behaviors, and qualities  of job candidates.

– These questions require you to provide  real-life examples  from your  experiences  as the foundation for your responses.

2. How can I prepare for competency-based interviews?

– Thoroughly research the company and role you’re applying for.

– Practice answering sample questions using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

– Stay honest in your answers and use detailed examples related to individual competencies such as  decision-making  or  soft skills  like  communication and collaboration .

1. What are competency-based questions?

Competency-based questions are a type of question asked in job interviews to find out if you have the right skills for the job. They ask you how you acted in specific situations at work or school.

2. Can you give examples of competency-based questions?

Examples include asking how you solved a problem, made decisions under pressure, or worked as part of a team. These questions help interviewers understand your behavior and skills.

3. Why do employers use these types of questions?

Employers use them to predict how well you’ll do in the job based on how you handled similar situations before. It helps them see if your past actions match what they need for their vacancy.

4. How should I answer these questions?

When answering, think about times when you used key skills like teamwork, decision-making, and leadership. Use real examples from your experiences to show your abilities.

5. Are there any tips for preparing for these questions?

Yes! Before an interview, think about different times when you showed important work skills like solving conflicts or meeting goals (KPIs). Practice explaining these examples clearly and confidently.

6. Do all interviews include competency-based questions?

Many do, but not all! Some might be more unstructured without specific focus areas while others could be semi-structured with a mix of traditional and competency-focused queries.

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25 Most Asked Competency Based Interview Questions [w/ Answers]

Competency-based interview questions are one of the most common questions asked of job candidates. Competency questions are usually situational questions designed to test your soft skills and core competencies by learning about your past experience. When a hiring manager asks this type of question, they want to hear about specific skills and real-life examples of your key competencies.

Let’s look at how to use the STAR Method to answer competency interview questions, followed by 25 common questions and sample answers.

5 Tips for Your Answer

Here are five tips to show you will be a good fit for any company.

  • Be positive throughout the hiring process.
  • Focus on how your personal attributes and technical skills contributed to the positive outcome.
  • Use the job description and selection criteria for the specific role you are applying for to predict possible interview questions.
  • Use the STAR technique and provide examples of situations where you demonstrated each core competency.
  • Be prepared for follow-up questions.

5 Mistakes to Avoid

Avoiding these mistakes will show you are the best candidate for the job.

  • Don’t criticize your last job or colleagues in your situation examples.
  • Don’t be desperate. Avoid saying things like “I’ll do anything!”
  • Avoid clichés like “I have initiative.” Instead, provide an example of when you demonstrated the desired skillset.
  • Avoid answering with “I don’t know.” Always refer to your past behavior or experiences.
  • Don’t ask what the company does or if it is a good company. This shows a lack of research and awareness.

How to Answer: STAR Format

The STAR approach is the best way to demonstrate your core competencies as they apply to a specific situation. Give an example of a time when you approached a specific task, outlining the actions you took and what the result was. Here is what the STAR acronym means:

S: Situation – Begin by describing a situation where you demonstrated the target competency. T: Task – Explain a difficult task that had to be completed. A: Action – State what actions you took to complete the task. R: Results – Describe the outcome resulting from your actions.

25 Most Asked Competency Based Interview Questions and Answers (by Competency)

Competency: commitment to development.

#1. Describe a time you were given negative feedback. S: In my previous role, I received negative feedback during a performance review. T: I had to improve my performance by 20%, or I would not be eligible for a raise that year. A:  I asked my manager to arrange a week of mentoring for me with a senior colleague, during which I took notes and asked them questions about things they did differently from me. R: I was able to improve my numbers by 18% for my next review. Even though I hadn’t improved by the full 20%, I received a raise and agreed on steps that would help my continued improvement.

#2. Have you ever had to learn a lot of information in a new role? S:  When I started my last job, there was a lot of job-specific information to learn. T:  There was a two-week training period and an exam. To be hired, I had to score over 80%. A:  I did several things to increase my chance of success. I managed my time to make sure I slept well and was rested each day. I took thorough notes and asked appropriate questions. And I quizzed myself each night to consolidate what I had learned. R: The exam was challenging, but I passed with a 96% and successfully started the position.

Competency:  Results Driven

#3. Describe how you ensure you remain one of the top performers in your field. S:  It’s important to continually improve and stay ahead of new developments in any job. T:  I am dedicated to lifelong learning because I know that the value I provide is my knowledge. A:  I do three things to ensure I remain a top performer. First, I subscribe to and read industry journals,. Second, I regularly dedicate time to developing professional skills, such as through attending professional development courses. Third, I obtain at least one new industry certification each year. R:  As a result, I have never found myself in a position where I faced a challenge that I wasn’t at least aware of how to solve.

#4. Describe a time when you achieved exceptional results. S:  In a previous sales role, bonus commissions were announced for the top three salespeople during the holiday period. T:  I needed to make sure that I consistently performed in the top five each day to average into the top three. A:  I contacted my extensive diary of warm leads and offered competitive deals if they signed a contract that month. I also balanced excellent service with speaking to as many new customers as possible to get leads. I then worked after hours to write offers to these customers, allowing me to sell to more customers overall. R:  The end result was that I came in first overall, and I have continued to use a similar approach in my sales career.

Competency:  Problem Solving

#5. Have you ever had to solve a problem as part of a team? S:  In a previous role, we were hosting an event when our caterer canceled, and no others could help at 24 hours’ notice. T:  Our team had to decide how we would provide refreshments to attendees. A:  We broke the task into individual responsibilities. I was responsible for sandwiches and snacks, others were responsible for various other duties, and we agreed to meet several hours beforehand to set up for the event. R:  We successfully hosted the event and received positive feedback from clients.

#6. Provide an example of when you used a new approach to solve a problem. S:  In one role, I was part of a team that updated important data. The data was recorded manually and then transferred manually to another system. T:  I wanted to remove the duplicate work, but we couldn’t record the data directly to the second system. A:  One system exported CSV files, and the other imported excel documents. I wrote a macro that automated creating the excel sheet from the CSV file. R:  This saved us 12 hours a week, and it only took me 2-3 hours to create.

Competency:  Leadership

#7. Provide an example of your management style in small team environments. S:  I managed a team where accuracy was critical. We were a small team, and any conflict would have an impact. T:  I had to maintain the quality of work and even workloads without creating tension. A:  I used an empowering approach and recognized positive performance to encourage personal responsibility and motivation. When issues arose, I addressed them privately and ensured the team worked together to fix any errors. R:  The result was that when people made mistakes, they would speak up, and we could work to resolve them and ensure consistent output from the team.

#8. Give an example of how you manage team performance. S:  I was managing a team and overall performance was dependent on each person’s contributions. T:  I had to address a team member who was frequently underperforming. A:  I took them aside and reminded them of their duties. They explained they worked hard but couldn’t complete tasks as quickly as others. I arranged for coaching from another staff member and checked there weren’t any external issues they needed help with. R:  After the mentoring experience, they identified areas of inefficiency and improved their work practices. This increased the team’s performance back to acceptable levels.

Competency:  Openness to Change

#9. Tell us about a time you faced a significant change in your role. S:  I worked in a role where my tasks were interrelated with others’ tasks. Our manager was the team coordinator. The company restructured, and we were placed in a large team without close management support. T:  We had to maintain the quality of our work without any collaborative structure. A:  I began to start and end each day with an emailed work diary to colleagues so we could coordinate deliverables. R:  We maintained a similar quality of output despite the lack of management support.

#10. Describe a time you had to learn a new company culture. S:  When I began my previous job, they explained that the environment was quite rigid. T:  I knew I had to quickly learn how to fit in and meet expectations to be successful. A:  I’m a “big picture” person, and I like to know why things are done a certain way. I asked my trainer to explain to me the reasons for various rules and what unspoken expectations existed. R:  By asking questions and observing the culture around me, I was able to assimilate rapidly and become a productive member of the team.

Competency:  Responsibility and Trustworthiness

#11. Have you ever had to deliver work without much supervision? S:  In one job I had, we worked remotely with little management interaction. T:  Because the work was complex, it was difficult to catch up if you fell behind. A:  I managed my workload by being early each day so that I could stay on top of emails, and I completed all my tasks before I went home each day. This meant each day I could focus intently on that day’s duties without distraction. R:  By managing my time and responsibly completing my duties, I was able to consistently deliver work unsupervised.

#12. Describe a time when you made a serious mistake at work. S:  In a previous role, an HR email came in late one day. The email told us to click on a link and enter our information. I followed the link to log into the HR portal and entered my details, but I realized the URL was wrong after I had already logged in and put in my information. T:  It was late at night, but I knew that company policy required urgent action. A:  I immediately dialed IT security’s after-hours number, and while I was on hold, I changed all my passwords, even those I hadn’t breached. I then emailed IT security with a report I had drafted about the incident and copied my manager. R:  It turned out the event was a test, but I was commended for following all security procedures correctly.

