When you’re in the middle of an interview, you might be asked what’s known as competency based questions.

Competency based questions can sound a little scary as they are so involved. However, they are just a way for employers to make sure you know what you’re talking about – complete with detailed explanations.

Here are some general examples but please review the role specification or responsibilities so you can apply them to the specific job with relevant examples:

 Q: Describe a situation where you have worked as part of a team to achieve something.

What they’re looking for:

  • Evidence you can work as part of a team
  • Evidence you’re able to make a contribution on an individual level
  • Analytical skills. Reflecting on a work-based task, can you learn from the experience and apply this to your career?

What you might say:

“During peak season at Argos I worked with my store colleagues to meet branch sales targets set by head office. It was important that all members of the team were positive and remained enthusiastic even though the shop was very busy. I contributed by meeting all of my personal targets and helping my colleagues close sales. I learnt that helping out team members rather than simply focusing on my own goals improves productivity and makes for a happier work environment.”

  1. Describe a situation where you implemented change.

What they’re looking for:

  • They might not have spelt it out, but this isn’t just a matter of describing a situation – you need to link it back to your key skills.
  • Evidence of some of the following skills: planning and organisation, working with people, diplomacy, negotiation, communication, analytical, people management, problem solving.
  • Evidence you’re a proactive employee who wants to make a contribution to the business. Show them you take your work seriously and care about the companies who employ you.

What you might say:

“I implemented and managed a formal work experience programme at my last company. As a result, we attracted young talent and found new recruits for junior roles which saved the company the high costs of advertising and wide interviewing. The scheme gave young people the experience to help them make career choices and improve their CVs while providing us with good quality work at a very low cost. I used my organisational skills to plan a busy summer placements schedule and put together a welcome pack to make sure the individuals were well-looked after and to promote the benefits of the company to them.”

  1. Provide an example of where you overcame a problem. Given the chance, what would you do differently?

What they’re looking for:

  • Details of your problem solving skills.
  • Evidence you can analysea situation, come up with the right solution and implement it well.
  • Don’t get carried away with how well you performed. Good problem solvers should be able to learn from their experience and recognise that there’s always room for improvement. Show them you’re good but also that you can be even better.

What you might say:

“I was responsible for sending the company’s new brochure to print but our managing director requested significant changes to the design at the last minute and I knew that it would not be possible to meet the printers’ deadline. I had built a strong relationship with the printing company so my first move was to give them a call and explain the situation. It was agreed they would hold off for a few hours but I knew this would still not give the designers enough time.”

“I then spoke to the designers and together we worked out what had to be changed and what was quick to change. I approached my managing director and explained that certain amends should be left as their significance was disproportionate to the late fees we would incur. Having secured his sign off, the designers focused on the main issues and we were able to send the brochure to print without being penalised.”

 Q: Describe an achievement that you are proud of and tell us why. What did you find challenging?

What they’re looking for:

  • An idea of what motivates you and what you value.
  • You might think you lack the awards and prizes necessary to impress but remember examples in your private life can be relevant. The scale of your achievement will also reflect your level of work experience.

 Q: Tell us about the biggest change you have had to deal with. How did you adjust to it?

What they’re looking for:

  • Evidence that you’re comfortable with change. The significance of your example will be important here.
  • Evidence of adaptability

 Q: Tell us about a time when you went against company policy? Why did you do it and how did you handle it?

What they’re looking for:

  • If you’re happy sticking to company rules
  • Evidence you can deviate from the rules in a professional way
  • Throw in communication, diplomacy and negotiation skills if possible!

 Q: Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a conflict within your team.

What they’re looking for:

  • Team skills, diplomacy, empathy, conflict management
  • To know if you back away from arguments or take a leading role in resolving them

How have you answered questions like this before? Let us know how you feel about these types of questions in the comments below.

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