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About competency/behavioural based interviews:

When it comes to "Competency or Behavioural interviews", think of a concept where three parameters are linked. These parameters are: Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.  For instance, it is very possible to have good interpersonal skills (a component of skills), yet remain incompetent to be hired for a post of the Project Manager of a company. Being hired for this post would only be practically possible adequate education/experience (knowledge) and the right temperament/behaviour (attitude).

Competency-based interviews (also known as structured interviews), are interviews where each question is designed to test one or more specific skills. The answer is then matched against a set of pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly.

For instance, the aim of the interviewers may be to test the candidate's ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to provide an practical example of a situation where he/she worked under pressure.

How do competency/behavioural -based interviews differ from normal interviews?

Normal interviews (also called unstructured interviews) are essentially in form of a conversation where the interviewers ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for, but without any specific aim in mind (other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual). Questions thrown to the candidate by the interviewers are fairly random and can sometimes be quite open. For example, a question such as "What can you offer our company?" is meant to gather general information about you, but does not necessarily test any specific skill or competency. In an interview as such (since it is unstructured), the candidate is judged on the general impression that he/she leaves; the process is therefore likely to be more of a subjective one.


Competency/Behavioural - based interviews (also called structured interviews) are more systematic. This is an interview where each question aims to know about a specific skill or competency. 

Here, candidates are questioned directly as regards their behaviour given specific circumstances; ones which they then need to back up with concrete examples.

Thus, the interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.

Competency/Behavioural interview Categories

Category 1



  • Try to have a minimum of one or two success stories with their specific target being team work.

  • Try to choose the success stories which can be linked to the current situations that could arise at the new job you’re applying/ interviewing for. Each company has their specific understanding on team work/ collaboration. Using your job description, try to pick out ideas on the kind of things on which you could work/ collaborate as a team. This would help to give insights on the type of examples to be used.


  • Sometimes, the question in particular wouldn’t necessarily sound like one dealing with behaviour. It may sound like: “Are you easy to get along with?” “Do you collaborate well?”

       Don’t just give a dry “yes, I am easy going” answer. Instead, use a success story as an example on the kind of person you are.

Common Questions

  1. Tell me about a team project that you worked on.

  2. Describe a time when you had to bring two departments together to work more effectively with each other.

  3. Have you ever been in a situation in which you found that working in a team was more successful than working alone?


Example Answer:

I have worked in roles that requires collaboration with many partners and customers on a daily basis. In the course of meeting and working with these people, I have successfully fostered excellent working relationships with my colleagues, customers and other staff across XYZ Company.   

I enjoy helping others and this is ably demonstrated by my work as an assistant Beaver Scout leader; a role which requires me to work with a diverse range of people and age groups. Both roles require me to share knowledge and encourage the formation of a cohesive team spirit.

Category 2



  • When buried in the process of picking success stories to be used for most of the questions that may be asked in these behavioural interviews, try to relate the story you’ve chosen with a situation that could actually come up in the work environment of the position you’re getting interviewed for. Remember: “It’s not about you, it’s about them.”


Bear in mind that merely for the fact that your interview isn’t related to a “management” position in your particular interview, doesn’t mean you won’t be asked any leadership related questions. It is only normal that your interviewers will be expecting that you will grow as the company grows and proceed to take on a leadership role in the nearest future; hence, the need for the questioning and grooming. This is why you must be fully prepared; the aim is to show that you can truly be a leader.

Common Questions

  1. Tell me about a time you stepped up into a leadership role.

  2. Briefly narrate your experience on an occasion whereby you led an important meeting.

  3. Tell me about a time that you took the lead on a difficult project.

  4. How do you motivate other people to work with you?

Category 3

Problem Solving


  • Problem solving behavioural questions are questions for the purpose of finding out if you can handle problems. It’s best if you choose an appropriate success story that targets the need to project yourself as someone who can handle various problems.

  • Nevertheless, you can do yourself an extra good by choosing a success story that highlights a second strength/quality they may be looking for. This is a way of supercharging your success story.


  • This is one behavioural category that is usually pretty easy to come with success stories for. However, try not to relate a problem solving a success story that isn’t really applicable to the job you’re interviewing for; that would be a total disaster. Examine the job description carefully and find out what types of problems would be encountered. Then, pick success stories that show handling those types of problems (if you can).

Common Questions

  1. Tell me about a situation in which you were faced with a difficult situation; left for you alone to solve.

  2. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.

  3. Describe your style in dealing with irate customers.

  4. Give a typical example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.

  5. Describe a difficult decision you’ve had to make in your business life and how you went about doing it.

  6. Tell me about a time when you made a horrible mistake that affected a client adversely, how you coped with it and exactly how you handled it.


Category 4

Communication/Handling Conflict


  • Questions as this one are aimed at finding out if you can work with a wide range of people. If you can, relate a success story that shows you doing just that; i.e a situation with you working well with a range of different personality types.

  • Another great way to handle these types of questions is a success story that shows how your interpersonal skills have resulted in a specific improvement at a past job.

For example: A situation in which you were able to get an “introvert” to come out of their shell and contribute more to the team and how a move as that helped you to complete a project on time.


  • Don’t shy away from the questions they ask pertaining to any conflict you’ve dealt with in the past. You’ll get nowhere saying: “I get along with everybody”. The hiring manager won’t buy it and you’ll be sunk. Instead, focus on the successes you’ve recorded in working through the conflict; showing how you are able to stay calm and work through problems with a variety of personality types.

  • Never “bash” any former colleagues or people you’ve worked with or under. Doing so will end your chance quick!


Common Questions

  1. Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work.

