5 Common Competency-Based Interview Questions with Example Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employers often ask competency-based interview questions to assess candidates' skills, knowledge, experience and behaviour as an indicator of their suitability for the role. These questions can often require candidates to reflect on real-life past situations to provide examples. Learning what to expect from these types of interview questions can help you review your experiences and prepare an effective answer that may impress hiring managers. In this article, we provide examples of common competency questions and example answers to help you understand how to approach the question.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

5 competency-based interview questions with example answers

Below you can explore some different types of competency-based interview questions, reasons why employers ask them and examples of effective answers:

1. What is your most significant career achievement so far?

Professional achievements can indicate your aspirations and motivation to reach your career goals and perform well at work. Reaching career goals may involve long-term planning and commitment, time management and strong performance. Employers may consider candidates with ambitious career goals as valuable employees because it can suggest their long-term commitment to a company. When developing your answer, you can reflect on your career achievements and consider selecting the one that you can break down into detailed steps of the challenges you overcame.
Example: "During the final year of my degree, I sought a journalism internship at a prestigious sports publication because I know it's a competitive field and I wanted to give myself the best chance of securing a job after graduation. There were not many open positions available for interns at the time, so I spoke with many professors and career advisors at my university. I also attended multiple careers conferences and journalism events to connect with many professionals in the industry as possible.

I reached out to my connections in the industry and wrote a letter stating that I was seeking work experience to advance my skills and knowledge. One individual replied, saying that they don't typically take interns, but I could come in one day a week to learn from them and experience what it's like to work as a journalist. I accepted the offer, and after a year of interning at the company, they hired me as a journalist. I think this showcases my commitment to my career goals and achieving something that didn't have a straightforward process."
Related: How to Set Career Goals

2. Can you describe a time when you worked under pressure?

Hiring managers may ask this question for roles that require you to complete multiple tasks simultaneously with strict deadlines. This question can help them understand how you handle stressful situations and your experience in managing a broad workload. An impressive answer might reflect on a high-pressure situation, what exactly was happening and the soft skills you used to overcome the problem and successfully complete the work. You can also discuss the resources and tools that helped you during this time, such as asking for help or prioritising your workload.

Example: "I was an event manager responsible for organising pop up stands and events for a coffee business. During summer, the company attends dozens of events per week to help expose the brands and sell coffee to people at the venues. I was under pressure to organise and manage each of the events simultaneously, where I had to allocate resources, staff, deliveries and communicate with event organisers.

I set up an internal process to relieve the pressure, which involved a structured outline of when I needed to perform each task for upcoming events. This helped me prioritise the tasks and ensure I met each critical component in time for successful events each week."

3. Was there a time when your employer asked you to do something you disagreed with?

It can be important for employers to know how you question instructions that you disagree with, as it can help the company reassess any of its processes that might not be working well. A manager may potentially ask you to complete a task that doesn't feel valuable or you're not comfortable doing. Your response can indicate your contribution to a company and your ability to perform critical analysis and communicate your thoughts. Try to reflect on a time you questioned an instruction at work or a process that felt invaluable and how you communicated this to your employer.

Example: "I was a salesperson for a medical imaging equipment company and met with doctors and hospitals to discuss and sell our products. Our manager set a quote to sell upgraded software versions to 80% of our clients when many of my clients already had sufficient software. I felt that I couldn't keep my clients happy and sell them the upgraded software as they wouldn't value the investment. I explained my thoughts to my manager in a private meeting and they understood my concern but still wanted me to meet the set quota.

Following this, my manager held a meeting with all the sales representatives to hear any other staff's similar concerns. Many had similar thoughts, so the manager arranged additional training on the software to further elaborate on the value of the upgraded software. This training helped us all understand some effective sales tactics while still keeping clients happy with their purchases."

4. Have you ever faced conflict when working with a team?

Conflict resolution can be important in many workplaces that require people to collaborate and work as a team. Employers may ask this question to understand your interpersonal skills and whether you can build healthy relationships, resolve issues maturely and advance the communication within a team. A successful answer might consider your involvement in a workplace conflict, how it affected the work, what you did to resolve it and the conflict resolution result.

Example: "I was a barista at a cafe, and each of the baristas had the same responsibility to clean the coffee machine and take out the rubbish at the end of our shifts. I noticed I was the only one to perform these tasks at the end of each shift, while the other baristas neglected this duty.

I decided to express my concern to the other baristas that were in the team. One responded that they disagreed as they were completing other tasks that they were responsible for that I was neglecting. To resolve the issue, I developed a sheet that outlined all of the closing duties, so we could assign tasks to each barista and create a smooth system."
Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. What is the most significant change within the workplace you've ever had to address?

Companies or job positions can go through changes that require employees to adapt their work styles to fulfil the job requirements. Hiring managers may ask this interview question to understand how you respond to change and adapt to reach your goals. Employers can seek candidates who can pivot in their position to help them manage the changing requirements of a growing company. In your answer, try to determine the most significant change in your work experience and address what helped you adapt to the new environment.

Example: "I was a receptionist and office manager for a small law firm, and I was responsible for welcoming people into the building and managing emergency plans. When the company grew, we moved to a larger office in a new building. From the first day in this new office, I had to instruct people on the new building processes, establish emergency plans and manage operations of working in the same building as other businesses.

I was still learning everything about the building myself, so this change meant that I had to adapt first and learn the processes before communicating them to the team. I decided to shadow the primary building receptionist for the second morning, so I could understand the building thoroughly and deliver informed knowledge to our firm."

Answering technique for competency-based questions

The STAR method is essentially a technique you can use to answer many competency-based interview questions. The STAR technique refers to four steps you can take when answering competency questions. How you structure your answers can be crucial when responding to your potential interviewer. The STAR method usually ensures that your answer is informative and clear to understand.

These are the four steps you might take when preparing a competency-based answer using the STAR method:

  • Situation: The first process of the STAR method is to explain a situation or experience that relates to the question. It may be more relevant to mention a specific situation instead of a general duty or responsibility.

  • Task: The next step is usually to describe your role in the scenario. You can describe your responsibilities and the goal you were working towards.

  • Action: In the action phase, you can provide the steps and thought processes you took to overcome the challenge. You may also provide details of your contribution to the scenario.

  • Result: The final step of the STAR method is usually to describe the result of the situation. You may address what you might have learned and accomplished during the event.

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