Competency:  Safety Conscious

#13. Have you ever had to respond to an emergency at work? S:  I was once managing a gas station at a busy time when the spill alarm sounded. T:  I had to implement safety protocols quickly and contain the hazard. A:  I turned off the electrical power and guided our irritated customers to the evacuation area. While I did this, I called our emergency line to dispatch specialists and alert local emergency services. I explained to customers that we had evacuation requirements that we were legally obligated to follow and that re-entry to the site was illegal. I then returned to the facility to begin containment procedures. R:  The result was that no one was injured, and the emergency did not escalate because procedures were followed correctly.

Competency: Stress Management

#14. In your current position, what is the biggest challenge you have overcome? S:  I was told by my manager one morning that my coworker was away, and I would have to complete both roles for two weeks. T:  I knew their duties, but I had to manage the stress of two workloads. A:  I cleared both my work and personal calendars to remove any unnecessary stressors. While I am a healthy person, I took extra care to manage my sleep pattern and planned my days around regular overtime. R:  By approaching the situation methodically, I was able to avoid being negatively impacted by the stress and completed both our duties.

Competency:  Teamwork

#15. Have you ever worked as part of a team when a colleague was not doing their job duties? S:  I previously worked on a team where one colleague was not completing their share of the workload. T:  I decided someone should talk to them and try to find out what the problem was. A:  I approached them privately to ask if they needed help because their output had fallen. They revealed they were going through personal issues and were demotivated. I suggested they seek HR support and that I would help to complete their duties during this time. R:  With support from myself and HR, they were able to overcome their home issues, and their productivity returned to normal levels.

#16. Describe a time when you helped a new member of the team to integrate into the workplace. S:  In a previous role, I was a senior staff member and was asked to train a new junior for my department. T:  I was responsible for training them in basic duties and getting them settled in. A:  I wanted to make sure they were confident, so I slowly walked them through a normal day from signing in to signing out and everything in between. I encouraged them to ask lots of questions and introduced them to other members of the team. R:  They were able to successfully learn the job quickly, and by knowing all our names and who we were, they were comfortable in asking questions as needed.

Competency:  Conflict Resolution

#17. Describe a time you had to work with a difficult coworker. S:  I was working unsupervised with a coworker who was known for deliberately underperforming. T:  We had to complete a time-sensitive task, and I needed their help to complete it. A:  I have an adaptive conflict management style, so instead of arguing, I explained the less work they do, the longer tasks take. Being lazy doesn’t remove work. It makes the work pile up, unless you get fired and end up unemployed. R:  The result was that they realized they could quit or work, and around me, they always worked from then on.

#18. Provide an example of when you have used your communication skills to deal with a difficult person. S:  I was working on a team and a colleague refused to follow procedures because they thought they were unimportant. T:  I explained to them that we didn’t make the rules, but we had to follow them. We did not have the option to follow them or not. A:  I broke the issue down to make it relatable. I explained that safety affects everyone and suggested how another’s actions could injure them. They hated this idea. I also explained that insurance only covers them when following company policy. R:  By making the issue relatable and relevant, they agreed to follow the procedure in the future.

Competency: Communication

#19. Have you ever had to present a complex idea to a group of people? S:  In a technical role, I developed an import / export file structure based on government regulations. T:  I had to explain the requirements and how they related to regulation to our multi-lingual team. A:  I drew a series of picture metaphors for the data the file had to contain and another series for the receiving process. I provided a presentation with only pictures and simple language and then opened the floor to questions. R:  The project was delivered, and the system that integrated with the government regulator passed their audit.

Competency:  Organization

#20. Provide an example of your ability to deliver high-quality work under pressure. S:  My manager asked me one afternoon to assist with end-of-month reporting because one of my colleagues was on leave. T:  It was three days of work with three days to complete, and I still had my usual tasks to complete. A:  I cleared my diary and arranged with my manager to reduce my usual deliverables. I set aside blocks of time and isolated myself from others during this work so I could focus intently on the task at hand. R:  I was able to produce a report that was above the standard of the usual one and was asked to produce the report every month from then on.

#21. Describe a time you had to manage competing priorities. S:  I was working in a matrix-team structure, reporting to separate team and functional managers. T:  I had to deliver various tasks for both managers concurrently. A:  I explained to each that I wanted to deliver high-quality work and that both duties were important to the company. I asked them to help me by providing as much warning as possible for tasks. I kept an accurate diary and always worked from a prioritized to-do list each day. R:  By remaining organized, I was able to deliver most tasks on time. When I wouldn’t be able to, I provided my managers with advanced warning.

Competency:  Customer Service

#22. Tell me about a time when you provided excellent customer service. S:  I was working in a sales role assisting a customer in selecting a product. T:  It was my job to provide great customer service and increase retention and repeat business. A:  The customer was looking at an expensive product, but after talking to them, I believed that it wasn’t the right fit for them. I explained that a cheaper product we carried would better fit their needs. R:  I made a good impression because the customer took my advice, left great feedback, and came back frequently and asked for me by name.

#23. Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult customer. S:  I was working as an acting store manager when a customer requested to speak to me. T:  The customer believed the store had falsely advertised a product and demanded I fix it. A:  I looked at the advertisement and explained the photo clearly stated the product might vary in color and design. I offered to discount another product, but the customer would still end up paying double and we would be making a loss. It was a lose-lose situation. The customer angrily told us that they would sue us for false advertising and left. R:  The company investigated the customer’s complaint and I was commended for following store procedures, even though the customer left upset.

Competency:  Decision Making

#24. Describe a time you had to make a difficult decision. S:  In a previous job, I noticed that customer feedback on a particular supplier’s products had consistently become negative. T:  I had to decide if we would engage a new supplier. A:  In my thought process, I weighed the cost-benefit analysis of changing suppliers because they all were more expensive. I decided that our priority was our customers and the quality of our products. R:  After changing suppliers, customer feedback became positive again, and the average customer’s spending increased, offsetting the higher cost.

#25. Have you ever had to make an unpopular decision? S:  I was working in a company when the fire alarm sounded. I got up to leave, but everyone else stayed seated. T:  I knew that company policy was to evacuate, and I would be unpopular insisting we leave. A:  I loudly announced that everyone had to leave. A colleague refused and explained that the alarm malfunctions a lot. I replied it was policy, and they would regret it if it was an actual fire. R:  Eventually, everyone agreed to leave. As it turned out, there was a minor fire in a kitchen, and it was put out safely. I would never hesitate to make an unpopular decision again.

Competency-based interviews are a form of the structured interview process that is designed to find good candidates by identifying applicants whose past performance demonstrates specific competencies. The most important thing to remember when answering these types of questions is to deliver your answer using the STAR structure. This is a good way to deliver situational examples of times when you have demonstrated the skills and attributes that the job requires.

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How to Ask Effective Competency-Based Interview Questions

About the Author

Sam is an educator with ten years of mentoring experience and currently specializes in employee engagement and research.

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Competency-based interview questions are designed to assess how well candidates display the critical knowledge, skills, and abilities that underlie effective job performance. Identifying competencies is typically part of the structured interview process, and they are linked to the role and your organization’s values and business objectives.

Table of Contents

  • What Are Competency-Based Interview Questions

Types of Competency-Based Interview Questions

  • Use the STAR Method for Interviews

How to Evaluate Candidate Responses to Competency-Based Questions

Frequently asked questions, what are competency-based interview questions.

Competency-based interview questions ask candidates to go beyond surface-level answers, allowing you to examine how well a candidate displays core workplace competencies.

However, that assumes two things are already true within your human resources department:

  • You have a standardized definition of what “competency” means.
  • You have an established competency model that you can use as a foundation for creating competency interview questions.

Before you develop any competency questions, you should create this definitional framework. From there, you can establish a more refined, consistent, and repeatable structure for your interview questions by creating an interview guide .

What Are Competencies?

The National Institute of Health provides an excellent definition of competency: “Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that contribute to individual and organizational performance.”

You can break down your understanding of these competencies by further defining each of those keywords:

What are Competencies?

Common competencies employers look for include teamwork, responsibility, decision-making, communication, integrity, result orientation, and problem-solving ( PossibleWorks ).

Interviewers and hiring managers assess for competencies using competency-based interview questions and answers. However, the most important thing to remember when asking competency questions is consistency. Structured interviewing ensures that you are able to fairly rate each candidate, and helps to remove bias from the interview process.

Need guidance on developing a structured interview process?

What Is a Competency Model?

A competency model is an extension of the competencies that matter to your organization.

There are two ways to approach the competency model, both of which you may want to consider:

  • Create a broadly defined competency model for the organization.
  • Create a more refined and specific competency model for each role or job classification.

Either or both of these approaches will work as a foundation for creating competency-based interview questions. While both are useful, creating a competency model for each job classification will be much more time-consuming. However, role-specific competency models may help you better identify the best candidate for each position.

As part of conducting thorough structured interviews, best practice is using a mixture of both models since they offer different benefits. You can incorporate both competency models into your interview question set by asking one or two questions that assess organizational competencies and making the rest specific to the job competencies. This may seem like a lot of work, but you only need to determine organizational and role-focused competencies once, unless you redefine a role or major changes happen on a company level.

