Competency-based (or behavioural) interviews are based on the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Interviewers seek to obtain information about candidates past behaviour in certain situations. Competency-based interviews are structured, with questions that relate directly to the essential criteria and competencies required for the post. Research into recruitment and selection methodology suggests that structured, competency based interviews can be one of the most reliable and accurate forms of assessment.

Competency-based interview questions have been used for selection, but have not always been labelled as such. This style of interviewing is usually only one part of the interview process and often a more informal interview is held separately to discuss the CV in a chronological approach.

A good recruitment and selection interview should assess candidates against each essential criteria or competency, asking questions about:

  • Past behaviours and performance
  • Learning from past behaviours
  • Future adaptability to new post
  • Knowledge and understanding of issues in relation to the post

What does the interview focus on?

Most interviews will focus on six key areas. These will mostly be competencies, but may also include other knowledge-based essential criteria for example leadership, teamwork, conflict, motivation, creativity and technical skills related to the job spec. They will be focused on those competencies which are most important for the particular job. You may also be required to meet other, specific essential criteria. This could be an in-depth knowledge of a particular area or experience of working in a similar role previously.

What should I expect in the interview?

Competency-based interview questions are slightly different to the style you may be used to. They will tend to focus on past situations and your behaviour in those situations. Questions are likely to start with: “Please give me an example of when. . .” or “Please describe an occasion…” etc.

Example Questions include:


  • Why are you a good leader?
  • What type of leadership style do you adopt?
  • How would those that you have lead describe you?


  • Explain a mistake that you have made in delegating. What were the consequences?
  • In what instance would you delegate a task?
  • What are the advantages of delegating?

Conflict & Pressure

  • Give an example of an instance when you have had an argument with someone at work. What was the outcome?
  • How do you react if your boss asks you to do something which conflicts with your own deadlines?

Team Work

  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
  • When you joined your last company, how did you get on with your co-workers?

Staff Motivation and Development

  • What makes a good Manager?
  • How do you motivate staff?

Personal Motivation

  • What are the three most important events in your career to date?
  • What are your standards of success in your job?

Decision Making

  • What is the toughest decision you have had to make whilst at your present company? Tell me about it.
  • What alternatives did you consider?
  • How have your decisions affected others, and what was the wider impact?

What will the interviewers be looking for?

The interviewers will be looking for specific examples describing exactly what you did in certain situations, not what the team’s role as a whole was, or what you would do in a hypothetical situation.

You can choose to use relevant examples from your current job, a previous role or a situation outside of work altogether. You will be asked to discuss the example in some detail. It is likely that the interviewers will then follow with some probing questions, possibly to clarify a particular point. They will be interested in the outcome of the situation, whether there was anything you learned from the experience etc. The interviewers may also want to ask you questions about the information you have provided in your application form.