Competence interviews

Subject: Interview

A growing number of employers are conducting competence-based (also known as structured or situational) interviews. These have proved to be very effective in predicting future job performance and are more objective than unstructured interviews.

In a competence-based interview, each question is designed to test the candidate on a specific skill or competence. The answer can be matched against pre-decided criteria and marked accord­ingly. In this way, candidates are compared to the standard required rather than being compared with each other.

Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific situations, which they need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers can probe further by asking for explanations about their behaviour or skills.


Prepare for competence-based questions by making sure you know which skills and competencies are required for the post. Examples of common skills covered include:

working with others;

planning and organising;

analysis and problem-solving;

leading and decision-making;


Then practise the STAR method: situation, task, action, result.

For example, if you are asked how you deal with stress and to give an example of a situation where you worked under pressure, first describe the context (situation) including what was required of you (task); next - and this should be the bulk of your answer - describe what you did (action); and finally, say what happened (result). Emphasise your role and how this contributed to the outcome.

The key to answering these questions successfully is to use real examples from your own experi­ence with lots of detail, and not just to talk about the topic in a theoretical way.

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