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How to ace competency-based interviews

Competency based interviews are often neglected by Universities, this is rather concerning as it is often an interview technique used by many companies. Therefore, when students leave university and are invited to an interview, it can seem rather daunting.

What is competency-based interview?

Well, it really is literally in the word, competency-based interview. But, let’s see what the experts have to say:

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) defines competencies as “the behaviours employees must input into a situation in order to achieve high levels of performance”.

So, what does the definition above really mean? Well, your past behaviour or experience will be placed under the microscope to determine your values, personality, behaviour. The outcome from this is used to predict how you will behave in the future – this is why it is important! Recruiters are looking to understand your ‘fit’ in their business.

Benefits of competency-based interview

  • Well, the most obvious benefit is standardisation. The process allows, recruiters to have a scoring system which they can compare candidates by.
  • Competency based questions require candidates to dig deep into their memory – well perhaps, not that deep. Anyways, the process requires retelling your experience in an articulate manner to demonstrate the required competence. This makes it difficult for a candidate to be deceptive and sound authentic.
  • The fact that competency-based interviews are based on a particular competence allows employers to understand your ‘fit’ for their business culture. It also allows employers to understand your potential i.e. based on your previous achievements

Negatives of competency-based interview

  • They can be quite stressful, often candidates will rehearse for hours only to find that the scenario does not come up. Or, they end-up rehearsing too much they sound phony and unoriginal
  • Failure to prepare will definitely lead to a candidate getting caught out, the nature of competency-based interview means lack of preparation will leave you sounding unclear


Tips & tricks to help you

Whilst, I can’t attend your interview for you, here are some tips I have learnt over the years,

  1. Research the company, current news, controversial matters and even your interviewer if you can! Do your homework! This is really important and has huge benefits. A key benefit of this is ‘confidence’ and trust me this is like fuel in your car. If you get this right not only will you come across as natural, but you will also come across as authentic.
  2. Research the company’s value and culture. It is likely that the questions will stem from these value and cultural sentiments. Thus, helping to prepare you. Ensure you have genuine scenarios prepared and make notes from them.
  3. Not all stories are right: Ensure you have few scenario’s not all stories will be right for the competency in question. And, trust me I have selected some awfully wrong stories which left me in an utterly shy state. The wrong story, is likely to dampen your confidence and lead to incoherence and waffle.
  4. Use a technique to structure your response, the ‘STAR’ model is often chosen.

‘STAR’ Model

It stands for:

  • Situation: brief explanation of the situation should account for 10% of the time it takes to answer the question. Basically, set the scene!
  • Task: well, this is where you explain what was required from you! Again, try not to waffle. Again, about 10% of your time
  • Action: This is where you earn your ‘bread and butter’ so to speak. Well, you get what I mean. I need you to really, ensure you are clear and concise, use adjectives. This is where you state what you did to achieve or resolve a problem. I suggest spending 60% of your time here.
  • Result: You must always, I repeat, always have a result! And, result isn’t just numbers or target related. But, what did you actually learn! Reflection – how can you improve? This is a crucial part of the question, it’s the last part. Imagine, going for meal, it was amazing and just before you leave the waiter makes a rude comment – it leaves a bad taste. Anyways, I am divulging, you get my point. Spend approximately 20% of your time here.

Well, that’s it guys! Make you practice but stay authentic. This is really important, as the company needs to be right for both parties, yourself and the client. To help ensure you remember how important it is, below is an image of Loki – not sure any knows the real him.

Anyways, before I leave, I want to share some articles with you to help you prepare.


  1. the Guardian. (2019). Using the Star technique to shine at job interviews: a how-to guide. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Sep. 2019].
  2. (2019). Competency-based interviews | [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Sep. 2019].

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