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  • Sandra Laws - Career Coach

How to Answer Competency-Based (Behavioural) Interview Questions

There are a some candidates who absolutely dread the competency-based (behavioural) interview questions and conclude that these are the bane of their job search. Today I am going to walk you through four steps to confidently answer a competency-based (behavioural) interview question.

What is a Competency-Based Question?

The aim of a competency-based (behavioural) questions is to assess a candidate against the essential competencies for the role. The employer would identify the core skills, experience and abilities required for the role. The interviewer would frame the interview questions on these criteria. For example, the questions might focus on how a candidate would approach challenging situations, problem solving and work tasks.

To effectively answer competency-based (behavioural) question, the candidate would need to provide in-depth real-life examples to demonstrate they meet the essential criteria. The interviewers would score the candidate against specific competency criteria for each answer.

Why Do Employers Ask Competency-Based Questions?

A candidate’s past performance is usually a strong indicator of how they would approach specific work situations in the future.

Job Description & Person Specification

The job description and person specification are the starting points for interview preparation. The job description summarises the context of the role and main responsibilities whilst the person specification is primarily focused on the selection criteria: the skills and abilities, relevant experience, specialist knowledge, education and training.

It is crucial for the candidate to understand the selection criteria for the role and demonstrate how their skills and experience align with the selection criteria for the role. The selection criteria are a key tool that candidates can use to begin preparing their interview answers.

Examples of Competency (Behavioural) Questions

1. Describe a situation where you went beyond the call of duty to help a customer.

2. Give me an example of how you worked in a team

3. Tell me about a time when you failed to deliver a deadline?

The STAR Technique

The STAR technique is an effective method to frame your answers. The formula is an acronym for key steps: Situation, Task, Action and Result. This technique will keep you on track and you will be less likely to go off the topic when answering a competency-based question. This method also helps you to efficiently organise your thoughts.


Briefly describe the situation you had to deal with. Set the scene and background. What was your job title and responsibilities on the situation?


Describe the task that was required to manage this type of situation. What challenges did you face?


Describe what specific action you took to address the situation.


What was the impact of your action on the situation?

The STAR technique provides an easy framework to draft your interview answers. The Action and the Result steps are the most important and require an in-depth explanation of your approach in this situation. Don’t worry if you find it a challenge to remember all four steps during an actual interview. In these circumstances, I usually advise my clients to focus on the themes of achievement and positive outcome when answering these type of questions.

I hope that you will gain some benefits from using this blog post as an important stepping stone in your interview game plan!

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