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Techniques to Ace a Competency-Based Interview - Career Strategies Series #7

Let’s drill down to the nitty gritty of presenting yourself in the best possible light during competency-based interview.

What is the purpose of a competency-based interview?

  • Behavioral or competency-based interviews allow interviewers to see how you would demonstrate specific behaviors/skills in their
    workplace. They allow interviewers to see how you have used your skills and experience previously and to get an idea of how you approach challenges or tasks in situ.

What value does a competency-based interview add for the employer?

  • Competency-based interviews offer insights into your preferred style of working and give a sense of how you would deal with situations in the future.
  • By asking candidates the same questions, it levels the playing field for candidates so no unfair advantage is given to one candidate over another.

How can you use the competency-based interview approach to your advantage?

  • This is your opportunity to provide evidence of your own skill and/or experience as it relates to the role.
  • With a well thought out example, you can demonstrate:
    • the positive approach you took to resolve an issue
    • the steps you took to consider the wider needs of the situation and the other people/projects that might be impacted
    • how you understand your own limitations and recognize the point at which compromise is needed; and
    • that you will look for help when appropriate, ensure that problems do not escalate into stressful situations, and learn from each experience.

What are the core competencies associated with leadership?

  • There are a multitude of competencies that can be associated with effective leadership.
  • Reading the role profile and gaining an insight into the nature of the role will give you an insight into the competencies which are of most importance to this employer.
  • Employers may also share their competency framework as part of their interview communication confirmation.
  • From our experience, clients are always interested in the following competency areas:
    • Leadership and Influencing
    • Strategic Planning
    • Delivery of Results
    • Resource Management
    • Change Management
    • Stakeholder Engagement (internal and external)

Make sure you know the difference between giving an example of your leadership experience versus your ability to manage a team. This is a common error and one that can easily be avoided.

What does good preparation look like?

  • Put aside time to prepare solid examples of your experience across the different competency areas. At senior leadership level, it is expected that you will have a number of different examples to share with the panel.
  • Put the work in. Prepare in the same way you would if your company’s future was on the line.
  • Think about what it would mean to be in the role you’re going for. What role will this job play in delivering against the company’s strategic objectives? What skills and experience will you need to draw from to be successful when appointed?

How can you put structure into your responses?

To help deliver a succinct and impactful response, build your examples around the STAR-ER framework: 


  • Situation – begin by giving a brief overview of the context of your example.
  • Task – describe the challenge/task you were faced with.
  • Action – explain what action you took, and how and why you took that approach.
  • Results – what was the measurable outcome? What did you accomplish?

Secondly, companies are increasingly interested in:

  • Evaluation – having had time to evaluate your approach, what could you have done differently? How would the outcome have differed?
  • Reflect – having reflected on the experience, what have you learned from it? What would you do differently in the future?

Top Tips Summary

Prepare and plan your examples but do not learn by rote. You need to be able to communicate your experience authentically, demonstrating you have the interpersonal skills necessary to engage effectively at leadership level.

  • Have a few different examples up your sleeve to demonstrate the breadth of your experience and its relevance to different situations. 
  • Listen to the question. Answer the question asked NOT the question you’d like to have been asked.
    • If you did it, say you did it – don’t let your role/actions get lost in translation by describing it in terms of “what we did”. Use “I” not “we” to describe your experience.
    • If you didn’t do it, don’t take credit for it. Find a different example.
    • If you don’t have an example of the experience the interviewer is looking for, say so and then walk them through how you would handle it if put into that situation.

Check out the other insightful articles in our Career Strategies series

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Strategies for an Intentional and Successful Career Move Booklet 2022

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