In this section
How to prepare for a competency based interview
If you're a candidate that's been invited to a competency interview, you may be feeling a bit anxious as to what exactly this is going to entail. So in this short guide, we'll tell you exactly how to prepare for one.
What is a competency based interview?
Firstly, a competency interview is just a posh term for an interview where you'll be asked questions like, 'Can you give me an example of when you have...', rather than theoretical questions like, 'what would you do if...'. All you need to do is to really know what you've done and to understand your career.
Also known as a structured, situational or behavioural interview, the recruiter will likely be marking you on each question with a score of 1-5 or 1-10. The more detail and structure you can inject into your answers, the more chance you’ll have of succeeding at competency-based interviews.
The reason so many employers use competency questions is that the best way to judge potential future performance is to assess the past.
So what's the best way to prepare for it?
To make the most of your preparation, set aside a dedicated two-hour session with your CV, a pad, and a pen. This focused approach allows you to delve into your professional history, thoroughly reviewing each role you've held.
During this session, jot down specific examples of situations where you demonstrated key competencies sought by the prospective employer. Highlight instances where you exhibited leadership, problem-solving abilities, teamwork, adaptability, and any other relevant skills. Be sure to quantify your achievements whenever possible, emphasizing how your actions contributed to positive outcomes or improvements in your previous roles.
Additionally, consider how your experiences align with the specific requirements of the job you're interviewing for. Tailor your examples to the competencies listed in the job description, providing concrete evidence of your suitability for the position.
By dedicating this time and attention to preparing for a competency-based interview, you'll be well-equipped to respond confidently and effectively to questions, leaving a lasting impression on your potential employer.
Using the STAR method to answer interview questions
While preparing for competency-based interviews, you might consider using the STAR method, which is a simple, structured way to answer any behavioural question. STAR stands for:
- Situation: Set the scene for your answer, where were you, what had happened, who were you working with on a solution?
- Task: Describe what the point of your task was. Here you’ll outline your intended outcome. So, if a client was threatening to walk away, your task would have been to get them back on side and remain your customer.
- Action: Explain what you did. Make it clear what your role was and how it related to the people around you.
- Result: What happened? Be clear about the good result and highlight the benefits that came from it.
Your interviewer will get a clear understanding of your competency if you use this STAR method to describe, in detail, an experience/project you were involved in successfully at a previous job.
The STAR method will help you come across as analytical, organised and confident, and will put an extra gloss on what might already have been a positive experience.
Scoring highly at competency based interview
To give an example, let's just say that customer service is the attribute. You'll be asked a question such as, 'Can you give me an example in the last 12 months when you've gone beyond the call of duty to provide exceptional customer service?'.
What the interviewer will then be doing is gathering evidence from your reply and scoring against that, normally on a scale of one to five, sometimes out of a scale of one to 10. It's important that you really do articulate that well and ask for acknowledgement of that. 'Would you like some more information on that?' or 'Is there anything more I can go into on that example that's going to help you?'.
The more you ask questions like that, the more information you give, the more evidence they gather, the higher you will score.
Typically, an interviewer will be looking at somewhere between five and eight competencies during a competency-based interview, maybe a couple more for managerial roles.
So good luck with the competency interview. Don't be daunted by it!
Example competency based interview questions & answers
1. Tell me about a time you were decisive?
A colleague went on sick leave for three weeks, leaving a key account vulnerable. I suggested to my manager that I’d take over the client while my colleague was away. He agreed.
I asked team-mates to help with some of my low-service clients while I spent time with this larger client, winning and fulfilling his order. The client remains with the business to this day.
2. Tell me about a mistake you made and how you dealt with it?
I once won two orders but gave dispatch the wrong addresses; I mixed them up. I had to correct the problem without angering the clients. I called both clients and sent them new shipping labels to forward the items on to each other and offered both a discount on their next order.
They were both understanding and appreciated my goodwill gesture. And both came back and used the discount offer on another order.
3. Tell me about a time you showed dedication?
There was one month when our sales team looked like it was going to miss its targets. We were asked by our boss for ideas to rectify the situation. I decided to stay late after work, off my own back, to draw up a list of clients who had not purchased from us in a while but who had left us good reviews. The idea was to get in touch with a 15% discount offer.
We won enough business over the next 48 hours to reach our target comfortably.
4. Tell me about a time you resolved a conflict?
There was this unfortunate time a colleague and I argued over how to market a product. We didn’t speak for a week unless it was imperative for business. I knew this could not continue and that I had to resolve it.
