Competency questions are becoming more common in interviews and can cover various subjects including technical skills, behaviours and knowledge. They’re useful for interviewers because they allow potential employers to understand how you’ve previously dealt with situations, but they’re also a great chance for you to showcase your skills. 

You will be able to identify a competency question by an interviewer asking you for an example of something you’ve done in the past. Usually, this question will begin with a phrase like ‘Describe a time when’ or ‘Give an example of when’. 

If you are being asked a competency question, listen carefully to what you are being asked and make sure the example you give matches the scenario you were asked about. If you’re not sure about the question, don’t just guess, ask the interviewer to clarify for you. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about your answer. 

If you haven’t found yourself in the exact situation the interviewer is describing, think about a time you did something similar and explain that. 

For each example you give, use the STAR technique. STAR stands for: 

Situation: Give a brief description of the situation you found yourself in and any relevant background. 

Task: Describe the challenge you were faced with. 

Action: Explain the action you took and why you did it. 

Result: Describe the outcome of your actions, what you accomplished and what you learned from the situation. Relate the skill you’re describing back to the vacancy you’re applying for. 

Try not to spend too much time explaining the situation or task you were faced with, employers are more interested in your actions, the reasoning behind those actions and what you learned from them. 

It’s also important that when you are describing a challenge you were faced with that you don’t focus too much on the problematic aspects. The last thing you want at an interview is to come across as negative person. 

Take care also to not appear too scripted when answering. While it can be a good idea to practice answers to questions that you think might come up, you don’t want to be so well-rehearsed that you come off as robotic. 

Give numbers or facts in your answer if you can, as figures can act as concrete proof of your achievements. However, make sure you don’t use jargon or overly technical terms where they’re not needed. 

Remember, when carrying out competency-based interviews, employers are looking for two things: someone who will be good at the job, and someone who will fit in well with the rest of the team. Competency interview questions give candidates a fair interview process as they are all asked the same questions and given equal opportunity to shine. 

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