Tacking Competency based interviews – How to structure your answer during a competency based interview

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Tackling competency-based interviews

Competency based interviewing, also referred to as situational or behavioural questioning is a style of interviewing often used to evaluate a candidate’s key competencies. More and more companies are using this style as part of their selection process as it can give valuable insights into an individual’s preferred style of working and helps predict behaviours in future situations.

the STAR technique

Using the STAR technique is a great tool to help you structure your answers.

Set the context for your story / describe the situation

What was required from YOU.

What YOU actually did (not we). This section is very important – this is where you will really highlight your skills and personal attributes. Remember to go into detail but do not waffle and drift off the main point.

What was the final outcome? Take this opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you learnt. Remember to use an example where the outcome was a positive one!

Remember to approach each question as if you were recalling a story with a definite start, middle and end. The answer you provide doesn’t have to be the most creative / innovative but just be specific.

See below a typical competency based question and how the answer has been structured using the STAR approach.


“Describe a situation where you implemented change”


Stage 1 / Situation
“When I worked for FLIXO I noticed the business had a no clear system for handling customer complaints. The average complaint was being resolved within seven working days and this was having an impact on our overall customer experience, reputation and in turn resulting in lost revenue.”

Stage 2 / Task
“I tasked myself with putting together a system to reduce the complaint handling time”.

Stage 3 / Action
“I documented the existing process used to deal with complaints. I interviewed the complaints team, gathered their views on the process and how they thought it could be improved.

I completed a workflow process map and identified where the delays were occurring and where most time was being spent.

I then designed an improved process map and alongside this developed a business case clearly outlining the benefits of implementing this action.

I investigated the causes of the complaints, examined the systems in use and cross referenced back to other Customer Relationship Management models and software I have used elsewhere.

I presented my business case to my manager, outlining the causes of the delays and my proposed solutions. I demonstrated how the new processes would work and what the expected outcomes were.

I achieved successful signoff and I implemented the new process successfully. Throughout I communicated with all stakeholders, overcame obstacles and stayed focussed on the end objective”.

Stage 4 / Result
“I’m pleased to say that I delivered the new system on time and within budget and as a result, the team can now address 100% of complaints within 2 days. It’s a great achievement and one which I am very proud of.”

The STAR approach is an excellent tool for structuring your answers and when practiced is invisible to the interviewer. It’s a good idea to prepare a bank of answers for each competency to ensure you fly through the process on the day. You will find plenty of examples of typical competency based questions online so take the time to surf the net and aid your preparation.