Employee mental health is a top priority in 2022. Learn from 1,300 workers what that looks like for them. Dive into our new report on mental health at work

4 ways to answer competency-based questions

What are competency-based questions? Competency-based interview questions draw on your real-life examples to highlight skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, and adaptability, to name a few. For jobs where all applicants have similar qualifications, unique and creative answers to these questions can help you stand out. During your interview prep, you’ll need to learn how to answer competency-based questions - follow our guide to get started.

Common competency interview questions

A thoughtful company will inform you of the types of questions you can expect at  your interview. Take full advantage of this courtesy by preparing real-life examples that relate to the role you’re applying for and align with the values of the company. Here are a few examples of competency-based questions and answers.

Q: Can you describe a time when your supervisor couldn’t solve a problem and asked you to find a solution? How did you go about doing so?

In answering this question, be careful not to say anything negative about your supervisor or appear too arrogant about succeeding where they couldn’t. Use it as an opportunity to shine a light on your problem-solving skills.

Sample answer: “At a shoot, my boss was told that our lighting technician had called in sick. With other issues to see to, he asked me to make a plan. At first, I was stumped as we were in a remote location, two hours from the nearest town. Then I remembered that one of our interns had been part of the AV club in high school so I brought him in to handle the lights. He wasn’t confident at first but I did my best to encourage him and we ended up shooting images that made it to the cover of our December magazine issue.”

Q: What have you done to increase revenue at companies you’ve worked for?

Stay away from generic answers – it’s a huge red flag for interviewers. Even if you didn’t make a big difference to your company’s bottom line, your interviewer is more interested in how you think and apply your skills. Don’t leave out any details!

Sample answer: “When I joined Company XYZ, I noticed that the production line used a process that could be improved thanks to recent developments in technology. I researched the cost of installing new machinery and the training that would be needed and checked it against the time and cost-saving factors. I presented this data to the board of directors and the change was implemented, resulting in an 8% increase in profit.”

Q: How have you incorporated your latest training into your work?

Here, your interviewer wants to see if you’re able to learn new skills and apply them practically to your job. This type of question may be broached in a one-on-one interview or it could be included in your written application form.

Sample answer: “In leading my team, I realized that I lacked the ability to mentor them in a meaningful way. I requested a course in coaching which I completed four months ago. Since then, I’ve been able to motivate my team and help them hone their specific talents with on-the-job training and extra courses.”

Q: Tell us how you managed a major project from start to finish.

Your organizational skills are under the spotlight here. So avoid anything that might call into question your good coordination, such as narrowly missing deadlines or overspending.

Sample answer: “As a community initiative, we decided to build houses in an underprivileged area. I created smaller tasks that were assigned to various teams with a leader on  each team. Every day I met with these leaders to establish what tasks needed to be completed, then checked in later to get a sense of the status. I regularly visited the teams and made note of their progress on a Trello board so I could keep track of our schedule.”

Final thoughts

These tips for competency-based interview questions will ease your nervousness in your upcoming interview as will this inside info on what employers are looking for. Once you’ve gone through the most common competency-based questions, have a look at some of the best interview questions you could be asked.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Thousands of employers have posted their job openings on the Workable job board.

Take a look