SonicJobs Logo





How to prepare for competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews are a popular choice among employers for assessing your skills. Reason on for preparation tips!

How to prepare for competency-based interviews

Not all interviews are born equal. Depending on the employer and job role, interviews can take different layouts. It’s not just a question of practising the answers to interview questions. You need to pay attention to the type of interview. For example, your interview could be:

– an informal interview

– a group interview

a phone interview

– an assessment day

– a trial shift

– a competency-based interview

In today’s blog, we’re covering all the tips you need to prepare for a competency interview.

What is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based interviews are a structured style of interview. They assess a particular set of skills. This is decided before the interview. The interviewer will have decided exactly what skills the right candidate needs. This will be a set criteria that you’ll need to do the role.

In competency interviews, the questions are structured differently. Regular interviews might ask questions like, ‘Why do you want this job’ or ‘What do you know about our company?’. Instead, competency interviews are situational. They ask you to describe specific experiences where you applied specific skills.

The idea is that your past experiences are the best way of assessing if you’re suited to the role. 

Common skills assessed

Below are a list of common skills assessed during competency-based interviews:

  • Problem-solving
  • Initiative
  • Working under pressure
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Assertion

How to prepare for a competency interview

Highlight key skills in the job description

When it comes to preparing for your interview, the job description is going to be the biggest clue. The interviewers shouldn’t ask you about anything that’s not in the job description. So go through it with a fine tooth-comb and highlight all the skills mentioned in the description.

Think of examples

Once you’ve identified all the required skills, think of examples. These should be specific times when you’ve demonstrated each of these skills. Ideally, you’ll pick a couple of workplace examples for each skill. But if this isn’t possible, examples from your studies and personal life work too.


Once you’ve got your examples, it’s time to get used to talking about them out loud. But don’t just wing it. Make sure you use the STAR method. This will help you structure your answers properly so you can stand out in your interview.

Examples of competency-based interview questions

  • Working under pressure – Describe an occasion where you worked under pressure? 
  • Innovation – When have you put forward an idea in the workplace? How was it received? 
  • Taking feedback – When have you received constructive feedback from a manager? How did you apply it?
  • Initiative – Can you think of a time when you resolved a workplace issue? Try to think of something that was outside of your normal duties.
  • Problem-solving – Tell me about a time where you had to deal with a customer complaint. What was the outcome?
  • Personal growth and accountability – Can you describe a time where you didn’t achieve what you sought out to do? What did you learn?
  • Assertion – Has there been a time where you’ve had to decline the request of a customer or client?

Feeling competent?

If you’re still reading, you should now be more confident in your ability to ace a competency interview. Just remember, this interview style is focused on examples. So the more examples you can prepare, the better!

Ready to land a new role? The SonicJobs app contains the UK’s largest database of jobs… and you can apply straight from your phone!

Other articles you might like

Search over 500K jobs

Popular searches