What is a competency based interview?

A competency – based interview assesses your suitability for the roles and responsibilities of the job.  It works on the principal that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance. The questions you will be asked will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your competence by explaining how you previously used your skills and abilities to undertake tasks, improve service, handle challenges etc.

Popular competencies

It is important that you have read the Candidate Information Booklet, Job Description and Person Specification for the position for which you have applied and know which competencies are being assessed.

Some common competencies include:

  • Leadership
  • Team Building
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Thinking Strategically
  • Communicating
  • Delivering Value for money.

If you are not familiar with any of the competencies listed for the role, then you need to do some research to find out more at the preparation stage.

Preparing for your Competency Based Interview

Competency based interviews can be tricky and the key to performing confidently and competently is preparation. This includes having specific examples from past experiences which clearly demonstrate you have the skills and abilities which match the competencies for the job for which you are competing. This can be a time- consuming exercise but a worthwhile investment.

You will be questioned around each competency required for the role at interview and it is important that you can provide individual examples for each one.

The STAR Approach to Interviews

To gain maximum points from the evidence you are providing at interview it is important that you have a structured approach to your responses. STAR is a useful acronym to help you have a clear structure for each of your examples:

  • Situation – Briefly describe the situation you were in.
  • Task – What had to be done to achieve your goal?
  • Action – Describe the specific action you took.
  • Result – Describe the outcome, Results of your efforts.

Use this approach during preparation of your examples and know how to break down your answers at interview using the STAR acronym.

We can help you prepare for your interview

Our interview speciialist Jean Haworth has many years experience in helping people prepare for a competency-based interview. She can meet with you on a one-to-one basis, scrutinise the job description and work with you to develop strong answers for possible questions. The people Jean has worked with approach their interview with more confidence and indeed, many of them are successful in getting the job of their dreams.

Possible interview questions


Just to let you know that I was successful in my application for Director for the Board of Invest NI. I could not have done it without your help and assistance. Thanks so much. You are a legend.

(NB Kieran met Jean Haworth for guidance on preparing for a Competency Based Interview using the STAR approach.)

Kieran KennedyManaging Director, O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Company

Before my interview, I felt I needed someone to check through my ideas as it had been some time since my last interview.

Jean Haworth guided me through my examples in a very methodical manner and gave me pointers on how to develop further and add value. She pointed out where I was selling myself short and stressed the need to have a more positive approach to my responses.

I came away feeling more in control of the situation and confident that I could answer whatever questions would come my way.  I left our meeting fired up to give my best performance, which I did, and got the job.

Vanessa PostleTourism NI

Jean Haworth encouraged me to adopt a different approach to competence- based interviews.  In the past, I would have focused on the theory and talked in very general terms about what I could do in a work- related situation. I found previous interviews very stressful.

Having worked with Jean, she highlighted the importance of experience and drawing on that experience. She also stressed the importance of preparing for interview. Knowing the competencies required for the role and being able to provide specific examples from past experiences which demonstrated my skills and abilities in each competency area of the job applied for.

As result of Jean’s guidance and advice, my interview turned out to be quite enjoyable. Having prepared thoroughly, I was able to easily recall past situations and relate them to the questions in hand, highlighting to the interviewers my suitability for the role.

Finally I was successful in being appointed to the role of Board Member.

Sharon Smyth

I was given Jean Haworth‘s contact details by a colleague as I had been unsuccessful in five previous competency-based interviews and wanted to know where I was going wrong. Jean was a huge help to me giving me the confidence and knowledge to prepare for my interview. The guidance and practical advice was a success as I am now employed in a permanent job after my latest competency-based interview with my employer.

I would highly recommend anyone that is attending a competency-based interview in the future to spend a few hours with Jean as you won’t regret it.

Allastar McGarryMid and East Antrim Borough Council

Jean Haworth‘s knowledge and experience were tremendously useful in helping me prepare for competency-based interviews. Her insights and understanding transformed my approach and made me feel ready.  I found her both warm and rigorous and I would recommend her to anyone looking to advance their career.

Emmet M

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