Whether your model is broadly defined or role-specific, you should do the following:

Identify the behaviors that are consistent with success based on previous experience.

Provide a detailed list of the knowledge and skills that are critical to success.

Define and show some examples of what the ability to perform a task looks like.

How to Choose Competencies

In structured interview processes, it’s common to use a job analysis to determine what competencies are needed to succeed in the role. The University of Nebraska defines a job analysis as “the process of gathering and analyzing information about the content and the human requirements of jobs, as well as, the context in which jobs are performed.”

There are several methods to conduct a job analysis. According to Forbes Advisor , you can distribute a questionnaire, interview past employees, use direct observation, review a work log, or actually perform the job to get firsthand information.

Don’t underestimate the power of a job analysis — it can make your competency questions significantly better at predicting who would be a good hire.

How to choose Competencies

Competency vs. Behavior-Based Interviews

You may have noticed that competency-based interview questions have a behavior aspect to them. It begs the question: Why aren’t behavioral-based interview questions used when you want to assess something more tangible, such as skills, or knowledge?

Behavior is an important part of competency, but it doesn’t represent the whole picture on its own. For example, someone may have an exceptional level of knowledge about the role but may lack the type of workplace behaviors that are critical to success in that role. It’s not an uncommon situation to encounter, especially if you’re hiring for leadership positions. Many candidates have years of experience and would be considered subject matter experts by all rights. Yet they may lack the type of behaviors your organization has found are critical to success in leadership positions.

In that situation, you may ultimately hire that individual as a senior-level contributor, but not into a leadership role.

Respectfulness is a critical leadership behavior

According to research conducted in collaboration with the Harvard Business Review , “respect” emerged as the most important leadership behavior that employees look for within management.

Leadership Behavior

As noted earlier, there are several types of competencies that will underpin the interview questions you create for your interviews. We referred to behavior, skills, knowledge, and abilities as some of the competencies you may want to focus on. However, these are broad categories. You may find it beneficial to take a targeted approach with more granular questions aligned to competencies specific to the job roles for which you are hiring.

For example, you may want to create questions that assess the candidate’s competencies in these areas:

Accountability

Collaboration.

  • Communication skills
  • Customer focus
  • Leadership skills
  • Integrity and trust
  • Learning and development

To help get you started, below are three common competency-based questions based on specific competencies, plus a short explanation of how to assess a candidate’s response to that question.

When you assess a candidate's competency in accountability, you are looking for their ability to take ownership of tasks, make commitments without excessive hesitation, and deliver on those commitments reliably.

Here’s a question you could ask to assess accountability:

“Can you describe a situation where a project or task you were responsible for did not go as planned? What actions did you take to rectify the situation, and what did you learn from the experience?”

This question seeks to understand how the interviewee handles failure. Did the individual attempt to pass off blame on someone else? Do they take full responsibility for it? You may want to look for certain actions in their response, such as immediately notifying a manager and creating an action plan to solve the issue.

When you assess a candidate's competency in collaboration, you are looking for their ability to work together within a team setting to complete tasks or solve problems.

Here’s a question you could ask to assess collaboration:

"Can you share an example of a challenging team project you've worked on? How did you contribute to the team's efforts, and how did you handle any conflicts or differing opinions within the group?"

This question seeks to better understand not only the level at which an interviewee contributes to a collaborative project but also helps you identify areas where ego may get in the way of collaboration. How the interviewee answers this question could help uncover someone who is a legitimate team player or someone whose only concern is personal gain and career advancement.

Communication Skills

When assessing a candidate's competency in communication, you're looking for their ability to effectively convey ideas, listen actively, and adapt their messaging to different audiences and situations.

Here’s a question you could ask to assess communication skills:

"Can you describe a time when you had to communicate a complex idea or strategy to a team or client who was not familiar with the subject? How did you ensure your message was understood, and what feedback mechanisms did you use?"

This question will help you understand not only the type of communication skills the interviewee prefers to use or is capable of using, but also gives you more insight into what they believe communication means. It can help you align their understanding of and skills in communication with what’s expected within your company.

How to write competency-based questions

If you want to make more competency questions, consider using the same format as above.

  • Pick a competency.
  • Identify how this compentency is demonstrated in the context of the role you're hiring for.
  • Create a question that allows the interviewee to exhibit or reflect on the use of that competency in practice.
  • Provide a rationale for how that question helps you understand that candidate’s alignment to that competency.

Using STAR To Answer Competency-Based Interview Questions

Candidates will often use the STAR method to answer competency-based interview questions. It’s a methodical way for candidates to organize their thoughts, make sure they touch on the competencies you mentioned in the job description, and answer questions about their previous experiences without going too off track.

When candidates use the STAR method, it can make it easier to rate their answers and identify the difference between effective and ineffective responses to the question.

STAR stands for…

S ituation: The context or background for a specific event or challenge T ask: The specific responsibility or objective the individual faced A ction: The steps taken to address the situation or complete the task R esult: The outcome or impact of those actions

Here’s an example of how a candidate would use the STAR method to answer a question aimed at evaluating accountability as a competency.

“There was a situation when I was a freelance HR consultant where my  report was not in line with what the client wanted and it was already past the deadline.”

“I met with the client to debrief and see how I could prevent that from happening again. I realized I should’ve asked for samples of their other reports so I could make mine more consistent with what they already do. Lesson learned.”

“As soon as they expressed their dissatisfaction, I had to get the information I needed to get them an updated version of the report.”

“I requested a meeting with my contact, apologized for the confusion and initiated a conversation about what needed to change. I made the changes as quickly as possible.”

In the next section, we’ll explain in more detail effective ways to evaluate STAR interview responses like the one above.

Evaluating responses should be standardized and replicable for each candidate. Consider the following ways to help you conduct fair and equitable interviews.

Use Video Interviews That Allow You to Record Candidate Responses

Video interviewing allows you to refer back to interviews later if you need to rewatch or reassess a candidate’s response to a question.

Conduct Interviews Using a Panel Instead of 1-On-1

Interview panels can at times be intimidating to candidates, but they help remove bias during the hiring process. Past the screening stage, try as much as possible to conduct panel interviews and make sure your panel represents a diversity of backgrounds, experience levels, and perspectives.

Best Evaluation Format for STAR Responses

Because the answers to these questions will have some level of subjectivity, an interview scorecard will reduce biases as you evaluate the responses, especially when combined with a panel. Consequently, this is why events like Olympic sports use multiple judges with set rating criteria to judge an individual performance.

STAR responses

Structured interviews increase success at hiring

Multiple studies show that companies using structured interviews improve their hiring. In summarizing this research, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management explains that structured interviews “increase interviewers' agreement on their overall evaluations by limiting the amount of discretion an interviewer is allowed.”

This means your interview panels will be more successful at identifying the right candidates when your interviews use a structured approach.

What To Look For in Competency-Based Interview Answers

People have different experiences, so you should not expect every answer to be exactly the same. Instead, you should be looking for signs that indicate the person answering the question is doing so honestly.

To that end, when conducting interviews where you’re using competency-based questions, look for the following:

Specificity in the response: Candidates should be able to easily recall and talk in detail about their examples. If it seems like a candidate is having difficulty responding to the question or that the response seems jumbled, it likely means they don’t have an example to give that would adequately address that competency.

Outcome-focused responses: In most cases, your competency questions will be looking to identify an outcome to an example or situation. Your ideal candidates are those who can easily speak to the outcome, whether prompted or unprompted by you.

Transparency: There are times when a candidate may not have an answer to a competency question. It’s just as important for them to be able to admit to that as it is for them to have an example to demonstrate it. Look for that type of transparency and honesty from candidates who know and can admit readily to their limitations.

Alignment with company values or objectives: Ideally, candidates' responses to the competency questions you ask should align with the values and objectives you have for your organization.

Paying close attention to these key look-fors will also help you determine what each point in your rubric should represent and how to properly score candidates when they provide you with answers to your competency questions. The rubric will play an essential role in your structured interview and provide relevant data you can include in your applicant tracking system .

How Do You Structure a Competency-Based Interview Question?

You can create competency-based questions by using the STAR method as a conceptual framework. Use open-ended prompts like "Describe a time when..." or "Tell me about an instance where..." This encourages candidates to reply using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). It also makes assessing candidate responses much easier as you can align your rubric around how effectively the answer fits within that same framework.

What Type of Questions Should I Avoid Asking in an Interview?

Avoid asking questions that are too personal, irrelevant to the role, invasive, or discriminatory. Questions that require candidates to talk about their marital status, religion, or personal health should also be avoided. Make sure that your questions fit within the legal framework and employment practices of the country where you're hiring.

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Interview Questions You Shoud Never Ask

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How to Run Competency Based Interviews

Measuring skills for specific roles.

How to Run Competency Based Interviews - Measuring Skills for Specific Roles

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Focus in on your candidates' true potential by testing their competencies accurately.

When you're recruiting for a role that has specific skill requirements, how can you be sure that you get the right person with the right experience?

Often qualifications and even work experience are not enough to accurately determine skill level. Competency based interviews can help here. They are a rigorous interview format you can use to help ensure that you hire someone whose skill set accurately matches the specific needs of the job.

