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Answering competency based questions in an interview

Competency based questions, also known as behavioural or situational questions, require candidates to provide real-life examples as the basis of their answers.



Employers use these questions in interview to enable candidates to prove their ability in handling certain situations that would be fundamental in the role.

Interviewers using competency questions are likely to probe for further details during your responses this is to ensure you are providing as much substance to your answer as possible. Always make sure you provide concise, highly specific answers that are well explained and detailed to really demonstrate your ability in this competency.


Use of the STAR technique is helpful in guaranteeing you have sufficiently answered competency-based questions.


Situation: Describe the situation you were in. This provides a context to your answer e.g. whilst working as a Residential Conveyancer at my current employment.

Task: Describe what task was required of you. Explain what it is that you had to do, and what the goal was; if you are talking about a team situation make sure you are concentrating on what your specific role was. 

Action: Tell the interviewer what action you took. This is the most important part of the question: ensure to include what you did, why you did it and what skills you developed through this process.

Result: Conclude by describing a positive result of that action. Remember to relate it back to the original competency.

If you find yourself struggling to think of an experience/answer related to the competency which is relevant to the question asked, give a hypothetical answer and describe what you would do if a similar situation were to occur in the future and how you would handle it.

Questions may be asked about a past failure. For these questions, use an example that caused minimal harm, and that was easily resolved. Employers ask these questions to provide an opportunity for you to showcase that you can develop from negative situations and be held accountable for them. Ensure for the ‘result’ aspect of the answer you outline what you have learnt and how you would act differently in a similar situation.

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