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"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. He actually took the time to understand me and made an effort to match me with companies that were suited to my skills, experience and values."

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Example competency-based interview questions

Competency-based interview questions are designed to test candidates' capabilities to carry out your role - requiring them to demonstrate how their previous experiences position them as an appropriate candidate. If you're still shortlisting candidates, look at our tips on shortlisting.

We've made this guide on how to style your interview questions to ask candidates to respond in a way that illustrates their experiences - or lack of. So here's how to make your sales recruitment campaign so much easier by asking questions like these. 

Structure for competency-based interview questions

Your questions need to be worded so that they ask for the candidate to draw on previous efforts - so anything that begins with:

Can you give me an example of...

Can you describe a scenario when you have...

Or, as an example where the competency you would like to gather evidence upon is detailed to the interviewee, i.e.:

"We now want to turn to Customer Service, can you detail a recent example of when you have delivered excellent customer service" and laddered with questions such as "what happened? What was the outcome?", etc.

Choosing whether or not to detail on a specific competency can help or hinder, depending on what you wish to know. If you choose not to, a candidate can show initiative by discussing experience relevant to the role - or reveal they lack it by relying on irrelevant histories. However, if the role is diverse or the candidate has a lot of experience, defining the question parameters can allow you to dig into a candidate's specific experience.

It's up to you to choose the best method. We've also included a list of example questions below.

Example competency-based interview questions:

Questions on personal competencies & behaviours

How are you a self-starter? Give me examples to demonstrate this?

Tell us about a time recently when you have had to deal with a difficult situation at work? What was the situation? Who were you communicating to? How did you go about it? What was the outcome?

What behaviour will you have to change to succeed in this role? Why do you need to change this behaviour? How will you ensure you don't slip back into adopting this behaviour?

Tell us about a recent occasion when you were under pressure and handled it successfully. What caused it to be a pressurised situation? How did you approach it? What did you do specifically to ensure success? What have you learnt about handling pressurised situations?

Give me an example of when you've lied in the interests of your job? Would you do this again? What did you learn from the experience? Would you encourage others under you to lie in the interests of their job?

How have you coped when you have felt anger at work or been in a conflict situation?

Describe how you plan. How do you stick to the plan? What can possibly distract you from sticking to the plan?

What example can you give me of when you have been out of your depth? How did you cope?

Questions on leadership competencies

Give an example of when you have made a decision you didn't want to make? What happened? What was the message? Who were you communicating to? How did you go about it? What was the outcome?

Tell us about a crisis or unplanned event that happened and the response of your team? What made this incident a real crisis? What were your first thoughts? What specifically were you able to do to contribute to resolving the event?

Tell us about a training session you have designed and delivered. What preparation did you do? How did you decide on the content? How did you deliver the training? What was the result? How did you measure the impact of your training?

Tell us about a time when you have had to set standards? What standards did you set? What areas did you consider when setting the standards? What impact did the standards have on your business and/or relationships?

Tell us about a time when you have been a role model to the team. How did you set an example for others? What impact did you have on others as a result of setting the example? What was others perception of you as a role model?

What initiatives have you deployed to ensure that your team meets their objectives and targets? How did you measure your team to ensure they meet the objectives and targets?

How have you handled criticism from one of your team members? How have you coped with a conflict situation with someone who reports to you?

Questions on sales competencies

When did you last experience a low point in your sales career? Describe what happened and how you overcame this challenge?

What were you selling? Who were you selling to? Describe the sales cycle and the value of your sale. What objectives and targets have been set in the last two years? What was your actual performance? What were your greatest achievements in this position? What did you like and dislike about this position? What have you learnt from this position and why?

Give a recent example of when you've had to make a quick decision in response to a client problem? Who did you consult? Were you pleased with the final decision that you reached? Could you have made the decision yourself?

How competitive would you say you are? Give me an example of your competitive nature? Have other factors motivated you to succeed?

How do you measure your own performance? How do you motivate and develop yourself? Give examples of how you lead when you personally are not successful? How did you maintain enthusiasm and energy?

How to competency-based interview

Example of a competency-based interview form

Use the following competency-based interview form to guide your process:

Good luck with your competency-based interviewing, and we hope that this short overview helps you make the right hiring decisions.

Published: 21st December 2021

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About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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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

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