  2. Discuss with me about a time that you disagreed with a rule or approach.

  3. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.

  4. Tell me about a time when you were asked to take sides regarding another employee, but you rather chose to remain neutral and why. 

  5. We’ve all had to work with people who don’t like us. How do you deal with someone who doesn’t like you?

Category 5



  • Sometimes, behavioural questions come in forms that ask you about your ability to take initiative, as you might have seen in the “common questions” section. However, a good strategy I recommend is to incorporate the “taking initiative” quality into your answer for other types of behavioural questions.

For example, let’s say you were asked a “teamwork/collaboration” question. You could answer it by relating a success where you saw that the project was falling behind because the department wasn’t working efficiently enough as a team, and talk further on how you restructured the workflow to take advantage of each employee’s strengths.

The result of this should be summarized as: an increased productivity (two-fold) and completed the project well before the deadline.

(See how you talked about teamwork and initiative?)

Common Questions

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.

  2. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.

  3. Describe a time when you went out of your way, your core role and your job description just in a bid to save your company time and money.

  4. Give an example of a situation in which you took specific steps to further your career.

  5. Describe a time when you foresaw potential problems and developed preventive measures.

Example Answer:

"I remember being a member of a team of four shop assistants. We sold stationery in a large departmental store. One day, the supervisor had asked me to organise a special promotion of a new range of products. This was a role I had to take on while I was to continue my normal job in a busy section of the store. I had just one week to prepare for the event in question".

"During the two-week period of the promotion, we increased our sales by more than double the usual amount. This new success was majorly due to the way I had promoted the new products to the customers. Customers attested to how they enjoyed sampling the products and the supervisor also recommended a bonus for my work. On reflection however, I think it would have yielded even more results if only I had consulted the customers about what they wanted from the various product types."

Having these competencies ready for potential questions like this is very important. Over the years doing this, its ever still the same set of questions.

The big question on someone’s mind at this point is: “Do I have to remember all these stories? Or is there any way to make the stories easier to remember?”

And the answer to that is yes there is a way to make the stories easier to remember. I found this out by accident while in an interview. The interviewer asked me a question about Leadership and I told him the following:

“As a new member of the team, I was struck by the complexity of the electronic filing system which was not intuitive. The switch to a new shared drive presented the opportunity to redesign the system. Initially, the rest of the team were resistant to the idea hence I developed a skeleton system to illustrate how it might work, presented this during a team meeting, and I also used my own experiences as a new member to the team to illustrate how the new system might be more useful.

My idea was taken in and my structures were adopted. The early indications are that the redesign has allowed quicker location of relevant files.”

As I finished, the interviewer said “Wow, That just answered a couple of other questions I was going to ask, and at the time, I didn’t understand what he meant until he further explained. He said that success story covers three main competencies: Leadership, Communication and Problem solving! So, I just killed three birds with one stone. After that, I realised that this was certainly the best way to approach Competency interviews. It’s pretty easy: Get a few really good success stories that cover two to three competencies. That way, you don’t have to remember a success story for each competency and it shows your knowledge and understanding for what you do. This is the easy way.

Questions To Ask the Interviewer


Below are examples of effective questions that you should ask the hiring manager in your next interview!

Below are the top five from the main five categories:

Category 1:

The Position

This category pertains to questions that are specific to the position you are interviewing for, and general revolves around the duties you will be responsible for or the skills necessary to complete the duties.

  1. Can you summarize in details the specific skills and/or experience are the most important to be successful in this position?

  2. What does a typical day in this role look like?

  3. What are the greatest challenges I will face in this role if I am hired?


Category 2:

The company

“The Company” category refers to questions that are focused on the specifics of the company itself, and might contain questions about products and/or services, the history of the company, or various company policies.

  1. What are the things that you enjoy the most about working for this company?

  2. What are the biggest challenges this company has faced in the last few years, and what are the greatest challenges you perceive that it could face moving forward?

  3. What is this company’s policy on continuing education? Does the company provide any seminars, workshops or trainings available to someone that would be interested in furthering their education or acquiring new skills?

Category 3:

The People/Culture

Questions categorized here should be ones which are easily recognisable to you. They would generally buoy down to those questions about the individuals you will work with (or the team you’ll work on), the way that people work (their habits and policies, etc.). It also has to do with the culture of the company (i.e the “rules” and the “styles” that govern daily life).

  1. What are some of the different ways that employees communicate in order to facilitate the completion of their goals or duties?

  2. Can you give a specific detail or two pertaining to the team I’ll be working with? Can you tell me a little bit more about my direct report?


   3.How would you describe the culture of the company? As regards relationships, do they   end in the work environs or is it okay            for the employees to socialise outside the work environment?


Category 4:


The questions that have to do with performance have to do with your performance in the company and how you will be evaluated. Directing questions as this ones to your interviewer gives you a better understanding about how to reach your goals and if your plans are realistic.


  1. How will my responsibilities and performance be measured, and by whom?

  2. What is expected of main terms of accomplishments in the first 30 days, 60 days and 90days?

  3. Will I have an official or a formal performance review? If I would, on what schedule will that be? How soon would it be too?


What’s Next?

Ask these types of questions to learn what you can expect in the coming hours, days and weeks after your interview. This is the point where the interview is generally concluded. Hence, it is important to make sure you leave a good impression. 

You can achieve this by preparing to ask one of the following questions: This can be accomplished with one of the following prepared questions!

  1.   What is your timeframe for finishing the hiring process?

  2.   Will you contact all applicants whether they are successful or not?

  3.   Are there any other details that I can provide that would be helpful in answering your questions, or do you have any other                   questions that I can answer?


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