How to nail competency-based interview answers

Posted in Candidates

Posted by Joanne Caine
Published on 24 July, 2018

It’s the interview!

Calm down, you’ve got a foot in the door. In fact, your whole body, so it’s clear your polished CV and attention to detail has paid off. You’ve piqued the company’s interest enough for them to spend time on you. Now’s the time to demonstrate your keen intelligence, clear thinking and bullet-proof strategies to your next employer. It’s time to tackle those competency questions!

The show-off must go on 

You know the score by now. The interview isn’t designed to trip you up or make you look foolish. It’s an opportunity for both sides to try the other out. And there are few better ways to impress your potential employer than with a cool-headed approach to problem solving. This is your chance to step into the spotlight and dazzle the panel with your very best.

Research the company 

Your first step, way before the interview even begins, is research. And we don’t mean finding out how the boss takes their coffee. Go deep into the company background and familiarise yourself with the requirements of the job role. If you’re fully clued-up on what the position entails, it’s way easier to come up with great answers to the hypothetical questions you may be asked. 

Research yourself 

Many competency questions require you to dive into your personal history. Potential employers want solid anecdotal proof of occasions where you’ve excelled in challenging situations. Have a good rummage around your employment history for occasions when you solved problems in the heat of the moment. Competency-based questions tend to follow certain themes:

  • A time where you showed great leadership, worked well with others or considered the needs of your colleagues to achieve a task.
  • A moment where your problem-solving skills came to the fore. This is where the employer needs to see that you can think your way out of a challenge.
  • A question relating to your personal goals and how you achieved them. Your interviewer wants a demonstration of your tenacity, drive and ability to deliver what you set out to achieve. Show them a willingness to succeed!

Extra tip here. Don’t use the same anecdote for all scenarios. It’s unlikely one story will cover all competency criteria. You’ll likely run out of steam trying to tailor the same story to different questions. You need to capture the interviewer’s imagination. You’re unlikely to do that if you keep repeating yourself.

It’s your interview – and you’re the STAR

But how to structure your stories? There’s a tried and tested formula to master your answers. And it’s dead easy to remember. It’s called the STAR system, which stands for.





The theory behind the acronym is that for your answer to pass muster and stand up, it should hit those four requirements. So, think of the situation, the task you were faced with, the action you took and the end result. You’re telling a story with purpose so remember the key details and always have a point.

Competency-based questions needn’t be something to fear. On the contrary, they’re an essential part of the interview where you get to dazzle with your decision making and quick-witted skill set. It’s the edge that can push you past another candidate. So what are you waiting for? Go impress your next boss!


Managing Director

I joined Cathedral Appointments in 1998 to cover a maternity leave and never left. I now own the business and love my job. I've a great team of consultants who work with me in ensuring that Cathedral Appointments provide an excellent service to candidates and clients alike.

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How to nail competency-based interview answers

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