Competency Based Questions

Competency or “structured” interviews are based around questions that help an employer learn more about your knowledge, skills and attitude.  They are very often the stereotypical questions that we think of when we recall attending a professional interview.  

One of the most important aspects of a successful competency interview is the ability to support your answers with examples, therefore preparation is key.

In thinking about how to answer a competency question, the four-step STAR approach will help you to successfully structure your answers:

Situation: brief description of the situation, eg where were you working, who with

Task: brief description of what you were doing, the job you were set

Action: what did you specifically do

Result: what was the outcome and why was it great!


An example may be:

“Can you think of an example of when you solved a problem?”

A STAR answer could be:

“I am very good at solving problems because I am able to remain calm under pressure and work through the issue.  I demonstrated this in my last role at x, where I worked as a x.  Part of my role was to manage the client database.  We had a problem where the database failed one day and all uploads for the day were lost.  I worked through to understand the time of the last upload and then contacted all client facing staff to let them know and ask them to re-input any data that they input after this time.  I asked them to contact me when this was done to ensure that all had received the communication and I could check their input.  The data was re-input and the database complete.”


Competencies and Practice Questions:


Tell us about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you cope with it?


How do you ensure compliance with policies in your area of responsibility?


Describe a time when you had to win someone over, who was reluctant or unresponsive.

Describe a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer or client.

What positive and negative feedback have you received about your writing skills? Give an example where one of your reports was criticised

Conflict Management

Tell us about a time when you felt that conflict or differences were a positive driving force in your organisation. How did handle the conflict to optimise its benefit?

Creativity and Innovation

Tell us about a time when you had to convince a senior colleague that change was necessary. What made you think that your new approach would be better suited?


Give me an example of when you had to make a difficult decision that impacted others


How do you cope with having to go away from the office for long periods of time (i.e. holidays). Explain how you would delegate responsibilities based on your current situation.


Describe a situation where you started off thinking that your approach was the best, but needed to alter your course during the implementation.


Give us an example of a decision that you sought senior support in order to make


Describe a situation where you needed to influence different stakeholders who had different agendas. What approaches or strategies did you use?


Give us an example of when you were asked by a senior colleague to do something that you were not happy with.  How did you manage the situation?


Describe a project or situation where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.

Organisational Awareness

Describe a project where you needed to involve input from other departments. How did you identify that need and how did you ensure buy-in from the appropriate leaders and managers?

Resilience and Tenacity

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career. How did you overcome it?

Risk Taking

Give us an example of when you made a risk - based decision

Team work

Give us an example of when you worked as part of a team to deliver a project

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