Competency Based Questions - Prepare your answers

Competency interview questions can reveal a lot about you. In addition to seeing if your skills and abilities align with the job duties, these can also indicate how your personality will fit the position and company. Your interviewer wants to see how you might react to certain situations that could come up with this job.

Your interviewer wants to see how you might react to certain situations that could come up with this job.

It’s always good to prepare for these types of questions beforehand. Obviously, you can’t predict the exact questions they’re going to ask, but it’s good to have something in mind for what you think may come up. 

Look at the key skills listed in the job specification or advert - these attributes are a good indicator of qualities that will come up during the interview. Below is a comprehensive list of competency based questions to help you prepare for your next interview:


This is probably one of the easiest ones to be prepared for since you have to communicate in everyday life as well as work. However, get ready to back up your claim of being a great communicator with clear examples:

  • Tell me about a successful presentation you gave and why it went over so well.
  • Give an example of when you’ve effectively used written communication to get your ideas across to someone.
  • How would you explain complex ideas in simpler terms to a frustrated client?
  • Have you had a manager in the past that you had difficulties communicating with? How did you handle this?
  • Describe how you’ve developed relationships with co-workers, supervisors and others at a new workplace.
  • Give an example of a time when you successfully communicated with someone you didn’t like or who didn’t like you.
  • Talk about a time where you had to give a presentation on the spot or with minimal preparation. What were the challenges? How did you handle them to pull it off?


Eighty-three percent of employers in a recent survey said teamwork is extremely high on their wish list for entry-level employees. Chances are, you’re going to get at least one question that deals with how you’ve previously collaborated with co-workers:

  • Give an example of a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  • Talk about a time when you faced a conflict while working with a team. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about an experience working with a team that you found rewarding.
  • Give me an example of a time you had to deal with a difficult coworker.
  • Talk about a time when you were on a team with someone who wasn’t doing their share of the work. How did you handle it?
  • What do you think is the most difficult part of being a member — and not a leader — of a team? Why? How do you deal with it?
  • Have you had to be the mediator to settle an issue between two members? What happened? How did you resolve the dispute?

Client-Facing Skills

Almost every industry involves some level of customer service, so you’re probably going to be asked questions about how you handle client interactions. Employers want to keep their clients happy to ensure repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations. They want to know you’ll go above and beyond to ensure the customer has a wonderful experience with your business:

  • Describe a time where you had to deal with a difficult customer/client. What did you do to handle the situation?
  • Give an example of a time where you gave a client great customer service.
  • Tell me about a time you failed to meet a customer’s expectations. What happened?
  • How would you go about showing a client you’re focused and interested in their case or project? Why do you think this is an effective approach?
  • When you’re overwhelmed with customers, how would you prioritize their needs? 
  • Describe a time when you’ve picked up a customer from someone else. How did you establish a relationship with them when they were used to working with a different co-worker or competitor? How did you get them to trust you?
  • Have you ever taken the customer’s side over the company’s? What happened?

Time Management

Prioritising tasks is important for any company. Your supervisor will also want to know that you can juggle more than one assignment at the same time and can still get things done by the deadlines. Employees’ time-management skills can truly make or break a company, so this is something they’re definitely going to want to know about:

  • Tell me about a time you had to juggle multiple responsibilities. How did you handle it?
  • Sometimes it’s impossible to get everything done. What did you do during a time where your responsibilities got overwhelming?
  • Give me an example of how you’ve handled interruptions or distractions in the workplace when you’re on a tight deadline.
  • How did you keep everything running smoothly and on time with a project you managed recently?
  • Think of a recent goal you’ve met. How did you make sure you met it? What was your process?
  • When has something you’ve organised not gone according to plan? What happened? Why? What did you do to fix it/make it go more smoothly?


If you’re interviewing for a supervisor position — and even if you aren’t — you’ll probably come across some questions to assess your leadership skills. Maybe the position has a potential for advancement, and the employer wants to see if you could move up in the company. Regardless, this is a leadership test, even if you haven’t had experience in a direct leadership role:

  • Describe a time when you exhibited leadership skills.
  • Tell us about a time you took the lead on a project or in a situation.
  • Have you ever assisted someone with their efforts to help them become successful?
  • Tell us about a time you led by example.
  • Talk about a leadership role you’ve had outside of work. Why did you choose to devote your time to it? How did you feel about it, and how did you handle obstacles?
  • What was the hardest group or team that you’ve had to lead? Why? How did you handle difficult members or situations? 
  • How do you balance responsibilities if you’re leading a team and are also expected to do the same job as your team members?


Employers want to know you’re dedicated to the job and are willing to go above and beyond at the workplace. They want someone who is self-motivated and isn’t going to back down the first time they hit a wall. They want someone who’s going to keep trying until they find a way to get over — or through — it: 

  • Describe a project or idea that was put into place because of your efforts. What was your role, and how did everything end up?
  • Talk about a time — whether it was in the workplace or outside of it — that your initiative caused a change to happen.
  • Give an example of a setback you’ve endured at work. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time at work when you failed. How did you overcome it?
  • Give an example of a time when you saw a problem and used it as an opportunity instead. What did you do, and what happened as a result? Was there anything you would’ve done differently?
  • Tell us about a time where the company or team you were with was undergoing a lot of change. What impact did it have on you? How did you adapt?
  • Describe a time where you initiated a project or change at your workplace. What did you do, and how did it turn out? Were you happy with how it ended up?

Vitally, don’t go into your next interview unprepared. While you may have researched the company and everything about the position, don’t let the competency questions fall by the wayside.