In this article, we'll look at what competency based interviewing is, how to use it, and the benefits that it can offer.

What Is a Competency Based Interview?

A personal competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, judgment, and attributes. Examples of competencies might include teamwork, leadership or decision-making.

Competency based interviews test whether a candidate has the precise knowledge, skills or values that are necessary to be effective in the role that you are recruiting for.

This method is very different from an informal "getting to know you" interview style, which focuses on the candidate's personality, and can be better used to assess whether they are a good "fit" with your organization's culture and values.

In a competency based interview, questions are designed to assess a candidate's strengths and weaknesses in the key competencies required by the role. You can then score their responses against agreed criteria to build up an objective picture of their suitability.

The Benefits of Competency Based Interviewing

Research has shown that unfocused interview techniques lead to huge numbers of unsatisfactory hires every year, each one costing the equivalent of around one-fifth of the position's salary. [1]

Hiring the wrong person can result in sub-standard work and missed deadlines, causing team overload, as other people are forced to pick up the slack. You may find that you need to spend on more training and development than you'd planned, or even a second recruitment drive.

Competency based interviewing can help organizations to avoid this inefficiency, by focusing effort on the early stages of recruitment.

The strict selection criteria used ensures that you can identify and eliminate candidates who have a distorted view of their ability, and removes the need to rely on a "hunch."

Both the organization and its employees can benefit. After all, a competent and capable recruit will likely be much happier in the job than someone who's struggling, or afraid of being "found out," and will more likely stay. Conversely, an applicant may discover before they commit to a role that they wouldn't enjoy it, and they'll save you time and money in the long run if they choose to leave the process.

Finally, competency based interviewing can help with the governance of your recruitment processes. It is an evidence-based, transparent process that uses specific criteria to test all candidates equally, fairly and consistently.

How to Use Competency Based Interviewing

You can hold an effective competency based interview by following these three key steps:

Step 1: Develop Clear Selection Criteria

It's important to be crystal clear on the skills, attributes, knowledge, and behaviorial traits that you need a recruit to demonstrate, so that you can test and compare candidates fairly and intelligently. So, you'll need to develop a watertight set of selection criteria.

Your organization might already have a competency framework   and you'll likely have a team skills matrix   . Supplement these by researching the particular role you are intending to fill.

For example, for an existing position, focus on the job description   : does it accurately reflect the competencies needed to perform the job? Talk to the person currently in the role about what they do to check whether the job description needs to be updated.

You'll need to start from scratch for a new post. Think about what a new recruit's responsibilities will be and how you'd like them to progress in the role. Consult people who do similar work, or who will be in the same team. Look at similar roles being advertised elsewhere as well for further tips.

Decide what skills are essential to the role, and which are merely desirable. You may find that a candidate fulfils most but not all of your competency criteria. This doesn't mean that you should automatically "write them off." The candidate could still make a great addition to your team as long as they are willing to learn and you're able to provide support and training.

Step 2: Prepare Effective Questions Using the STAR Technique

Once you've decided your selection criteria, it's time to draw up some questions that focus on each core competency. Think carefully about how you'll word each one and structure them in a way that enables the candidate to provide specific examples of each competency.

For instance, asking, "When was the last time you had to deal with a colleague who struggled to organize their workload? What did you do?" is more informative than asking the hypothetical, "What would you do if you had a team member who was disorganized?"

Similarly, a description of what the candidate did as part of a team won't tell you what they did or what decisions they took as an individual. So, be ready to probe further with follow-up questions.

The STAR technique   can be particularly useful here. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It's usually used as a method for answering interview questions, but can provide an excellent framework for structuring your competency based questions.

For instance, you could use it to frame a question about conflict resolution as follows:

  • S ituation: "Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict on your team?"
  • T ask: "What did you decide to do to resolve it and why did you decide to handle it that way?"
  • A ction: "What action did you take and what skills did you use?"
  • R esults: "What did you achieve? How did your team benefit?"

It's perfectly OK to ask for examples of when things didn't go so well. In fact, this can help to test how well the candidate works under pressure and whether they demonstrated resilience. But be sure to keep a balanced and reasonable tone, and avoid focusing on the negative. Good candidates may be turned off if they feel they are being interrogated!

You will also need to think about how you are going to test the attributes that you have identified. Consider a range of aptitude, proficiency and personality tests   as appropriate.

If you're struggling to think up some competency based questions, see our worksheet on Sample Interview Questions and our article Hiring People: Questions to Ask   for ideas.

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Step 3: Conduct a Structured Interview Process

A good competency based interview should be structured and have precisely defined goals. So, remember to be disciplined and to keep your focus.

You're asking for a lot of information from the candidate, and you need to be able to retain, manage and use the information that they give you, effectively.

The following points can help you to do this:

  • Have a set structure. Ask each candidate exactly the same initial questions. Make sure that each interviewer on the panel understands the scoring system and how to use it, so that each candidate is graded fairly and consistently.
  • Listen carefully. Active listening   is particularly useful when you need to process and understand complex information. Pay attention to the candidate and acknowledge their responses by nodding or giving the occasional "uh-huh." However, make sure that your actions are mindful, and not mechanical, and don't allow yourself to get bored or to lose focus.
  • Allow thinking time. Don't be afraid of silence. You're asking questions that require a lot of thought, so give the candidate the space that they need to think through their answers. It's also important to give yourself time to evaluate what they are telling you.
  • Take notes. Competency based interviews are in-depth, and interviewers sometimes disagree on what they remember was said, so be sure to take full and accurate notes. However, take care to avoid unconscious bias in your observations. For instance, "they looked down a lot" is more objective than the interpretation "they were embarrassed and nervous."
  • Evaluate and discuss. Spend some time afterward discussing the candidate's test performance and looking at any examples of their work that they've brought with them.

Don't let the interview structure become too rigid. Give each candidate space to talk about any additional expertise, or to explain something unusual in a resumé. Otherwise, you might both miss out in a way you could never have foreseen!

No matter how well the candidate meets your selection criteria, be sure to consider wider issues, too, when you make your final decision.

For instance, do their values align with the organization's? Will their personality fit with those of their colleagues? Will their commute be sustainable?

Competency based interviews can be used to precisely assess whether a candidate has the necessary skills, knowledge and personal attributes required to fulfil a specific role.

They can be particularly useful in helping organizations to improve the transparency of their recruitment processes, to reduce costs and employee turnover, and to improve job satisfaction.

You can use competency based interviewing by following these three steps:

  • Develop clear selection criteria.
  • Prepare effective questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) technique.
  • Conduct a structured interview process.

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ISC Professional

  • 1. Planning and Preparation
  • 2. Interviews & Assessment Centres
  • 3. Answers to common questions
  • 4. Competency-based interviews
  • 5. Dealing with negative questions
  • 6. Telephone/webcam interviews
  • 7. Stress interviews
  • 8. Illegal Interview Questions
  • 9. Presentations
  • 10. Group tasks/discussions
  • 11. Psychometric and aptitude tests
  • 12. Top Interview Tips
  • 13. Inexperienced/over-experienced?
  • 14. Body Language
  • 15. Questions to ask at the end
  • 15. After the Interview
  • Successful CV Writing
  • Winning Cover Letters

Further reading

4. Competency-Based Interviews

4.1 - how do competency-based interviews differ from normal interviews.

Normal interviews (also called unstructured interviews) are essentially a conversation where the interviewers ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for but without any specific aim in mind other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual. Questions are fairly random and can sometimes be quite open. For example, a question such as "What can you offer our company?" is meant to gather general information about you but does not test any specific skill or competency. In an unstructured interview, the candidate is judged on the general impression that he/she leaves; the process is therefore likely to be more subjective.

Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.

4.2 - Which skills and competencies do competency-based interviews test?

4.3 - what kind of competency-based interview questions can you be asked.

  • How do you ensure that you maintain good working relationships with your senior colleagues?
  • Give us an example of a situation where you had to deal with a conflict with an internal or external client.
  • How do you influence people in situations where there are conflicting agendas?
  • Tell us about a situation where you made a decision and then changed your mind.
  • How do you manage upwards?
  • Give us an example of a situation where you had a fundamental disagreement with one of your superiors.

4.4 - How competency-based interview questions are marked

4.5 - preparing for a competency-based interview.

  • Make sure that you understand which skills and competencies will be tested. It sounds obvious, but some person specifications can be a little vague and you will need to do some thinking in order to ensure that the examples that you will be using hit the spot. For example, your person specification may say that you need to have "good communication skills in dealing with third parties". For someone who works in customer service and is expected to handle complaints all day long, this will most likely involve a mix of empathy/understanding as well as an ability to be assertive in a nice way whenever required; however for someone applying for a commercial law post, this will most likely involve an ability to explain complex matters in a simple way, and not so much empathy. Understanding the requirements for the post, whether they are stated explicitly or not in the person specification is therefore crucial.
  • Identify examples from your past experience which you can use to demonstrate that you possess the skills and competencies that you are being asked to demonstrate. You do not have to find hyper-complicated examples; in particular the outcome of the story does not have to be extraordinary; what matters most is that the role you played in reaching the outcome was substantial.
  • Learn to narrate the story using the STAR method. This means setting the scene, explaining how you handled the situation by placing the emphasis on your role, and detailing the outcome/result.

