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Competency based interviews aren’t just a trend that employers are using (like those thinking outside of the box questions such as how to fit an elephant in a fridge!). No, a competency based interview is a great way for an employer to gain an understanding of how you think in certain situations related to the workplace and the role you are going for. The great news is… they work well for you too! How you ask? Keep reading!

Firstly, let me explain what employers are looking for by asking these questions. By asking these questions the employer is looking for you to provide a specific example of a situation from your own experience and explain how you reacted to it. They want to know what you did and what the outcome was. Remember to be specific and avoid terms such as “If this happened…” “I would always give…”

The ideal answer will be in this format:


Give context to the example, so talk about when, where and what the issue or event was.


Explain the task that was involved, i.e. what needed to be done in this situation either as a team or as an individual to resolve the situation.


This is probably the most important part of the answer because this is where you elaborate on what you did. Remember to focus on your actions specifically. If the situation included a team, describe your individual action.


Lastly, to close the answer you need to provide the result. What was the outcome of the situation? Were the customers happy? Is it something you can learn from? Something you were recognised for? Numerical results tend to go well here as you can show exactly what you did.

So why is it a great thing for you?

A competency based interview is your chance to shine! The employer only has a certain amount of time to establish whether you can fit into their company and into that role. With this in mind, candidates often prepare for questions about the role and the company and may forget to prepare situations based on personal experience. The competencies that will be asked will be in relation to the role and what skills it will require.

Although you will not know exactly what they will ask, you may be able to predict the competencies they will be based on. Research the role, read the job description and adverts, and pull out the important skills. The competency questions will quite often ask you to demonstrate how you have previously used these skills ,

Then prepare situations where you have demonstrated these skills. Use real situations that have happened in the past from work, college, training courses or sports teams. This lets the employer see what you would do and how you react to situations.

Being prepared will help you perform well at interview and will give you confidence as you won’t be sitting there racking your brain trying to think of an example and then just saying the first thing that comes to mind.

Emily Murphy is a HR and recruitment professional who loves helping people start their careers.



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