Competency Interview

What You Need to Know about a Competency Interview

A good indicator of how an individual will react to a specific situation is how they have reacted in the past to the same situation, which is the basic premise of the competency interview.  Being prepared for possible questions with intelligent and meaningful answers could be the catalyst that gets you the job you desire.

The interview process

Garnering a job interview is, in itself, an accomplishment.  It means that the employer has carefully reviewed the technical skills, work history and references of every candidate, and has determined that you are one of the most qualified individuals for the position.  The employer’s job now becomes much more difficult.  From the pool of applicants, he or she has likely chosen a handful that are considered to be the cream of the crop and from which one will be offered the position.

A great deal can be learned from an applicant’s resume and cover letter.  However, the employer needs to know that the individual chosen will have the desirable traits and characteristics to deal with specific situations they may encounter on the job.  Face to face contact during the interview is one way to determine an individual’s suitability.  Conducting a competency interview is another method that is becoming increasingly popular to ensure the competency of the potential employee.

What it is

In many cases, an individual can have the technical qualifications for a job, but their mindset and attitudes may preclude their ability to perform it well.  Competency based queries can disclose behavioral aspects of a potential employee before they are hired.  A sample question might be, “Describe a situation when…,” followed by a situation or event that the candidate will likely have encountered in their past experiences.  It may be drawn from the individual’s personal life or from their work history.  After sharing the experience, certain questions are asked to draw out the behavioral traits, such as:

The competencies that are being sought could include conflict management, decision making, delegation, customer service, participation or communication.

How to prepare

Not only does the employer’s job become difficult during this process of narrowing down candidates, so does the part of the individual being interviewed.  It is crucial to prepare before the competency interview so that you are able to provide intelligent, well versed and revealing information.  The first step is to know what the new job would entail and how your qualifications match the requirements.  Make a list that details what you feel the requirements would be; for example, communication skills, teamwork or leadership.  Then carefully think back in your job experiences for situations that would match those requirements, and compose answers as to what you did, why you did it and what the outcome was.  They do not always have to have had positive outcomes, as negative outcomes can be regarded as learning experiences as long as the individual adapted to the .

While composing your information, look for any points that might provide negatives against you.  Employers like to see individuals who face challenges with a “fix it” attitude as opposed to resistance.  They also appreciate employees who seek help when it is needed and those who volunteer to help others.


Be prepared to answer offshoot questions from your responses.  Employers will often ask you to expand on your answers, or may ask about your feelings.  Take a few moments before answering to make sure you provide a good response.  Be honest; your face, tone and responses will likely show if you are insincere.

It is good to consider the competency interview as being a means of displaying your desirability as an employee.  If you are confident in your qualifications for the job and are well prepared for this type of query, there is a good chance that you will be the candidate who is offered the position.