I invited him to lunch, paid for his meal, and apologised for my part in the disagreement. I outlined how we both wanted what is best for the business, and it was reasonable that we might have different ideas.
It worked a treat. My colleague apologised in return and, if anything, we worked much closer together after that.
5. Describe how you once displayed leadership?
Our sales manager was away at a conference and uncontactable. Our department was approached by a prospective big client requiring a fast-turnaround sales proposal.
Our task was to produce the proposal or we’d lose a potentially big sale. So, I called my colleagues together, outlined the situation and organised a brainstorm for ideas and figures. We then agreed on a four-slide presentation to send back to the prospect that night.
Everyone pulled together, and we sent the email out. The client came back the next day and accepted.
My boss returned two days later and thanked me for taking the initiative with the team. He made me his official deputy after that!
Date published: 23rd November 2022
Submit your CV
Take the first step towards your new role today
With hundreds of jobs available, now is the time to look for your perfect position
by Rob Scott
About the author
From our blogRead more
Our employers say...
Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.
Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment
Really good service. Just the right amount of contact and easy to deal with.
HR Manager, Zircon Software Ltd
As always we were extremely impressed with Rob's understanding of the role and our specific needs.
Managing Director, Speck & Burke
George is a rare find in the world of recruitment - communicative without being pushy or over-bearing. He listens and understands what the customer needs as gets to know the business to ensure he provides fully competent candidates who fit.
HR Manager, Big Dug
I could not suggest anything I would like you to do better. The service you provided materially exceeded my expectations. I would especially like to commend Simon Bonner; he is easily the best recruitment consultant I have ever dealt with. I particularly valued his advice and guidance throughout the recruitment process.
UK Sales Manager, BTS Holdings Limited
We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.
Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management
I really liked the YouTube presentations which made the service seem both simple and accessible. The company came to see me, and my management team, at short notice to present their service and I liked the support and advice that I received about maximising the results from the applicant.
Managing Director, Leisuresec plc
Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.
Managing Director, Medicash
Understood the type of person we were looking for and good follow ups - not too frequent.
Managing Director, bigHead Bonding Fasteners Ltd
In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.
Sales Manager, TR Fasteners
Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.
UK Sales Manager, Nexcom
We appointed Aaron Wallis in February and the successful candidate, out of the six which Aaron Wallis introduced, was able to join Alphametrics before the end of April. The whole process took less than three months. I would recommend Aaron Wallis' services to others without hesitation.
Chief Financial Officer, Alphametrics
Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.
Sales Director, Inside Business
Very professional service and will certainly be in contact for future recruitment.
Director, Blakedown Sport & Play Ltd
George came recommended by a colleague and has been a pleasure to work with. He was great at updating us on his progress and ensured a great experience for both client and candidate.
HR Manager, Annapurna Recruitment Ltd
I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.
HR and General Manager, THK
Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.
Marketing Director, City of London Police
I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!
Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd
Sophie did a great job at understanding our business and our needs, she is extremely professional and we hugely benefitted from her experience and expertise.
HR Manager, The Data Privacy Group Ltd
I can't fault Sam or AW! Sam was a pleasure to work with and provided great support from the start. Sam always provided me with timely updates when required and provided outstanding candidates!
Director, Waste Managed Ltd
I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.
HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd
George is a joy to work with, and I'd recommend him to anyone seeking that unicorn hire - he found me mine, and I'm delighted!
Director, Education Support
Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.
Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International
I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.
HR Business Partner, Greene King
Thank you for your dedicated help during the recruitment process - we came to you after unsuccessfully searching elsewhere, and hired, not one, but two! Quick response times, and a really personal approach, without being pushy.
Managing Director, Accora Ltd
Rob’s knowledge of the recruitment industry and his thoughts and how to make it better for his clients have always been eye opening. I would recommend Rob to anybody who is looking for a professional, knowledgeable and flexible recruitment specialist.
CEO, Friday Ad Online Services
Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.
Commercial Director, G4S Government & Outsourcing Solutions
Our candidates say...
The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!
A. Callaby, Candidate
George Humphries was a complete professional at every point, from our first phone conversation to his “good luck tomorrow” text on Sunday before I started in my new role.
E. Fry, Candidate
Rob was really helpful when I was putting together a presentation for the second stage interview. Overall their communication was great and kept me updated of any progress
J. McGrattan, Candidate
Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with he was supportive really quick at replying and really put me at ease.
J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate
The detail put into the preparation for interviews and the detail of the job description was first class. Rob and Simon in particular are amongst the best I've ever dealt with.
K. Peacock, Candidate
Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.
