Competency based questions

By Riche Rees | Oxford Knight

Blue and white background with many question marks

For technical candidates technical skills matter most. However, this is not always the case, especially in smaller start-up companies where entrepreneurial flair, team fit, client management, communication and invocation matter.

Here is some basic insight into how to prepare for competency based interviews, along with example competency questions. However, for more detailed advice and advance questions, please get in touch with us here at Oxford Knight… We really do have some targeted material that can really make the difference between landing that dream job, or not.

Good luck,

In order to prepare yourself, review the job description and the technical competencies listed. Think of different questions the interview panel could ask to assess each of the competencies. For example if the position requires “Knowledge of Project Management,” you could anticipate that a question may be:

  • What are the key steps in managing a project? OR
  • Name two common project management models and describe them.

Conversely, if the position requires the “Ability to manage projects” a question like this one may be asked:

  • Describe a recent project that you managed.

In this case you will likely want to go a step further and reflect on different projects that you managed and what your specific role was. You will want to be as specific as possible. The STAR principle can help you to fully explain your example:

  • Describe the Situation;
  • Give details on what you had to do – Tasks;
  • Give details on Actions you have taken;
  • Describe the outcome (or Result) of the situation.

As there are endless questions to assess competencies, the more questions you ask yourself, the better prepared you will be. Try to think of a variety of questions with different phrasing. You may find it beneficial to write out your answers.

In most cases the technical competency questions will not be provided beforehand. So during the interview, think about the example questions you prepared ahead of time and you should have plenty of relevant information to share with the interview panel. However, sometimes you may be given technical information to prepare ahead of time. If so, please ensure you review this information and arrive at the interview ready to share your complete response.
During the interview feel free to ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand something that is asked of you. Keep in mind that your answers should be succinct and to the point, and that you should speak clearly. The interview panel may probe you if they require additional information.

Adaptability

  • Tell me about a time when you changed your priorities to meet others’ expectations.
  • Describe a time when you altered your own behaviour to fit the situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to change your point of view or your plans to take into account new information or changing priorities.

Client Focus

  • Give an example of how you provided service to a client/stakeholder beyond their expectations. How did you identify the need? How did you respond?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a client/stakeholder service issue.
  • Describe a situation in which you acted as an advocate within your organization for your stakeholder’s needs, where there was some organizational resistance to be overcome.

Communication

  • Describe a situation you were involved in that required a multi-dimensional communication strategy.
  • Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required extensive communication.
  • Tell me about a time when you really had to pay attention to what someone else was saying, actively seeking to understand their message.

Organizational Awareness

  • Describe the culture of your organization and give an example of how you work within this culture to achieve a goal.
  • Describe the things you consider and the steps you take in assessing the viability of a new idea or initiative.
  • Tell me about a time when you used your knowledge of the organization to get what you needed.

Problem Solving and Judgment

  • Tell me about a time when you had to identify the underlying causes to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you had to analyze a problem and generate a solution.
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a problem or make a decision that required careful thought.  What did you do?

Results Orientation

  • Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a goal.
  • Tell me about a time when you improved the way things were typically done on the job.
  • Describe something you have done to improve the performance of your work unit.
  • Describe something you have done to maximize or improve the use of resources beyond your own work unit to achieve improved results.

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as a member of a team.
  • Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together effectively.
  • Describe a situation in which you were a member (not a leader) of a team, and a conflict arose within the team. What did you do?

ROLE SPECIFIC COMPETENCIES

Developing Others

  • Tell me about a time when you coached someone to help them improve their skills or job performance.  What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you provided feedback to someone about their performance.
  • Give me an example of a time when you recognized that a member of your team had a performance difficulty/deficiency.  What did you do?

Impact and Influence

  • Describe a recent situation in which you convinced an individual or a group to do something.
  • Describe a time when you went through a series of steps to influence an individual or a group on an important issue.
  • Describe a situation in which you needed to influence different stakeholders with differing perspectives.

Innovation

  • Describe something you have done that was new and different for your organization, that improved performance and/or productivity.
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a new, unusual or different approach for addressing a problem or task.
  • Tell me about a recent problem in which old solutions wouldn’t work.  How did you solve the problem?

Leadership

  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a group to achieve an objective.
  • Describe a situation where you had to ensure that your “actions spoke louder than your words” to a team.
  • Describe a situation where you inspired others to meet a common goal.

Relationship Building

  • Describe a situation in which you developed an effective win/win relationship with a stakeholder or client. How did you go about building the relationship?
  • Tell me about a time when you relied on a contact in your network to help you with a work-related task or problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you deliberately attempted to build rapport with a co-worker or customer.

Resource Management

  • Describe a situation in which you took a creative approach to resourcing to achieve a goal.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a particular resource management issue regarding either people, materials or assets.
  • Describe the options you would consider to resource a project or goal if you did not have the available resources within your own span of control.
  • Describe a situation in which you established a partnership with another organization or stakeholder to achieve a mutual goal. What steps did you take to ensure the partnership was effective?

Self-Management

  • Describe the level of stress in your job and what you do to manage it.
  • Describe a time when you were in a high pressure situation.
  • Describe a time when things didn’t turn out as you had planned and you had to analyze the situation to address the issue.

Strategic Thinking

  • Describe a challenge or opportunity you identified based on your industry knowledge, and how you developed a strategy to respond to it.
  • Describe a time you created a strategy to achieve a longer term business objective.
  • Describe a time when you used your business knowledge to understand a specific business situation.

More information

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