A Walk-Through Competency-Based Interview

Aug 14, 2015 1 Min Read
Competency-Based Interview

The first element of recruiting strategy is to determine “why” you are hiring people. You must determine your organisation’s direction and what recruiting can contribute to each of the directions.

This will give you an idea of the manpower requirement of your organisation and also the kind of people you need to recruit.

Vision, mission, short- and long-term goals, strategies and values of an organisation should be translated into actions for actualisation through organisational structure. The organisational structure will include roles, positions and jobs.

In order to actualise the direction for an organisation, the right person should be hired for the right job.

Therefore, competency-based interviews reduce the risk of making a costly hiring mistake and increase the likelihood of identifying and selecting the right person for the job.

Competency in a nutshell

Competencies are seen mainly as inputs, which consist of clusters of knowledge, attitudes and skills that affect an individual’s ability to perform.

Competency can be divided into three categories:

  1. Generic competency: Considered essential for all employees regardless of their functions or levels.
  2. Examples include communication, initiative and listening skills.
  3. Managerial competency: Known as soft competency which relates to the ability to manage a job and to develop an interaction with others.
  4. Examples include problem-solving, leadership and communication skills.
  5. Functional competency: Generally recognised as hard competency. It relates to the functional capacity of work and mainly deals with the technical aspect of the job.
  6. Examples include marketing research and financial analysis.

In practice, many organisations include a mixture of tasks, job outputs and behaviours as descriptions of competency.

Life made easier with competency-based interview

Interviewers who adopt the techniques of a competency-based interview will see these benefits:

  • Interviewers are able to evaluate and assess the ability of the candidates.
  • A competency approach provides greater clarity for the selector and candidate about what is required.
  • By breaking the requirements of the job into a list of competencies, decision-makers can then determine the most appropriate method of assessing an individual against each competency.

Generally, such an interview assists the interviewer to identify the agility of a candidate to learn and improve their competencies in the position appointed.

Furthermore, candidates can assess whether the job matches their competencies and if they would be happy in that role.

Differentiating competency-based interview

A distinction should be drawn between “competency” and “job description”. A job description defines the job into sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job.

It emphasises the duties and responsibilities of an employee as opposed to competencies which outline the job in terms of the characteristics and behaviours necessary for success.

An interviewer needs to align both competency and job description before hiring a candidate for the position interviewed.

Competency-based interview is also known as behavioural interview, where the questions asked are based on specific incidents that happened or past experiences rather than hypothetical situations.

The interview is often:

  • Structured; the questions are focused on disclosing examples of behaviour in the past.
  • Intended; to disclose specifically and in detail examples of behaviour in the past.
  • Designed based on the principle that “past behaviour predicts future behaviour”. Candidates are most likely to repeat these behaviours in similar situations in the future.

There is a likelihood to identify the honesty of the candidate through competency-based interview.

The words used, revealing responses and the body language projected by the candidates when answering questions will help gauge honesty.

This enables the interviewer to tie each candidate’s ability to the performance of the job and assess the person as a whole.

Approach in such an interview

An interviewer might make a snap judgment about someone based on their first impression. It could be positive or negative, which may colour the entire interview.

In order to avoid such judgment, the STAR approach can be implemented in competency-based interviews. This approach benefits the interviewer and the candidate.

The interviewer may base the questions according to the STAR approach to assess the candidate. The candidate may also use the same approach in answering the interviewer’s questions.

The STAR approach:

  • S: What was the Situation in which you were involved?
  • T: What was the Task you needed to accomplish?
  • A: What Action(s) did you take?
  • R: What Results did you achieve?

The following guidelines (see example) benefits you as interview candidates. Time will be allocated for you to answer the questions.

Use examples from your internships, school projects, activities, team participation, community services, hobbies and work experiences.

Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers. You should vary your examples, but don’t take them all from just one aspect of your life.

During the interview, listen carefully to each question and give relevant examples to demonstrate the desired behaviour. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Example: Team leadership competency

The interviewer may phrase the question based on STAR approach as such:

“Please describe a situation in your career in which you built a team using members from separate workgroups. Be specific about the groups with which you have worked, your common goal, the specific role you played in bringing everything together, and the outcome of the situation.”

The candidate should answer the questions step-by-step as guided in the STAR approach.


  • Can you explain the situation?
  • Where and when did the situation happen?
  • What events led up to it?
  • Who was involved in the situation (work colleagues, supervisors or customers)?


  • What tasks were you supposed to do at that time?
  • What did you actually do at that time?
  • How did you do it?
  • What specific steps did you take?
  • Who was involved?


  • What was the outcome?
  • Can you tell me the results of taking such action?
  • What specific outcome was produced by your action?

Be sure to check out the media below:

To know more about available training modules offered by Leaderonomics, email training@leaderonomics.com. For more HR related articles, click here.

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Tags: Consultant Corner, HR

Mathy Randhawa is a faculty trainer with Leaderonomics, and works in the field of managing people performance. She has over 15 years of experience in conducting workshops on management skills with emphasis on interpersonal communication.

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