R. Sealy, Candidate
Simon was knowledgeable on his clients history, background and what their requirements were and he worked around time zones, holidays and a pandemic to get the right result.
J. Tooze, Candidate
The staff at Aaron Wallis were fantastic. Throughout the process, they maintained excellent communication and I always knew where I stood.
M. Owusu, Candidate
Darren at Aaron Wallis was really encouraging and helpful. He was very responsive and regularly made phone calls to explain the job opportunities available, and guided me through the application process.
A. Brown, Candidate
I had the absolute pleasure of working with George Humphries on finding a placement best suitable for me.
A. Van Der Mescht, Candidate
I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I definitely recommend.
J. Ostermeier, Candidate
Sophie has been fantastic and always so attentive, highly recommend.
T. Ashbourne, Candidate
For anyone looking for work, I can't recommend Aaron Wallis highly enough.
C. Rockliffe, Candidate
Managed to get me placed within a week! Really friendly and easy to deal with. Always available for a call and my biggest challenge was I was in work at the time I was looking for my next opportunity (which is stressful) but Sam made that easy.
P. Fitzsimons, Candidate
Fantastic service, helped me find my ideal job quickly and smoothly. Would highly recommend them.
C. Caine, Candidate
I would highly recommend Aaron Wallis Recruitment, Darren was extremely helpful and provided me with plenty of advice and support throughout the whole process.
D. Bretherton, Candidate
Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.
M. White, Candidate
I have to say using Aaron Wallis Recruitment has been nothing but an absolute pleasure. I've used many agencies over the years as the client and the candidate and its not always been a pleasurable experience!
L. Knowles, Candidate
Good swift process with Aaron Wallis, informative regarding the role and the process was moved at a good pace with healthy interaction. Would recommend them to anyone pursuing a change.
S. Bartlett, Candidate
I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!
D. Burgess, Candidate
The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.
L. Colagrossi, Candidate
Sophie helped me secure a new role I have been searching for. She took her time to explain clear and concisely all I needed to succeed at the interview stage. Thanks again Sophie!
O. Oladejo, Candidate
Sophie contacted me about a role explained the details clearly and made sure I was ready for the interview. She kept in touch every step of the way till I started the job. Thank you Sophie for a great experience.
S. Powell, Candidate
Professional and responsive from start to finish. I would highly recommend. Special thanks to Sophie J for her help and support throughout.
N. Leney, Candidate
I had a great experience. Helped me every step of the way to get my new job. Sophie was very polite, kind and helpful!
J. Parnham, Candidate
Sam was by far the most professional and helpful of any individual I've ever dealt with through a recruitment agency. He was supportive and thorough throughout the process. He definitely goes the extra mile for you. A pleasure to deal with. I would highly recommend him. An asset to Aaron Wallis
M. Wyer, Candidate
Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.
R. Speakman, Candidate
Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)
K. Everitt, Candidate
I would highly recommend thank you to Darren for helping me secure my new job role! Excellent service all round!
G. Thompson, Candidate
Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with.
J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate
George is a fantastic recruitment agent and provides a great service. It was a pleasure I thoroughly recommend George to anyone.
C. Beaugie, Candidate
A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!
A. Bauchet, Candidate
Perfect from start to finish. Simon deserves a shout out. Best recruiter there is. If you need a job, this guy will get you one. He's like the super man of recruiters. Top man, can't recommend him enough.
M. Crisp, Candidate
Friendly, proactive, communicative. Overall a really positive experience.
R. Houston, Candidate
Excellent service, very professional and friendly, would and have, recommended Aaron Wallis.
E. Heley, Candidate
Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.
R. Buckley, Candidate
Very polite and friendly and was very helpful finding me my next new role.
K. Craggs, Candidate
Less than two weeks after joining Aaron Wallis I was offered my new job. I got a £10,000 rise in my basic salary, car allowance, a laptop and many other perks, which will help to further my career. I definitely would not have found my dream job without the help of Aaron Wallis.
C. Hoy, Candidate
The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.
D. Bermant, Candidate
George above and beyond to make sure I had everything I need to secure my new role. Outstanding Professional.
A. Kirkland, Candidate
I can honestly say that the time and expertise you gave me was way beyond any other recruitment consultant I dealt with. You are a rarity in your industry.
S. Akers, Candidate
Excellent experience. Knowledgeable staff and really went the extra mile. Found my ideal position and I couldn't be happier. Special shout out to Sam and George: who made the process smooth and easy for me. Highly recommend.
K. Pearce, Candidate
When talking with Simon you felt relaxed cared to help you find a position that suited your needs
D. Pinder, Candidate