What is a competency-based interview?

Also known as structured, behavioural or situational interviews they are designed to test one or more skills or competencies. The interviewer has a list of set questions, each focusing on a specific skill, and your answers will be compared against pre-determined criteria and marked accordingly.

Working on the principle that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance, competency interviews can be used by employers across all sectors but are particularly favoured by large graduate recruiters, who may use them as part of an assessment centre.

They differ from normal or unstructured interviews, which tend to be more informal. In unstructured interviews recruiters often ask a set of random, open-ended questions relevant to the job, such as ‘what can you do for the company?’ and ‘why did you apply for the job?’ to get an overall impression of who you are. A competency-based interview is more systematic and each question targets a skill needed for the job.

Key competencies regularly sought after by employers include:

  • adaptability
  • commercial awareness
  • communication
  • conflict resolution
  • decisiveness
  • independence
  • flexibility
  • leadership
  • problem solving
  • organisation
  • resilience
  • teamwork.