Imagine you have an interview and you’re asked to talk about a time when you solved a complex problem.

What do you think the interviewer really wants to assess? With questions that start with ‘Tell me about a time when…”, the interviewer is trying to evaluate your competency for the role.

These types of interviews are called competency-based interviews. In a competency interview, you have to elaborate on your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Find out how you can best answer competency-based interviews questions with examples and helpful tips.

  1. What Are Competency-Based Interviews?

  2. Using The STAR Method For Competency-Based Interviews

  3. Refine Your Interview Skills With Harappa

What Are Competency-Based Interviews?

Competency-based interviews are types of interviews where you’ll be evaluated on your ability to tackle future challenges based on past experiences.

These interviews are common when there are many candidates competing for the same role—like college placements. It’s a skill-based interview to quickly determine whether you’re fit for the role. Competency interview questions are targeted at specific skills—like communication, problem-solving or creative thinking. So, you should always try to answer in a way that highlights these skills.

Here are some characteristic features of a competency-based interview:

  1. The competency interview measures how well you can perform based on past behavior. If you came up with creative solutions to a problem, you’re more likely to be a valuable addition to the organization.

  1. The interview is structured because the interviewer has a list of criteria against which they evaluate your skills. How well you answer each question determines your success rate.

  1. Some of the skills that competency-based interviews questions target comprise leadership, communication, conflict resolution, decision-making and teamwork.

  1. The interviewer is looking for specific, situational answers that highlight particular skills. So, quantifying your answers will help you drive the point home.

  1. Most competency-based questions start with “tell me about a time when…” or “describe a situation…”.

It’s important to align your answers to the job profile. Each aspect of your interview process has been put in place to evaluate your fit. So, even for competency-based interviews questions, try to talk about skills that you’re proud of. You can even discuss situations where you weren’t successful, highlighting what you learned as a result.

Using The STAR Method For Competency-Based Interviews

The most widely-accepted method for competency-based interviews questions and answers is the STAR approach—Situation, Task, Action and Result.

The STAR method is a structured way to approach competency-based questions. The interviewer wants to know what you did in a particular situation and what was the result. To make sure that your answer is succinct, clear and specific, you can adopt the STAR method.

Let’s take an example to understand how to answer these types of questions:

Interviewer: Tell me about a situation where you overcame a setback.

Candidate: In my previous role, I was responsible for making client presentations for product launches. There was one presentation where I accidentally populated the wrong numbers, affecting the final sales figures. To make the deadline, I didn’t review the presentation thoroughly enough, which didn’t sit well with the client. I immediately recognized my mistake and approached my manager to discuss solutions. I acknowledged my error, ran the numbers again and went to the client with the right information—this time, approved by my manager.

My oversight taught me that it’s possible to make errors with routine tasks. Ever since that incident, I pay attention to detail, picking out the smallest inconsistencies to make sure that everything’s in order. I give myself enough time to finish well before the deadline.

The candidate used the STAR method to explain a situation where they handled a setback. They explained the Situation and Task clearly—making presentations and pitching to clients. The Action was to populate the wrong data and the Result was almost losing a client. Talking about what they learned from this experience is a great way to convey that you’re willing to grow.

Refine Your Interview Skills With Harappa

Learn how to highlight your competencies and skills in an interview like an expert with Harappa’s Ace The Interview course. Our course is designed to teach you how to answer common interview questions, how to come up with answers on the spot and helpful tips to tackle situational questions. Remember, practice makes perfect—and what better way to practice than with self-paced, online learning to track your progress and measure your success!


Explore topics such as General HR Interview Questions, What are the Common Questions to Ask an InterviewerHow to Follow-Up After an InterviewExit Interview Questions and Answers & How to Answer Panel Interview Questions from Harappa Diaries and crack your next interview.

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