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Worried about how to answer competency-based interview questions? 

Competency questions are an opportunity to leverage your past performance to showcase your abilities for the future. 

There's no need to rehearse soundbites or memorise tales of your proudest moments, but having a few experiences to hand to which showcase your skills in action, can help answer some difficult questions. 

Competency questions are usually open such as "Describe an occasion where you…." or "When was the last time you…". The interviewer is looking for specific moments in your past where you have had to utilise the types of skills that may be expected of you in the role. Competency questions differ from theoretical questions such as "What would you do if a member of your team became confrontational?" and focus on real-world stories "When was the last time you had to deal with a confrontational member of staff". 

Don't panic if you haven't got years of work experience to draw on, if appropriate to answer the question you can think outside the box to demonstrate your skills as a person, rather than solely from a work environment. The skills learnt whilst at university or similar courses are often valuable to draw on. That said, if you have a wealth of experience, try to focus on your most recent experiences. 

The key to competency questions is having a few examples to hand which you can clearly & concisely convey to the interviewer. Our simple 4 point competency question guide will help you get there!

Interview Questions: How to answer competency questions

1. Be Specific

When answering competency questions, pin down a specific situation, the effects, and your own direct involvement. Remember your interviewer is looking for real world examples not theoretical or hypothetical answers. 

2. Be Relevant 

Scour the job description for competencies that you think will be required, then marry these up with concrete examples which showcase these skills. Your achievements and proudest moments will only help you if they are relevant to a competency for the role. 

Potential competencies to look for in your job description include Negotiation, Leadership, Teamwork, Communication, Problem Solving, Time Management, Persuasiveness, Decision Making, Diplomacy, Staying Calm, Handling Difficult Situations, Business Acumen.

3. Be Persuasive

Once you have your competencies and experiences mind, use the STAR technique to structure clear and concise responses. Add specifics to anchor the experience to the real world, and understand the situation, but don't overcrowd with details and backstories of everyone involved. Remember the purpose of the story. 

S. ituation – What was the situation you found yourself in?

T. ask – What was the specific task YOU had to achieve? Were there any pitfalls or barriers?

A. ction – What action did you take?

R. esult – What was the outcome of your action Is there anything you would have done differently? 

4. Stay Positive! Enjoy the opportunity to showcase your skills in their best light. 


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