Competency Questions – what you need to know…

Competency Questions – what you need to know…

Competency Questions – what you need to know…

When it comes to interviewing, you’ll probably be familiar with the most common method, known sometimes as ‘unstructured interviews’. Here the approach is free-flowing and resembles a conversation between participants. The interviewer won’t have a particular script but will ask questions relevant to the role and will be trying to get an overall impression of what the candidate is like as a person, including what their strengths and weaknesses are.

However, sometimes this method doesn’t provide enough insight into a candidate’s capabilities, and a little more help is needed to be sure they’re the right fit.

Enter, Competency Questioning… for many companies seeking for that perfect employee, competency-based questions are a great way for candidates to describe their finer career moments to a captive audience. Example of competences are Teamwork, Responsibility, Communication skills, Decision making, Leadership, Problem-solving, Organisation & Goal orientation.

In contrast to unstructured interviews, competency questions are very much scripted and often written by psychologists who know how to frame questions that will provide revealing answers and insights into capabilities.


What competencies should be sought after?

The required skills and competencies will change depending on the post you’re recruiting for.

For example, a senior manager will be assessed on their ability to influence and negotiate, while a personal assistant may be assessed for communication and organisational competency instead.


Below are other competencies to take into account:


Analytical competencies

These assess decision-making abilities and try to unearth innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail. A typical question would be:

“Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem”


Interpersonal competencies

These assess social competence. Many workplaces function on project teams, so the more collaborative a candidate is, the more likely they will thrive in the company. A typical question would be:

“Describe a situation where you got people to work together”


Motivational competencies

These assess the level of drive and examine energy, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus. A typical question might be:

“When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?”



How are they marked?

Before the interview, you will have determined which type of answers would score positive points and which types of answers would count against the candidates.

Here is an example of what constitute a negative or positive mark for a candidate answer.

“Describe a time when you had to deal with pressure”:


Positive Mark

Demonstrates a positive approach towards the problem

Considers the wider need of the situation


Negative Mark

Perceives challenges as problems

Attempts unsuccessfully to deal with the situation alone


Example questions

“Give an example of a time you’ve had to improvise to achieve your goal?”

“If you were offered the job, what’s the first thing you’d change?”

“How do you cope in adversity?”

“Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was struggling?”

“Describe a situation in which you led a team.”

“Why are you a good fit for the company?”

“Which websites do you use personally? Why?”

“What has been your greatest achievement?”


Competency based questions are a beneficial method to gain insight into the candidate’s previous experience. If you are considering hiring for a new position, hr inspire resourcing would advise you use competency based questions during your search.

If you feel you’d benefit from some support to ensure you’re securing the top talent, drop us a line and see how we can help!


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