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How To Answer Competency Based Interview Questions

How To Answer Competency Based Interview Questions

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Competency based interview questions (also known as situational interview questions) are one of the most commonly used interviews questions you will come across regardless of your industry sector.

These are the types of interview questions where the interviewer will ask you to discuss a specific example off where you have demonstrated some type of behavior in your previous experience.

Related: How To Answer 7 Of The Most Common Interview Questions

Competency based interview questions are also a favorite of government organizations across the world as they are meant to be homogeneous in nature and can therefore be scored using standardized systems.

Whilst, on the face of it, these questions appear to be relatively straight forward, there are some important points to remember when considering your answer.

These are:

1. Structure your answer properly.

The best way to structure your answer is by using what is commonly referred to as the STAR method / format.

STAR stands for:

S – Situation – What was the situation you / your employer faced?

T – Task – What tasks were involved in that situation?

A – Action – What actions did you take?

R – Result – What were the results of those actions?

Using the STAR method when answering competency based interview questions achieves two very important things. Namely, keeping your answers succinct and making it as easy as possible for the interviewer to score you highly by being able to pick out key information easily. It also allows particularly strong candidates to discuss their achievements in a very specific and detailed way.

Using the STAR method for answering interview questions is definitely something that gets easier with practice over time. Very few people, in my opinion, are able to nail the answers first time so don’t worry if it takes you a while to get the hang of it! As with most things in life, the more you practice the better you will become.

2. Keep it brief.

Another important point to remember when answering competency based interview questions is to keep your answer succinct. There is a tendency when you find yourself under some pressure in the interview (especially if you are being interviewed by a panel) to go way off on a tangent and you start rambling on at length about something you think is connected to the answer. Bad idea!

Try to remain calm and remember that the interviewer is looking for a detailed, brief answer.

I always try to visualize what my answer would look like if I were to write it down. Your answer should be a maximum of a couple of sentences (if possible) for each of the points in the STAR method.

3. Think selfishly.

What I mean by that is that you should always remember to contextualize your answer giving your own personal experience and what effect you had as an individual. Stay well clear of using the dreaded ‘we’ in your answers. This is most definitely a pet peeve of most interviewers. You should always be thinking of how you can shine a light on your own strengths and work in some of the best stories of your career to your answers.

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About the author

Chris Morrow is a Job Search Coach who runs his own online education business called ‘ChrisMorrow.Careers.’ Chris coaches job seekers from all over the world on how to become successful in the job market. Chris also hosts a successful YouTube vlog series called ‘Job Search TV.’ Visit Chris’ Facebook page or check out his website here.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.

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Chris Morrow Chris Morrow is a Recruiter and Job Search Coach who runs his own online education business called ChrisMorrow.Careers in Sydney, Australia. Chris’ background is in the IT & Digital Recruitment sectors having spent the past 11 years working in both the UK and Australia. Chris is passionate about helping job seekers from all over the world to improve their chances of success when looking for a new job. Chris is particularly passionate about helping moms return to work and job seekers over 50.