4.6 - The ‘STAR’ approach

Step 1 – situation or task, step 2 – action.

  • Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team
  • Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean
  • Steer clear of technical information, unless it is crucial to your story
  • Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it

What you did and how you did it The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling some important skills. For example, you may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress etc.

Step 3 – Result/Reflection

4.7 - competency-based interview questions.

Competency-based interview questions vary widely between sectors and depending on the level of responsibility to which you are applying. The type of competencies against which you will be assessed also depends on the actual post and the company who is interviewing you. For example, some companies view leadership as a competency on its own whilst others prefer to split leadership between a wide range of components (creativity, flexibility, strategic thinking, vision, etc).

Adaptability Adjusts to changing environments whilst maintaining effectiveness

  • Which change of job did you find the most difficult to make?
  • Tell us about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you cope with it?
  • How do you ensure compliance with policies in your area of responsibility?
  • Tell us about a time when you went against company policy. Why did you do it and how did you handle it?

Communication Communicates effectively, listens sensitively, adapts communication to audience and fosters effective communication with others

  • 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.
  • Describe a situation where you had to explain something complex to a colleague or a client. Which problems did you encounter and how did you deal with them?
  • What is the worst communication situation that you have experienced?
  • How do you prepare for an important meeting?
  • Tell us about a situation when you failed to communicate appropriately.
  • Demonstrate how you vary your communication approach according to the audience that you are addressing.
  • Describe a situation when you had to communicate a message to someone, knowing that you were right and that they were wrong and reluctant to accept your point of view.
  • 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 had trouble remaining focused on your audience. How did you handle this?
  • What place does empathy play in your work? Give an example where you needed to show empathy.
  • Describe a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer.
  • What type of writing have you done? Give examples. What makes you think that you are good at it?
  • How do you feel writing a report differs from preparing an oral presentation?
  • What positive and negative feedback have you received about your writing skills? Give an example where one of your reports was criticised.
  • How do you plan the writing of a report?

Conflict management Encourages creative tension and differences of opinions. Anticipates and takes steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner.

  • Tell us about a time when you felt that conflict or differences were a positive driving force in your organisation. How did handle the conflict to optimise its benefit?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a conflict within your team.
  • Tell us about a situation where conflict led to a negative outcome. How did you handle the situation and what did you learn from it?
  • Give us an example where you were unable to deal with a difficult member of your team.
  • Tell us about a project or situation where you felt that the conventional approach would not be suitable. How did you derive and manage a new approach? Which challenges did you face and how did you address them?
  • Tell us about a situation where you trusted your team to derive a new approach to an old problem. How did you manage the process?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to convince a senior colleague that change was necessary. What made you think that your new approach would be better suited?
  • What big decision did you make recently. How did you go about it?
  • How did you reach the decision that you wanted to change your job?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to delay a decision to reflect on the situation.
  • What is the decision that you have put off the longest? Why?
  • When is the last time that you have refused to make a decision?
  • Give us an example of a situation where you had to make a decision without the input of key players, but knowing that these key players would judge you on that decision (i.e. superior unavailable at the time).
  • Tell us about a time when you had to make a decision without knowledge of the full facts.
  • Tell us about a situation where you made a decision that involuntarily impacted negatively on others. How did you make that decision and how did you handle its consequences?
  • Tell us about a decision that you made, which you knew would be unpopular with a group of people. How did you handle the decision-making process and how did you manage expectations?
  • Tell us about a situation where you made a decision too quickly and got it wrong. Why made you take that decision?
  • What type of responsibilities do you delegate? Give examples of projects where you made best use of delegation.
  • Give an example of a project or task that you felt compelled to complete on your own. What stopped you from delegating?
  • Give an example of a situation where you reluctantly delegated to a colleague. How did you feel about it?
  • Give an example where you delegated a task to the wrong person? How did you make that decision at the time, what happened and what did you learn from it?
  • How do you cope with having to go away from the office for long periods of time (i.e. holidays). Explain how you would delegate responsibilities based on you current situation.
  • Describe through examples drawn from your experience how you measure and take account of the impact of your decisions on external parties.
  • Give an example where you underestimated the impact of your decisions on stakeholders external to your organisation.
  • Describe a situation where you had to change your approach half-way through a project or task following new input into the project.
  • Describe a situation where you started off thinking that your approach was the best, but needed to alter your course during the implementation.
  • Describe a situation where one of your projects suffered a setback due to an unexpected change in circumstances.
  • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you had never attempted previously.
  • Give us an example of a situation where your initial approach failed and you had to change tack.
  • Describe your strongest and your weakest colleagues. How do you cope with such diversity of personalities?
  • If we gave you a new project to manage, how would you decide how to approach it?
  • When did you depart from the "party line" to accomplish your goal?
  • Which decisions do you feel able to make on your own and which do you require senior support to make?
  • Describe a situation where you had a disagreement or an argument with a superior. How did you handle it?
  • When do you feel that it is justified for you to go against accepted principles or policy?
  • Which constraints are imposed on you in your current job and how do you deal with these?
  • When did you make a decision that wasn't yours to make?
  • Describe a project or situation where you took a project to completion despite important opposition.
  • When have you gone beyond the limits of your authority in making a decision?
  • Describe a situation where you were able to influence others on an important issue. What approaches or strategies did you use?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to influence different stakeholders who had different agendas. What approaches or strategies did you use?
  • Tell us about an idea that you manage to sell to your superior, which represented a challenge.
  • What is your worst selling experience?
  • Describe the project or idea that you were most satisfied to sell to your management.
  • Describe a time where you failed to sell an idea that you knew was the right one.
  • When have you had to lie to achieve your aims? Why did you do so? How do you feel you could have achieved the same aim in a different way?
  • Tell me about a time when you showed integrity and professionalism.
  • Tell us about a time when someone asked you something that you objected to. How did you handle the situation?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something illegal, immoral or against your principles? What did you do?
  • What would you do if your boss asked you to do something illegal?
  • Tell us about a situation where you had to remind a colleague of the meaning of "integrity".
  • 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 objectives?
  • Tell us about a situation where you faced reluctance from your team to accept the direction that you were setting.
  • Describe a project or situation where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.
  • Tell me about a time when you were less successful as a leader than you would have wanted to be.
  • Give an example of a situation or project where a positive outcome depended on the work of people from a wide range of backgrounds and ideas
  • Tell us about a time when you included someone in your team or a project because you felt they would bring something different to the team.
  • Describe a project where you needed to involve input from other departments. How did you identify that need and how did you ensure buy-in from the appropriate leaders and managers?
  • Describe a time when you failed to engage at the right level in your organisation. Why did you do that and how did you handle the situation?
  • Tell us about a situation where things deteriorated quickly. How did you react to recover from that situation?
  • Tell us about a project where you achieved success despite the odds being stacked against you. How did you ensure that you pulled through?
  • Give us an example of a situation where you knew that a project or task would place you under great pressure. How did you plan your approach and remain motivated?
  • Give us an example of a situation where you worked under pressure.
  • Under what conditions do you work best and worst?
  • Which recent project or situation has caused you the most stress? How did you deal with it?
  • When is the last time that you were upset with yourself?
  • What makes you frustrated or impatient at work?
  • What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career. How did you overcome it?
  • Tell us about a time when you successfully pushed one of your ideas despite strong opposition.
  • Which course or topics have you found most difficult? How did you address the challenge?
  • Tell us about risks that you have taken in your professional or personal life. How did you go about making your decision?
  • What is the biggest risk that you have taken? How did you handle the process?
  • Describe one of your current or recently completed projects, setting out the risks involved. How did you make decisions? How do you know that you made the correct decisions?
  • What risks do you see in moving to this new post?
  • What problems has one of your staff or colleagues brought to you recently? How did you assist them?
  • Tell us about an unpopular decision that you made recently? What thought-process did you follow before making it? How did your colleagues/clients react and how did you deal with their reaction?
  • When is that last time that you had an argument with a colleague?
  • When did you last upset someone?
  • What steps do you take to understand your colleagues' personalities? Give an example where you found it hard to adjust to one particular colleague.
  • Describe a situation in which you were a member of team. What did you do to positively contribute to it?
  • Tell us about a situation where you played an important role in a project as a member of the team (not as a leader).
  • How do you ensure that every member of the team is allowed to participate?
  • Give us 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? Give us an example where you had to do this.

competency based interview questions research skills

How to Ace Your Technical Interview

T echnical interviews can be challenging, especially if you're unsure about how to approach them. With the right attitude and preparation, you can excel in a technical interview and secure the role.

If you are struggling with your technical interviews and want a first-hand guide to prepare for them, here’s all you need to know. Each point will give you plenty of insight into how to go about your preparations and what you should expect during the hiring process.

