Competency based questions: 3 Ways To Tackle

You’re likely to be poised with a variety of different questions during you interview; even those with the most experience of the interview process often get caught off-guard with some of the questions they receive. 

Whether it’s your past experience, your reasons for applying or what you can bring to the position – your potential employer wants to find out as much as they can about you. 

As well as your personality and skill-set, your potential employer will want to know how you deal with different scenarios in the workplace; and they’re likely to ask you about this during the interview. 

These questions are known as: Competency based questions. 

Competency based questions review how you deal with situations regarding conflict working in a team, dealing with sudden changes, achievements to date or overcoming stumbling blocks in your own ability. For example: 

  • Can you describe a time where you had to deal with conflict within a team? 
  • Have you ever had to deal with criticism on a piece of work? How did you respond? 
  • How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?
  • When have you had to make a decision that was not in favour of your colleagues? 

With these answers, your potential employer will be able to gather your personality traits as well as strengths and weaknesses. 

If you find it difficult to approach such questions, we’ve got three ways that can help you tackle competency based questions with success. 

Do your research 

Unless you’ve had experience of competency based questions at interviews, you’re not likely to expect them. However, if you’ve had questions that ask you describe how you dealt with a situation then they’re likely to arise in your next one. Competency based questions for those with the least experience can be tricky, interviewers will take that into account. 

Having said that, they will be interested to see that if you were in that position, how you would deal with such situations. A good idea is to go through the job description thoroughly and asses all of the roles and responsibilities to get an idea of the tasks involved, as well as the environment. Look at the keywords and the skills, as these are what your potential employer will look at and plan questions accordingly.  

Use the STAR technique 

The STAR technique is a popular method for tackling situation-based questions. For the STAR-based questions,  you split the your answer into four
sections. These sections are the following: 

  • S : Situation – Describe the context or background of the situation.
  • T : Task – Describe the task you were challenged with. 
  • A: Action – Describe how you dealt with the challenge or task. 
  • R: Result – You will describe the result of the scenario you had to adjust to. Describe what you accomplished and what you learned. It’s a good idea to relate what you learned to the job you are applying for and why it’s useful. 

Try not to go into too much detail about the situation you are trying to describe, avoid the details if necessary. 

Develop a story for each competency 

It’s beneficial to get into the habit of developing a story for each question. As mentioned before, you may not be at the stage in your career where you have had previous experience, but being able to provide examples of potential scenarios will leave you in good stead. However, ensure that your answers do not sound scripted or rehearsed. Try to do the following: 

  • Keep a positive tone throughout.
  • Don’t focus on negatives or criticise others.
  • Emphasise how you contributed to the successful outcome.

Your preparation for situation-based questions, will not only prepare you for the interview but it will also help when you’re faced with similar situations in your day-to-day working life. 

Good luck!