Competency Based Interviews – How to be Successful

January 07, 2014  |   Career Coaching Blog   |     |   0 Comment

When they are told they will be having a competency based interview many of our career coaching clients start to panic because they do not know what to expect.  However in reality these types of interview are easier to prepare for than others.  This article explains how competency based interviews work. It gives you an example of a typical set of competencies and tells you how to prepare. By following this career coaching guidance you can be confident about the interview and give yourself the best chance of getting the job.

How Do Competency Based Interviews Work?

Competency based interviews are also referred to as situational, behavioural or criteria based interviews. So what are they all about?  Well many employers have looked at their job roles and analysed what behaviours they think people need to demonstrate in order to be successful in them.  These behaviours are referred to as sets of competencies.  A common example of a competency would be ‘Results Orientation’ which is a measure of the ability to achieve results.  More examples of typical competencies follow shortly.  In a competency based interview the candidate is asked to give one or two examples of where they have demonstrated a particular competency.  So the aim of the interview is to look for examples of the actual behaviour, rather than ask about how you might deal with a particular hypothetical situation.  We tell our career coaching clients that success in a competency based interview comes from having considered the competencies that are likely to be required in the job and making sure you have examples of them prepared beforehand.

Which Competencies Might Be Used?

Although employers spend a lot of time, and sometimes money, in creating their own competency set, the reality is that although the names of the competencies may vary a bit, the actual competencies used are fairly similar.  So for example the same competency may be referred to as ‘Results Orientation’ or ‘Drive for Results’.  Clearly different jobs require different competencies and the first thing to do is consider what the expected competencies may be for the job for which you are being interviewed.  To assist you the list below is one we provide for our career coaching clients. It contains the fairly common competencies in use. Just pick the ones likely to be most relevant to your job:


  • Drive for Results
  • Team working
  • Decision making
  • Courage and Conviction
  • Problem Solving
  • Planning and organising
  • Communication
  • Inter-personal Skills
  • Impact and Influencing Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Commitment to the Customer
  • Creativity
  • Tenacity
  • Resilience
  • Technical (these are the technical skills required to do the job)


We advise our career coaching clients that often organisations, particularly public bodies will be happy to send the competencies they will be using at the interview.  So if you know you are going to have a competency based interview ask for those that will be used in advance.  Where this is not possible make sure you have the job description.  It is fairly easy to look at the responsibilities of a job to guess the competencies that will be used.  So if the job includes the management of others it is pretty likely that you will be asked for examples of how you lead people.


What to Do When You Know the Competencies

Once our career coaching clients have the list of competencies we look through their CV for examples of where they have shown each one. Then write each example out in the CAR format, the letters stand for; Context (the situation),  Action, Result.


As an example of this we’ll use the competency of Drive for Results.


  • The Context may have been; the company needed to increase its sales of side orders with main meal.  I was asked by my Director to find a way of increasing sales within one month.
  • The Action may have been; I arranged a meeting of our outlet managers to come up with ideas. Within 48 hours we devised a simple sales training programme for staff, backed up by an incentive scheme. Rather than wait for printers we devised a simple set of notes and incentive rules which we got out that week. In the following week we trained the staff and launched the incentive.
  • The Result may have been; we found a way of increasing sales and implemented it within two weeks. As a result of this initiative sales of side orders grew by 55% over the next three months.


Write your examples out in this format and practice them. By using the CAR approach you will have an easy way of structuring your answers so they are easy to follow and understand for the interviewer. As a guide spend 30 seconds on the Context.  Spend up to two minutes on the Action and 30 seconds on the Results.  It is very important that you highlight the action and results; this is evidence of your strength in a particular competency. This may sound a lengthy process but it has worked well for our career coaching clients.


The interviewer will take notes of your answer to each question and after the interview has finished your answers will receive a rating for how well you have shown evidence of the competency.  The rating is normally from 1-5, with a 0 given where no evidence of the competence was given.  Your scores will be added up and then compared to those of the other candidates.


In our career coaching practice we say that the key to success is preparation.  Establish the competencies that are likely to be used in the interview. Prepare and rehearse two examples in the CAR format of where you have shown each of the competencies. Then when you attend the interview you will not have to worry about, for example finding a good example of leadership, you can focus on presenting your answer well.  Your preparation will enable you answer each question and bring out the actions you took and the results you achieved. This will get you a high interview score and a good chance of a job offer.


If you want help in preparing for an important interview you can find more details of the services we offer on our career coaching page.




Tony Goddard



Key words; Career Coaching, Career Coaching Clients, Career Coaching Guidance, Competency Based Interviews, Career Coach, Career Coaching Company, Career Coach, Career Coaching Services, Career Coaching Provider

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