4 Types of Technical Interview Formats

These days, technical interviews aren’t as straightforward as they used to be. In short, employers want to put in considerable time and effort to ensure hiring the right candidate. To achieve this, you must understand the expected interview format and prepare accordingly.

1. Telephonic Interview

An employer conducts a telephone interview initially to understand your qualifications, past work experience, and whether your skill sets match the position you have applied for. The telephonic round is conducted by HR or a person from the hiring team to ensure you are a good fit and can be taken to the next round.

2. Coding Challenge

If you are applying for a technical role, you may have to undertake a coding challenge or two. Simply put, an employer wants to test your knowledge of the required technical skills and whether you meet the qualifications you have advertised in your resume.

The coding challenges can be a written coding assignment, a case study, or a set of questions you must answer to make it to the next round.

3. Coding Questions In-Person

You can expect a series of technical coding questions during the next round or the in-person interview. While this round is optional and not necessarily conducted by every organization, you should still prepare for any unforeseen surprises from this interview round.

Companies usually ask such questions to ensure you have an excellent working knowledge of the required programming languages and skill sets, which will ease you into the work from day one.

4. In-Person Interview

​​​​​​ A face-to-face interview can be conducted over Zoom or any other web meeting. You may be asked to attend an in-person discussion if you are in the same city.

During such discussions, the employer may ask questions to understand some of your previous experiences, which will revolve around how you tackle certain work situations and what skills you bring to the table in the form of experiences.

If you are a fresher, your interview questions might be more straightforward. However, if you are already experienced and are applying for a new position, you should be prepared with all possible questions. Make sure to avoid common interview mistakes on the day of the interview.

This is not an explicitly set format for every organization. Interview formats can vary depending on the organization.

How to Prepare for a Technical Interview

Technical interviews are daunting, especially when you are trying to tackle it at short notice. However, with the right preparation, you can tackle it swiftly and confidently in one go. Here are a few things to remember to ensure your chances of success are doubled.

1. Do Your Research on the Position

Whether you are applying for an internal or external position, researching the job requirements will go a long way. There are two benefits of studying the role at hand:

  • You get relevant information you can use while answering your interview questions. Employers like well-prepared people who try to know more about the role before coming in for an interview.
  • By researching the requirements, you get an approximate idea of where you stand and can identify opportunity areas you need to address before the interview.

Both steps work in your favor and can become a stepping stone for your interview success.

2. Prepare Situational Answers/Competency Based Answers

If you have cleared the coding challenges and are waiting for the final round, take your time with the questions. While the problematic part (coding questions) is out of the way, the final round will consist of many competency-based questions you must answer succinctly to be selected for the role.

To ensure you have the gist of the questions, you must understand the required skill sets and the related questions. These questions may or may be different from the ones you answered previously.

Employers like to ask competency-based questions based on your previous experience, which will prompt you to think on your feet and give an inkling of the work you have done before.

For example, an employer can ask about difficult conversations with your manager and how you solve the issues. Such questions don't have a right or a wrong answer.

However, to impress the employer, you must back your explanation with substantial examples supporting your answer. Such an approach proves you know how to think on your feet and that you pull inspiration from your environment.

Some interviewers might ask a series of difficult interview questions ; if you don't know the answer immediately, don't fret and try to answer them to the best of your knowledge.

3. Review Commonly Asked Questions With Answers

There are many websites that provide insight into common interview questions and answers asked during interviews. For instance, resources like Google's Interview Warmup can serve as a guide to kickstart your preparation.

During your research phase, keep an eye out for such information, as it can help you formulate a good structure for your responses during the interview.

While there is no right or wrong answer, it's always best to use personalized examples from your past work experiences so that the employer understands your problem-solving skills and your ability to think on the fly.

4. Practice Technical Assignments Beforehand

When appearing for a technical interview, you must have your basics right. Technical questions are mostly related to how you solve a data-related problem programmatically.

For example, if you are appearing for a data scientist position, the employer can ask you questions about training a data model and the steps involved in the task. Similarly, employers often require candidates to complete a comprehensive technical assessment, which you must pass before moving forward.

Such questions usually go on the internet as sample papers, a treasure trove of information waiting for you to explore. You must practice as much as possible to score well on such tests.

5. Research the Hiring Team

As soon as you get an interview invite, you can get an idea of who is taking your interview. If the person's details are available, you can pull up the hiring manager's information on the internet or LinkedIn and get an idea of their previous work experience.

If you go through their past/current experiences, you can get a fair idea of their mindset and the questions they can ask you during an interview. While this is not a foolproof way of preparing a question base, it's an excellent method to add to your research list.

Easily Secure a Technical Job Online

To prepare for a remote coding interview, you must identify some possible questions and answers.

While preparing and applying for such roles, don't forget to look out for some of the common red flags, as there are quite a few scammers out there who promise to get you a job in exchange for a token amount. Beware of such fraudsters, as they can scam and dupe you out of your hard-earned money.

Q: What Is the Difference Between a Technical Interview and a Normal Interview?

In a technical interview, you're asked questions about your technical skills and knowledge that are important for you to do your job, such as data structures, algorithms, programming languages, or specific technologies. You may also be asked to complete a coding exercise or whiteboard problem.

In a normal interview, you're asked questions about your experience, education, and soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Basically, the employer is trying to find out what makes you stand out among other applicants and whether you are the right fit for the company. Simply put, you may be good at the role itself, but not the right candidate for that particular company.

Q: How Long Is a Technical Interview?

How long your technical interview lasts depends on the company, the position you're applying for, and the experience you have. On average, however, most technical interviews last between 30 and 60 minutes. If you're applying for a senior position or the interviewer is trying to get an in-depth understanding of your skills and abilities, you can expect the interview to take a bit longer than expected.

How to Ace Your Technical Interview

  • Open access
  • Published: 14 May 2024

Situational simulation teaching effectively improves dental students’ non-operational clinical competency and objective structured clinical examination performance

  • Ju-Hui Wu 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Pei Chen Lin 1 , 2 ,
  • Kun-Tsung Lee 1 , 2 ,
  • Hsin-Liang Liu 4 , 5 ,
  • Peih-Ying Lu 3 , 6 , 7 &
  • Chen-Yi Lee 1 , 8  

BMC Medical Education volume  24 , Article number:  533 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

120 Accesses

Metrics details

Appropriate communication with dental patients enhances treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction. Implementing simulated patient interviews courses can improve patient-centered care and reduce conflict during clerkship training. Therefore, this study explored the relationship among student participation in a situational simulation course (SSC), academic performance, clerkship performance, and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) performance.

This study was conducted with a sample of fifth-year dental students undergoing clerkship training. After implementing a situational simulation course to investigate the relationship among participation in SSC, academic performance, clerkship performance, and OSCE performance, a path analysis model was developed and tested.

Eighty-seven fifth-year dental students were eligible for the SSC, and most ( n  = 70, 80.46%) volunteered to participate. The path analysis model revealed that academic performance had a direct effect on OSCE performance (β = 0.281, P  = 0.003) and clerkship performance (β = 0.441, P  < 0.001). In addition, SSC teaching had a direct effect on OSCE performance (β = 0.356, P  < 0.001).

Conclusions

SSCs can enhance dental students’ non-operational clinical competency and OSCE performance effectively. Simulated patient encounters with feedback, incorporated into the dental curricula, have led to improved communication. Based on our findings, we suggest implementing SSC teaching before the OSCE to improve communication and cognitive skills.

Peer Review reports

Effective communication is vital to ensure quality clinical practice. Appropriate communication with dental patients may enhance diagnostic efficiency [ 1 ], support clinical decision-making [ 2 ], decrease dental patient anxiety [ 3 ], increase positive clinical outcomes, and improve oral hygiene [ 4 ], periodontal compliance [ 5 ], and patient-clinician satisfaction [ 6 ]. In a scoping review, most studies presented evidence that supported the use of simulated patients in healthcare training, suggesting it may support the development of clinical competences among students [ 7 ]. Clinical competences encompass technical skills, non-technical skills, and cognitive skills. The core competencies of Taiwanese dental graduates are categorized into operational and non-operational categories [ 8 ], with the latter set encompassing non-technical skills (such as communication) as well as cognitive skills (including decision-making and clinical reasoning), which are essential parts of dental training and practice [ 8 ]. However, 26.5% of the fifth-year dental students performed poorly at interpersonal communication during the OSCE assessment prior to their internship course [ 9 ], suggesting a need to teach patient-centered communication. Enhancing communication skills development within clerkship training facilitated by dental educators is imperative for improving students’ non-technical skills.

A review of teaching and assessment methods in dental practice revealed that educators use a blend of passive and interactive strategies to support communication training [ 10 ]. Interactive pedagogical techniques include role-playing, simulated patient encounters, interactions with standardized patients (SPs), actual patient interviews, small-group activities, and video-based exercises. A systematic review revealed that the fundamental principles for effective communication training encompass active learning strategies, such as incorporating practical exercises, clinically relevant scenarios, self-assessment tools for students, use of videotapes, and involvement of patient actors [ 11 , 12 ]. However, dental school curricula often have insufficient skill-activating programs [ 12 ].

