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Understanding Competencies

Sharp Louise Auty (web) 

By Louise Auty, Senior Consultant

An increasing number of employers are opting for competency based interviews instead of or in addition to a more traditional approach to hiring new members of staff. If you are invited to attend a competency based interview what should you expect and how can you prepare in order to impress.

Competency based interviews are a highly effective way for interviewers to decide between candidates and select the best person for the job. They go beyond assessing tasks and the technical attributes that you will need to undertake the job role but look more at your personal characteristics to determine whether you can perform at the highest level.

By understanding what a potential employer is looking for, you will be able to answer these types of questions confidently and demonstrate that you are the right sort of person to make a difference to their business.

When interviewing for competencies, your potential employer will begin by asking you for an overview of a situation in which you have clearly exhibited a particular competency. For example “I would like you to give me an overview of a recent situation in which you had to take a particularly disciplined approach to your work.”

They will then ask a series of behavioural questions to fully investigate how you handled the situation:

“Tell me about the situation”

“What was your role?”

“Who else was involved?”

“How did you feel when that happened?”

“What exactly were you thinking then?”

“What exactly did you do next?”

“What exactly did you say then?”

“What was the outcome?”

Your responses will provide the interviewer with a huge amount of information so be prepared and think about what you want to say and how you are saying it. An interviewer will be looking for you to be clear and detailed in your responses; describe a situation with “I did” rather than “we did” and don’t wait to be led by the interviewer – volunteer your thoughts on the matter.

Also, think about what your thoughts and feelings were at the time as opposed to how you feel now and don’t be vague in your responses; be specific and avoid answers such as “I usually do…”

Competency interviews enable a future employer to understand which candidates will be able to perform at the highest level and have the potential to progress within the company so it is vital that you give the best possible account of yourself.


Sharp Consultancy specialises in the recruitment of finance and accountancy professionals.  With offices in Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster and Manchester our highly experienced team of consultants recruit for temporary, interim and permanent roles across the full spectrum of positions throughout Yorkshire and the North West.