Competency Based Interview Questions

13 March 2021 Victoria Butt

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Competency-Based Interview Questions 

Competency-based (or behavioural job interview questions), are based on the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, and that is why they are so often asked by employers during a job interview.

Why are Competency-based questions used in Job Interviews?

Employers may use a variety of techniques to screen and determine a candidate's fit for a role, with one of the most popular methods being the use of competency-based interviews. As the name suggests, this type of questioning is designed to measure a candidate's skill level and previous behaviours and actions against those that are necessary for the role in question. For example, an employer might ask a candidate how they handled a difficult stakeholder issue or what they have done in the past when faced with tight and competing deadlines. 

By asking these types of questions, the interviewer can get a better sense of whether a candidate has proven capabilities, by getting an understanding and examples of when they have performed them in the past. In addition, competency-based interviews can help to identify candidates who are truly passionate about their work - there is nothing better than hearing how a candidate successfully managed a difficult stakeholder situation or turned around a project that was heading down the wrong path! As a result, these types of interviews are a popular tool for potential employers.

Key competencies potential employers look for: 

Whilst each role and organisation will be different, there are a number of competencies and skills that most potential employers will be looking for.  Here are some of the most sought-after:

  • Effective communication skills

  • Stakeholder management

  • Teamwork

  • Leadership

  • Problem-solving

  • Strategic thinking

  • Organisation and planning

  • Commercial acumen 

  • Integrity

S.T.A.R Technique 

The S.T.A.R technique is a widely used method for answering behavioural interview questions:

  • Situation – Set the scene and provide context.

  • Task – Describe the task or problem. What needed to be achieved and why?

  • Action – Explain the action/s you took.  What did YOU do and HOW?

  • Results – Describe the results of your actions.  What was the outcome? 

When using this technique, you should briefly describe the situation and the task that you were confronted with; share what needed to be achieved; then describe the actions you took, and finally, share the results of your actions and how they impacted the overall situation. 

This technique is useful because it helps to structure your answer in a way that is easy for the interviewer to follow. Furthermore, it forces you to think about your past actions and achievements and how they can be used to highlight your amazing skills to your prospective employer! As a result, the S.T.A.R technique is an excellent way to ensure that you give a well-thought-out answer to competency-based interview questions.

Your ability to answer these questions can often make or break your interview – so we have put together some examples of questions you may be asked.

Examples of competency-based questions:

Here are some examples of the questions that are mostly asked in many in-demand jobs in Australia during an interview.

Teamwork and Leadership

  1. Give me an example of how you used your leadership skills to help your team meet a difficult challenge?

  2. Tell me about a time when you were the leader of a team and the team disagreed with your decision. How did you handle it?

  3. Describe which attributes a leader whom you most admire/admired has?

Stakeholder Management

  1. Describe a time when your communication and interpersonal skills helped in dealing with difficult clients/colleagues?

  2. Give an example of a win-win situation you negotiated?

  3. Describe a situation where you were given feedback on your performance that wasn’t what you had hoped for?


  1. Tell me about a difficult problem you were faced with, and describe how you went about tackling it?

  2. Describe a time when you proactively identified a problem at work and were able to devise and implement a successful solution?

Organisation and Planning

  1. Tell us about your experience in managing different projects or developing different strategies, and how this can contribute to our position?

  2. What specific systems/processes do you currently use to organise your day, and how successful are they?

  3. Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline?

  4. What was the most stressful aspect of your last role and how did you deal with it?


  1. Tell me about a time when you had to stand your ground against a group decision that you disagreed with?

  2. Have you ever had to work with, or for, someone who was dishonest? How have you handled this?


  1. Describe some projects that were implemented and carried out successfully, primarily because of your efforts and involvement in them?

  2. What are three achievements from your last role that you are particularly proud of?

  3. What is your five-year career plan?

  4. In which areas would you like to develop further?

Also, you can take a look at our end-to-end interview guide to kickstart your preparation!

Closing Note: 

Competency-based interviews are widely used across all industries and levels of seniority, from entry-level to executive roles.  They give the interviewer an opportunity to hear about a candidate's previous experience and skills, specifically focusing on the actions of the candidate. For that reason it is essential that candidates take the time to update their job resumes and prepare for these types of questions - know what your key skills are and be ready to give examples of how you have showcased them in the past.  The above-mentioned range of sample questions will give you an idea of what competencies the interviewer may be looking for.

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