Communication skills can be taught in both simulated and actual clinical environments. However, it is essential to incorporate patient-centered care into dental clerkship education, with simulations emerging as a recommended strategy for imparting safe clinical practice. Educational simulations are typically categorized into four groups: physical, iterative, procedural, and situational [ 13 ]. Situational simulations typically simulate human behavior, emphasizing the attitudes exhibited by individuals or groups within specific contexts. These simulations frequently utilize role-playing to enable students to investigate various alternatives and decision-making processes [ 13 ]. In medical training, situational simulation teaching is an educational approach with structured scenarios and SPs that simulate the essential aspects of a clinical situation so that a student can practice skills and thereby consolidate learning. This approach has been shown to improve students’ clinical competence, helping develop in a safe and supportive environment [ 14 , 15 , 16 ].

There are several learning theories, such as constructivism, cognitivism, experiential learning, active learning, and Miller’s Pyramid, underpinning the design and implementation of simulation-based education [ 17 ]. Constructivism defines knowledge as built upon an existing foundation through interaction between learners and their environment. Experiential learning posit that learning occurs through experience and reflection on action within simulations. Briefing and debriefing activate learners’ prior knowledge by enquiring about their current level of knowledge or previous exposure to similar situations. Debriefing, an essential element in simulations [ 18 ], serves as a tool for improving student performance through reflection [ 19 ].

The process of simulation-based education, which is effective in focusing on outcome-based objectives, includes pre-briefing, simulation, and debriefing [ 16 ]. It has been used to train communication skills and has powerful effects on learner-centered outcomes in health profession education [ 20 , 21 ]. In dental education, simulated patient encounters with feedback may improve trainee communication skills [ 22 , 23 ]. However, SPs tend to be underutilized often due to cost and resource constraints. Furthermore, McKenzie et al. identified the diminishing effectiveness of SP simulation education over time [ 24 ]. Nevertheless, many dental school graduates face challenges in progressing to clinical clerkship, which aims to prepare them for the rigors and realities of independent practice. Dental educators contend that effective communication is a fundamental clinical skill that must be part of the core curriculum. However, communication skills training is often relegated to lectures or passive learning methods, offering limited opportunities for hands-on and skill-based practices [ 12 , 24 ]. Finally, previous studies have recommended introducing doctor-patient communication courses in Taiwan to teach communication skills [ 25 ].

Therefore, the primary objective of our curriculum was to teach dental students to effectively convey medical information to patients while exemplifying the qualities of sensitivity, honesty, and empathy. Situational simulation teaching was adopted in family dentistry courses, and fifth-year dentistry students were invited to participate in the course voluntarily. The present study had two aims: (1) to evaluate students’ performance and attitude toward situational simulation-based learning in improving communication and cognitive skills, and (2) to explore the relationship between students’ participation in situational simulation course (SSC), academic performance, clerkship performance, and OSCE performance.

This study was conducted on a sample of fifth-year dental students during clerkship training. Eighty-seven fifth-year dental students eligible for the SSC were recruited for this study. Most students ( n  = 70, 80.46%) volunteered to participate in the simulations. Before completing their training, all students must participate in a national qualification test administered by the Association for Dental Sciences of the Republic of China. The national qualification test includes an OSCE, a written examination, and a skill operation examination. The test results of the SPs tasks were adopted as outcome variables in this study to evaluate the long-term effects of the SSC. The SPs task station was scored with 12 items, each rated on a scale of 0 to 2, where 0 = did not meet the requirements, 1 = partially met the requirements, and 2 = met the requirements. The sum of the raw scores were then scaled using the formula: raw score/total score × 100. A student was required to obtain 50 points (out of 100 points) to pass the station. Additionally, following completion of clerkship training, tutors of each specialty assessed the participants’ clerkship performances, and an average assessment was adopted as the clerkship performance score. Furthermore, the average score from the first semester of the second year to the first semester of the fifth year of the students was considered as their academic performance score, excluding first-grade scores, as these courses primarily cover introductory science (e.g., general biology, general chemistry, etc.) and liberal arts education. Finally, the clerkship and academic performances were included in this study to explore the potential cause-effect relationship of situational simulation learning. A flowchart of the research process is shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Flowchart of the research process

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital (Approval Letters: KMUHIRB-SV(II)-20,210,057 and KMUHIRB-SV(I)-20,220,047). All the participants provided written informed consent. The clerkship performance scores of students were evaluated by a supervisor at each station, and the supervisors did not know whether the students have participated in the SSC to help reduce bias. The procedures, possible discomforts or risks, and potential benefits were explained fully to the participants involved, and their informed consent was obtained prior to the study. The study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Description of the situational simulation teaching courses

The SSC intervention was designed to train dental students in non-operational clinical competency and considered students’ backgrounds, experiences, and learning environments. The skills selected for this intervention included history taking and information giving, oral appliance instruction, image interpretation, and communication among professionals with SBAR (situation, background, assessment, and recommendation) [ 26 ]. Each group of two students participated in four 25-min scenarios (Table  1 ), which were conducted at the dental clinic (in situ).

The SPs were provided with a comprehensive script outlining the simulated clinical scenarios, including potential responses and questions to be anticipated. The phases of the SSC intervention included preparation, briefing (pre-briefing), simulation activity, feedback, debriefing, evaluation, and reflection. Learners’ engagement in the simulation-based learning process entails a preparatory phase wherein foundational knowledge acquisition is necessary to participate in the simulation experience actively. Subsequently, this preparation was supplemented by a briefing (pre-briefing) session that imparted crucial information encompassing the intended learning outcomes of the session. Following the briefing (pre-briefing), learners proceeded to the simulation-based learning activity, culminating in the feedback, debriefing, and reflective phases.

Participant characteristics

Data on the students’ characteristics, including sex, age, academic performance (average scores from the first semester of second to the first semester of fifth years), OSCE performance (total score) and outcome (pass/fail) from the qualification test, and clerkship performance, were collected from their learning histories.

Outcome assessment of SSC

Entrustment rating scales for each station were developed by the author (HLL) based on Holzhausen et al. [ 27 ]. The entrustment level was rated on five levels: 1 = in co-activity with the supervisor, 2 = the supervisor is present and steps in if needed, 3 = performed with supervision available within minutes and key findings double-checked, 4 = performed with supervision available but from a distance and key findings double-checked, and 5 = performed with remote monitoring and key findings reviewed. The supervisors evaluated the student’s performance in the SSC; if any station was considered level 2, the course outcome was rated as a failure.

Attitude toward SSC

The author (HLL) designed the questionnaire based on literature reviews of simulation-based learning [ 28 , 29 ]. Subsequently, a team of multidisciplinary professionals, consisting of six experts, evaluated the questionnaire for its face validity and implemented any necessary adjustments. The scale consisted of five dimensions: five items related to situational simulation planning, six related to supervision and teaching, four related to improving self-efficacy, five related to interdisciplinary learning, and three related to professionalism. The items were answered using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) points, and the sum scores of each subscale were obtained. The internal consistency of the subscales in this sample was 0.853, 0.903, 0.844, 0.849, and 0.886. Furthermore, students were asked to answer a question regarding their ability to improve after the course.

Statistical analysis

Data were analyzed using the IBM Statistical Package for Social Sciences for Windows (version 20.0; SPSS Inc., Armonk, New York, USA). Statistical significance was set at P-values of < 0.05. The sample characteristics are presented using descriptive statistics. For univariate analysis, age was categorized into two groups (23–24 years and > 25 years) because students above 25 years of age showed a strong desire to be a dentist, as they had taken the College Entrance Examination more than two times or even retaken it after earning a bachelor’s degree from another institution. Academic performance was grouped based on the mean score for univariate analyses when treating them as categorical variables. Differences in sample characteristics, participation in SSC, academic performance, OSCE performance, and clerkship performance were assessed using an independent sample t-test or chi-square test.

To investigate the relationships between participation in SSC (yes/no), academic performance (continuous variable), clerkship performance (continuous variable), and OSCE performance (continuous variable), a path analysis model was developed and tested using AMOS 26. Rigorous evaluation criteria were adopted to ensure an adequate model fit. A χ 2 test was chosen as the statistical test of model fit (α = 0.05). The goodness-of-fit index (GFI), comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) were used to evaluate the model fit. The following cut-off values were used to establish adequate fit: GFI > 0.90, CFI ≥ 0.95, TLI ≥ 0.95, and RMSEA < 0.06 [ 30 ].

Sample characteristics

The sample demographic and performance-related characteristics are listed in Table  2 .

The sample consisted of a higher percentage of males, with ages ranging from 23 to 37 years. OSCE performance scores ranged from 7 to 22 points, while academic performance scores ranged from 70.47 to 91.80 points, and clerkship performance scores ranged from 82.00 to 88.30 points. A majority of students participated in the SSC. Comparisons between students’ participation revealed no significant difference in sex (χ 2  = 2.334, p  = 0.127), age (t = 1.372, p  = 0.0185), and academic performance (t = -1.159, p  = 0.123).

SSC outcome analyses

Table  3 compares SSC outcomes in 70 students who participated.

