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Ask a Recruiter: What are competency-based interview questions and how should I prepare for them?

Published on: 22 Jun 2018


What are competency-based interview questions and how should I prepare for them?

Potential employers use competency-based questions as a tool to better understand you as an individual. Through your past experiences and actions, interviewers are able to judge whether you possess the qualities they are looking for and gauge your cultural fit for their organisation. A competency-based question may start as follows: "Give me an example where you..." or “Describe the most difficult/rewarding..."

This type of question can seem daunting at first - it requires a well thought-out and detailed answer. However, it is also a key opportunity for you to convey who you are and how you work. You must utilise this time to present your achievements and emphasise your ability to be self-analytical. At Shirley Parsons, we recommend using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model to ensure you always answer concisely, clearly, and include relevant information.


Briefly explain the situation you were in. This should be a short description, it could be: ‘During my degree’ or ‘Whilst deputising for the Health and Safety Manager…’


What did you have to do and what were the success criteria? Be clear about your role and contribution.


This is the most substantial part (around 50-70%) of any example. Include what, why, and how you did something, and what skills you used.



What happened as a result of the actions you took? What would you do differently or improve? How did you impact the overall task? Ensure you highlight positive change!

We recommend having a few up to date examples to hand emphasising your leadership skills, teamwork and problem-solving abilities.  In addition to these, ensure you attend interviews prepared with example answers that highlight specific skills being sought in the job description. Even if you have to think on your feet, be pragmatic – the STAR method won’t let you down!

Rachel Corbett is a Consultant at Shirley Parsons.  Rachel specialises in recruitment in the Manufacturing and Executive Search industries at Shirley Parsons. T:  01296 11323    E: