Tips for Answering Competency Based Interview Questions

We’re increasingly seeing employers using competency based interview questions rather than the standard interview questions that you might expect. Competency based interviews are sometimes referred to as behavioural interviews, and involve asking questions that focus in on certain skills and behaviours such as leadership ability or risk taking. Employers believe, and research shows, that using competency based interview questions gives you a clearer understanding of an employee and how they would perform within the company.

The key to answering competency based interview questions is to come up with a situation, describe the action you took and then explain the outcome. Take a look below at the different topics that could be covered and a number of example competency based interview questions.


“Describe a situation where you’ve led your team by example.”

If you’re interviewing for a management or supervisory position then expect to be asked about leadership competencies. Even if it’s not a management position you may still be asked about leadership abilities too, as they might be looking for a future leader, or someone who will excel in a group. Think of tangible examples, key moments in your career where your leadership has really set you apart from the rest. You’re essentially looking for a story that the interviewer will remember.


“Give an example of a time when you had a number of options to choose from, but you didn’t believe any were quite right. How did you make the decision?”

Decision making is integral to most roles. When you’re questioned about your decision making, hiring managers are trying to see whether you’re motivated by your instincts and decide quickly or take time to weigh up the options before deciding. Don’t try and second guess what you think they  might want to hear, just be honest about your approach. There is no official right or wrong answer,  however they will likely have a preference based on the culture of the company and needs of the role.


“Describe a time you communicated effectively in a difficult situation.”

Good communication skills are key to any role where you’re required to work as part of a team, so you’ll almost certainly be asked a communication competency question. Here is your chance to show how well you can deliver information, and how you can keep your cool and speak with confidence and conviction in challenging situations.


“Share a teamwork experience you found rewarding.”

Another skill that is of course key to most employers is teamwork. To demonstrate what a great team player you are, you need to describe what you did and the way in which you did it. Have a number of teamwork scenarios that you can call on, focussing on ones where you had different roles, so it shows that you can be a leader directing the action but also a cog in the bigger machine.

Problem Solving

“Describe a time when you had to analyse a problem and generate a solution”

Problem solving is an important factor in most roles as employers are looking for people who can think independently and always find a way to work through the challenges that inevitably come along. Your answer should demonstrate how you can effectively sift through information and come to resourceful and considered conclusion.


“Can you tell me about a time when you took an innovative approach to solving a problem?”

You don’t need to be applying for a creative role to be tested on your ability to innovate. A person who can see the problem then come up with a creative solution to solve it is invaluable. Make the answer to this question a memorable one, so you can stand out from the crowd when it comes to that final selection.

You should prepare for competency based interview questions just as you’d prepare for standard interview questions. Of course it’s difficult as you don’t know what competencies they’ll hone in on or the scenario you’ll be given, but running through a few practice questions in advance will help get you in the right mindset to make a fantastic impression.

Here at Optimum Recruitment Group we specialise in the recruitment of Accountancy, Finance and Human Resource professionals across the Yorkshire region. Let us help you find the opportunity you’re looking for, call 01904 208065 or email


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