Among them, 37 (52.9%) passed the SSC course and 33 (47.1%) failed. The course performance outcomes of 35 (50.0%) males and 35 (35.0%) females were not significantly different based on age, academic performance, OSCE performance, and clerkship performance.

Concerning students’ attitudes toward the SSC course, all five dimensions showed positive attitudes. The average sum score of the situational simulation planning subscale was 24.13 (SD = 1.512) points, ranging from 20 to 25 points; that of the supervision and teaching subscale was 29.21 (SD = 1.693) points, ranging from 24 to 30 points; that of the improvement of self-efficacy subscale was 19.47 (SD = 1.126) points, ranging from 16 to 20 points; that of the interdisciplinary learning subscale was 23.89 (SD = 1.732) points, ranging from 20 to 25 points; and that of the professionalism subscale was 14.47 (SD = 1.126) points, ranging from 9 to 15 points. The five subscales were rated fully by at least half of the students (67.1%, 74.3%, 77.1%, 61.4%, and 75.7%, respectively). Table  4 shows the comparisons of the five subscales, which revealed no statistically significant differences in sex, age, and SSC outcome.

The students reported that the SSC effectively improved their communication and comprehension skills (100.0%), ability to apply professional knowledge and skills (92.9%), and empathy and teamwork (81.4%).

Related factors of OSCE performance

The chi-square test revealed that age, the SSC outcome, and the score of clerkship performance had no significant association with OSCE outcome. However, sex, academic performance, and participation in the SSC showed a significant association (Table  5 ).

Related factors of clerkship performance

The independent sample t-test revealed that sex, age, the SSC outcome, and OSCE performance showed a non-significant association with clerkship performance; however, participation in the SSC and academic performance showed statistically significant differences (Table  6 ).

Path analysis model

A proposed path model was constructed based on the results of a literature review and univariate analyses in this study. Figure  2 illustrates the results of the path-analysis model. The model fit to the data was satisfactory, with the following values: χ 2  = 2.493, df = 2, P  = 0.287; RMSEA = 0.054; GFI = 0.986; TLI = 0.965; and CFI = 0.988. The model revealed that academic performance directly affects OSCE performance (β = 0.281, P  = 0.003) and clerkship performance (β = 0.441, P  < 0.001); participation in situational simulation teaching course directly affects OSCE performance (β = 0.356, P  < 0.001).

figure 2

Path analysis model relating academic performance, situational simulation teaching, clerkship performance, and OSCE performance. Standardized path coefficients are presented. Dashed lines represent non-significant paths. OSCE, objective structured clinical examination

The SSC was developed based on simulation-based education. In a simulated environment, learners are required to retrieve prior knowledge from their long-term memory and organize this information to engage in problem-solving (cognitivism). Debriefing and reflection sessions enhance this deep learning process, and lead to development of competency. During the class, learners can share, discuss, and learn from others through collaborative learning (constructivism). The SSC emphasizes active learning over passive methods, utilizing simulated environments to replicate actual clinical setting, with students actively participating and receiving feedback from facilitators [ 17 ]. In this study, all students (100%) who participated in the course reported an improvement in their ability to communicate and understand patients’ needs. After completing the course, all students exhibited positive attitudes toward the course, with positive feedback across all five dimensions (situational simulation planning, supervision and teaching, self-efficacy improvement, interdisciplinary learning, and professionalism). The course encouraged students to identify their areas for improvement and enhanced their overall learning effectiveness. Previous studies have reported that students preferred a kinesthetic learning style involving physical activity, such as simulation, over traditional lectures [ 31 ]. Compared to traditional lectures primarily focusing on knowledge acquisition, the simulation course was effective at enhancing students’ self-efficacy in communication skills and bringing them closer to understanding their professional role [ 32 , 33 ].

Our results also demonstrated that students who participated in the simulation course performed better on the OSCE, and the path analysis model indicated that the course had a direct impact on OSCE performance. In our previous research, we reported that quite a few of the fifth-year students who attended their first OSCE struggled with interpersonal communication [ 9 ]. The present study confirmed that the course improved students’ communication skills, with 85.7% of those who attended the situational simulation teaching course successfully passing the OSCE. This outcome indicates that the SSC could improve students’ non-cognitive skills during the OSCE, addressing the challenges we encountered in the educational setting. The OSCE is a stressful experience for students, and SSC could lead to lower levels of anxiety and improved confidence. Repeated practice and experience have positive effects on OSCE performance [ 34 ]. These findings are consistent with those of previous studies that reported positive evaluations of communication skills programs [ 16 , 22 , 23 , 35 ]. Our faculty have made efforts to promote the development of dental students’ communication competencies and implemented a situational simulation teaching course to provide students with opportunities to learn and practice these skills. Interestingly, students who gained additional experience post-course demonstrated improved performance in the OSCE, even if their performance during the course was not initially high. This study also found that students’ prior academic performance had no association with their SSC outcomes. However, participation in SSC had an impact on their OSCE performance. This indicated that the opportunities to be exposed to more authentic environments provided by SSC enabled students to engage in experiential learning and develop competency, regardless of variations in their prior knowledge and achievements [ 17 ]. Moreover, our study found significant sex differences between OSCE performances in the chi-square test, which is consistent with the results of some previous studies [ 36 ], but inconsistent with those of others [ 9 , 37 ]. However, in the path analysis, these differences were not significant. This evidence suggests that the influence of sex on OSCE performance is not as substantial as that on the SSC. Specifically, SSC can mitigate sex differences in OSCE performance. Previous studies [ 36 ] have suggested that educators consider sex-specific teaching strategies to address differences between male and female students. However, this study found that the SSC eliminated sex differences.

The path analysis model revealed that participation in SSC had no impact on clerkship performance, possibly because the clerkship score adopted in this study was the average score assessed by various tutors, each with differing standards across different specialties. Moreover, clerkship training encompasses operational skills, medical knowledge, and non-operational skills, whereas, SSC teaching primarily focuses on non-operational aspects. Conversely, students’ academic performance prior to clerkship directly influenced both their OSCE and clerkship performance. According to Miller’s pyramid of clinical competence, the academic performance of students is represented at the lowest level of the pyramid by “knowledge”. The assessments conducted in SSC and OSCE measure students at the “shows how” level, while clerkship performance represents the highest level of the pyramid by “does.” As students progress from novice (bottom) to expert (top), their learning trajectory should evolve accordingly [ 38 , 39 ]. The Miller’s Pyramid is suitable to explain our research findings. Although academic performance showed no association with SSC outcomes in our study, it directly impacted students’ performance at the mid (OSCE) and top level (clerkship). Participation in SSC improved the OSCE performance, as both assessments were at the ‘shows how’ level. Previous studies underscore the importance of a robust knowledge foundation during OSCEs: the more knowledge students possess, the better they tend to perform [ 40 , 41 ].

This study had certain limitations. Firstly, the sample size was restricted to a single university class size; secondly, there may have been a selection bias, as students who volunteered for the study might have had more interest in innovative teaching activities than those who did not. Given that majority of students (80.5%) chose to participate in SSC, there were insufficient students to serve as a control group in this study. Thirdly, due to the inadequate sample size for exploratory factor analysis, we were unable to assess the scale’s construct validity. Nonetheless, student engagement has been shown to promote better learning outcomes. Therefore, further studies involving larger sample sizes or across multiple colleges are needed to investigate these issues among dental students comprehensively.

SSC can enhance dental students’ non-operational clinical competency and OSCE performance effectively. Simulated patient encounters with feedback in the dental curricula have led to improved communication. Based on our findings, we suggest implementing SSC teaching before the OSCE to improve communication and cognitive skills in dentistry trainees.

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available because of the regulation of KMUHIRB but are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Abbreviations

standardized patient

situational simulation course

objective structured clinical examination

goodness-of-fit index

comparative fit index

Tucker-Lewis index

root mean square error of approximation

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funds from the MOE Teaching Practice Research Program [PMN1100556] and Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital [KMUH-110-0M71]. The authors thank the Center for Medical Education and Humanizing Health Professional Education in Kaohsiung Medical University.

This work was supported by the MOE Teaching Practice Research Program [PMN1100556] and Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital [KMUH-110-0M71]. The funders have no role in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Ju-Hui Wu, Pei Chen Lin, Kun-Tsung Lee & Chen-Yi Lee

Department of Dentistry, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ju-Hui Wu, Pei Chen Lin & Kun-Tsung Lee

Center for Medical Education and Humanizing Health Professional Education, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ju-Hui Wu & Peih-Ying Lu

Graduate Institute of Adult Education, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Hsin-Liang Liu

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Peih-Ying Lu

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J-H.W. and C-Y.L. wrote the main manuscript text. P-C.L., K-T.L., H-L.L., and P-Y.L. contributed to the investigation, project administration, study methodology, and conceptualization. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Wu, JH., Lin, P.C., Lee, KT. et al. Situational simulation teaching effectively improves dental students’ non-operational clinical competency and objective structured clinical examination performance. BMC Med Educ 24 , 533 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-024-05546-4

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-024-05546-4

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