Competency Based Interviews

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Most job seekers fear competency based interviews, but I think they’re easier to navigate than traditional interviews. A critical component for success is an in-depth understanding of the STAR technique, as this provides a clear structure to answer competency questions. You must perfect the STAR technique, but it’s worth considering these important points too …..

“WE” are heading for failure, but “I” can save you - Many job seekers fail to use the word “I” during interview. This can be due to a lack of understanding about the importance of the word. However, a bigger challenge is uncomfortableness talking about ourselves, using the word “WE” instead. You’ve got to address this!! When an interviewer hears “WE” they can’t assess your contribution/behaviour/action, which means they can’t score you.

Strong examples, and more than one – Many jobseekers cut corners with their example selection, often using the first example that springs to mind. Take time to find your best examples. Identify backup examples for each competency, because it’s tough trying to find examples during interview.         


Forget friendly smiles – Expect a cold and clinical experience during competency based interviews, with no smiles, no friendly chat, and a rigid structure. This is normal, so don’t let this distract you!! The interview panel have to follow a strict process/format.

Embrace interruptions – Many job seekers mistakenly think interruptions represent a tricky/difficult interviewer. The interviewer isn’t being difficult, or trying to trick you out, but is more likely being helpful. Interruptions during your answer could mean that you haven’t provided enough evidence, or perhaps used the “WE”. The interviewer is giving you a second bite at the cherry.

Jump the final hurdle – Expect interviewers to ask probing questions at the end of each answer e.g. “What did you learn?”

Energy and enthusiasm – Deliver your answers with energy and enthusiasm. A positive personality shouldn’t come into play during a competency based interview, but it’s hard for interviewers to completely block this out.

Expect the unexpected – It’s rare that you’ll face a pure competency based interview, except perhaps when applying for public sector or HSE jobs. Prepare answers for common interview questions, the questions you’d normally face during traditional interviews.



Paul Mullan is founder of Measurability, a leading Irish outplacement and career coaching service. Visit for information about outplacement services, CV writing or interview coaching.