Acing the Competency-Based Interview

Your Guide to Landing the Job


The job search ain’t what it used to be. Today, you need more than just a polished resume to stand out from other candidates. Hiring managers are now using video assessments, virtual interviews, and behavioral questions to evaluate candidates’ “competencies”.

But what does that actually mean? And how do you make sure you ace this style of interview? Let’s dig in and find out.

 Why Competencies Matter More Than Ever

Traditional job interviews are notoriously inaccurate at predicting performance. According to Harvard Business Review, they have only a 20% success rate. That means that interviewers who rely on “gut feeling” are wrong 80% of the time and why more companies are switching to competency-based interviews.

These interviews focus on concrete examples of how you’ve handled situations in the past and how transferable they are to  the role you’re interviewing for. The idea is that past behavior predicts future performance.

If you can demonstrate the right competencies, you stand out as a stronger candidate. One who is truly prepared for the day-to-day realities of the position. At the end of the day, the interviewer wants to make sure everyone is set up for success. They want to hire the right person for their team who can do the work properly. And for the candidate, you want to make sure you’re being set up for success.

 Breaking Down the Competency Interview

Competency interviews dive deeper into your potential value. The interviewer asks targeted questions about specific work situations and how you’ve navigated them or how you would navigate them if you encountered it.

Some common questions include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to rapidly learn a new technical skill…what was the situation and what steps did you take? 
  • Walk me through a recent successful project you led. How did you keep team members engaged and aligned?
  • Describe a time when you had to be very strategic or demonstrated critical thinking in your work. What was the thought process and outcome?

 They want clear examples that showcase both your hard skills (like data analysis or coding) and soft skills (like communication, creativity, and problem-solving).

Essentially, they’re looking for a picture of how you’ll handle the realities of the role and add value.

And this data-driven approach seems to be working. LinkedIn’s research predicts these are the most sought-after soft skills for 2024: 

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Adaptability
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Time Management
  6. Analytical Thinking
  7. Active Listening
  8. Communication
  9. Problem-Solving
  10. Teamwork


 Bring your A-game in these areas, and you’ll be in great shape!

 Rock the Competency Interview in 5 Steps

 With the right preparation, competency interviews can be a huge boost (rather than a hurdle). Here are five tips to shine:

1. Research the Position Details

Closely review the job description and any available info on the company’s website. Make a list of the competencies and skills they mention. These are what they’ll assess.

2. Reflect on Your Stories and Experiences

Spend some time thinking through impactful anecdotes from your past experience that map well to those key competencies. Look at your resume for projects you’ve completed and make sure you can describe challenges you encountered, how you overcame them and what the outcome was. (I literally mean practice saying it out loud. It makes a difference)

3. Use the STAR Method

Structure your stories using the STAR framework. Set the scene, explain the task, describe your actions, and share the tangible results.

 S: Situation: Outline your specific situation, role, and responsibilities.

T: Task: What did you need to accomplish? What were the project’s goals, and which challenges did you have to overcome?

A: Action: What did you do to achieve your goals? How did you align your actions to the requirements of the situation?

R: Result: What was the outcome? How did you know you were successful? What did you learn from the experience?


4. Quantify Your Impact  

Include measurable results and key data points whenever possible to demonstrate your value-add. Explaining what you achieved and what you learned from each experience is crucial in a competency-based interview. The more specific you can be when explaining your results, the better your impact on your interviewer.

For example, if the interviewer says, “Tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge in the workplace”, you can respond by outlining a specific problem you faced relevant to the role and business you want to work for.

Then, follow up by saying, “At the end of this project, I had increased the company’s profits by 5% and learned how to improve my leadership abilities through transparent communication.

5. Practice!

Even if you prepare carefully for your competency-based interview and participate in several “mock” interviews before the big day, you’ll likely feel anxious. Around 93% of candidates say they feel nervous before a job interview, so it’s essential to be prepared for anxiety.

Run through mock interviews with mentors and peers until the stories flow smoothly. You can even record yourself answering questions to help you see where you can improve and/or practice reciting responses in front of a mirror. The more polish, the better the impression.

Dress professionally, as this will help to convey a positive image and make you feel more confident.

Remember to focus on active listening during the interview itself, too. Paying attention to what your interviewer says, clarifying their questions (by repeating them back to them), and making eye contact will help you appear confident, professional, and enthusiastic. 

Bring these five tips to your interview prep, and you’ll have the competency boost you need to land the role!

Now go get that dream job!



Written by

Lileah Akiode


Lileah Akiode is the Managing Director of The Black Diamond Agency, a recruitment firm dedicated to connecting talented people with rewarding career opportunities. With a strong background in Talent Acquisition across different corporate retailers, Lileah brings a wealth of experience to ensure a seamless and positive candidate experience. In addition to corporate retail, Lileah also experience supporting the Financial Services and IT industries.


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