Step 6: Interviewing -What's the best way to assess competency?

By Tayo Leigh

 19 Jun 2015     Comments

Competency Based Interviewing

There is evidence to suggest that traditional interviews are a poor predictor of job performance. The competency interview has developed in response to the failings of traditional interviews.

Competency is the ability to complete a task effectively. Competency assessments are based on the principle that past performance is a good indicator of future performance. Basically, the idea is that if a person can prove competency in an area of job performance in their past, they will be able to replicate this in a new situation.

For those of you who are new to conducting a competency based interview, we have compiled a short guideline on how to get it right.

Getting started:

There are various different competencies that may be tested. The key to a successful competency assessment, is to analyse the job requirements and decide which competencies are essential or desirable for the role. Once this is done, it is fairly easy to devise questions that test for each of those competencies. To assist you, we have provided some sample questions you might ask.

Analytical Competency

This refers to abilities such as: problem solving, decision making, attention to detail and innovation.

Sample Questions:

  • Tell me about a time you had to analyse a problem by looking at the component parts.

  • Tell me about a time you identified a new approach to a problem

Interpersonal Competency

This refers to social ability, how well a person works with others, i.e. leadership and teamwork.

Sample Questions:

  • Describe a situation where you successfully worked as part of a team

  • Tell me about a time you helped improve the performance of your team.

Motivational Competency

This refers to attributes such as a candidate's drive, resilience and initiative.

Sample Questions:

Tell me about what you consider to be your greatest achievement at work?

Tell me about what you enjoyed most about your last job?

Managerial Competency

This refers to the ability to take charge. Questions for this competency should test for proven ability in leadership, project management and strategic thinking.

Sample Questions:

  • Give me an example of a time you successfully led a team to complete an objective.

  • Tell me about a time you took responsibility for making a key decision.

Individual Competency

This may refer to attributes such as tenacity, integrity and independence.

Sample Questions:

  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake?

  • Describe a stressful work situation you have experienced. How did you handle it?

  • Tell me about an occassion you had to adapt to a major change.

    Some notes:

Ahead of questioning, you may wish to give candidates some general guidance on the type of responses you are looking for. For all these competencies, the candidate should ideally supply you with recent (2-3years) examples from their work life. Their answers should focus on their specific contribution and the outcome.

As with all types of interviews, it is important to have a rating scale beforehand, to ensure you accurately and fairly assess candidate answers. We also suggest you have more than one interviewer wherever possible. Interviewers should assess each candidate independently and only discuss and compare notes afterwards. This should help to ward against bias and provide a way of ensuring the process is as objective as possible.


In conclusion, remember that the key to doing this sort of interview well, is in correctly identifying the competencies you need to test for. Once you have done that, do some research on the best questions that will help you to assess those competencies. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with a starting point so that the process is less daunting.

Good luck!


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