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Competency-based interviews

What are competency-based interviews?

Behavioural or competency based interviews are used to show how you would demonstrate certain behaviours/skills in the workplace.

You will be asked to give an example of a situation or task that led you to take a certain course of action. Probing questions will then be used to determine the course of action you took and how these actions affected others around you. When answering, remember that the interviewer wants to know what YOU as an individual delivered and achieved so avoid over-using examples of ‘we’.

How to structure your answer

The STAR model will allow you to effectively structure your answer logically and concisely.

Situation Describe the situation or problem you were faced with, keep your examples recent
Task What did you have to do?
Action What action did you take and why? What were the challenges you faced?
Results What was the outcome?


Preparing for a competency based interview

Re-read your CV

Review the job description in order to identify the competencies the organisation is looking for. For each core competency try to think of specific examples of times when you have demonstrated those behaviours, do not prepare specific responses as this is will mean you may provide answers that do not fully answer the question.

Competency assesments

1. Drive for results 2. Communications
3. Planning and organising 4. Customer focus
5. Influencing or persuading others 6. Interpersonal and team skills
7. Problem solving and decision making  


1. Drive for results

This competency assesses your personal motivation and how you approach challenges.

Example questions:

  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • Tell me about a time when you have “made things happen” for yourself or your team? 

2. Communications

Your ability to communicate effectively and influence others to act in support of your own and team goals will be examined. An ability to adapt your communication methods depending on situations and individuals is important here.

Example questions:

  • Can you give an example of a time you influenced a colleague to adopt your way of thinking?
  • Has there been a time when you had to communicate a difficult issue?

3. Planning and Organising

This competency analyses your ability to plan and manage activities and projects.

Example questions:

  • Have you ever had to plan a large piece of work?
  • It is a busy day with conflicting priorities and deadlines, what do you?

4. Customer focus

Your ability to understand and believe in the importance of customer focus will be tested here. You must display a competency for understanding the difference between internal and external customers.

Example questions:

  • Can you describe a time where you dealt with an angry or upset customer in the past?

5. Influencing or persuading others

Strong verbal skills are one thing, but being able to influence another person to change their thinking or take some action is as important. Can you influence a colleague to change or a client to buy?

Example questions:

  • Is there a time where you were able to change another person’s viewpoint?
  • Can you give an example of a time where you were asked to do something you disagreed with?

6. Interpersonal and team skills

Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams. If you are highly collaborative and co-operative, you are most likely to thrive in this type of environment.

Example questions:

  • What skills and personal qualities have you contributed to the teams you have been part of?
  • Who is the most difficult person you have had to deal with?

    7. Problem solving and decision making

    Decision making is a skill that requires the ability to process information and filter this information to ensure you produce a sound and valid decision. You should be able to provide examples of situations where this skill has been tested. Use examples where an obvious answer is not immediately apparent.

    Example questions:

    • What difficult decisions have you had to make in the recent past?
    • Have you made any decisions that have ultimately been unpopular?

Ireland Salary Guide 2019