What Is a Competency-Based Interview? 5 Jan 2018


Competency-based interviews, also called behavioral interviews, are a powerful tool for hiring managers to use in the quest to find the best fit for the job. These interviews use competency-based questions designed to ferret out whether an applicant has demonstrated the skills necessary to do the job he or she is vying for.

Applicants are trying to put their best foot forward, and competency-based questions give you good insight into how they have really behaved on the job.

The first step is to think about the core competencies for the job. They could include behavioral skills like communication, adaptability, teamwork, leadership, resilience, decision-making, and flexibility. Next, formulate questions that will allow the applicant to tell you about times in which he or she demonstrated the competency. Don’t simply ask if he or she is a team player, for example; instead, ask for a description of a time the applicant successfully completed a project working with a team, and if there were any stumbling blocks along the way.

Here are some common core competencies and questions:


  • Tell me about a time you had a miscommunication with a co-worker. How did you handle it?
  • What is your preferred communication style?


  • Tell me about the biggest change you had to deal with in your previous job.
  • Have you ever had to change your approach to a project midstream? What happened, and how did you handle it?


  • Describe a time you worked on a project with a team.
  • How do you handle it when members of your team don’t get along?


  • Describe a time you had to improve a team’s performance.
  • How do you motivate others?


  • How do you deal with stress?
  • Do you ever get frustrated and need to blow off steam at work?


  • What’s the biggest decision you ever had to make at work?
  • Have you ever had to make a risky decision?


  • What do you do when your schedule for a project is interrupted?
  • Have you ever had a project taken away midstream? How did you handle it?

Competency interviews, along with culture fit determination and a thorough background check, are the keys to finding a great hire.