Understanding competency based questions

Why do employers use competency based questions?

An employer believes that they can tell how you are going to handle a task in the workplace by how you may have handled a similar task in the past. They ask you to give examples of your behaviour so that they can learn whether or not you handled that situation correctly. This allows them to judge whether or not you have the right attitude for the job.

For example if you worked in a retail outlet on occasion you may have to deal with a difficult customer. An employer wants to know that you are going to be calm and that you will try to handle the customer complaint professionally rather than be angry or unhelpful.

A lot of jobs require you to work as part of a team. If the example you give demonstrates that you are someone who prefers to work alone then you would not be suitable.

Examples of behavioural / competency based questions

1. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
2. Give me an example of when you have had to deal with a difficult situation.
3. Tell me how you prioritise your work.
4. Give me an example of when you have had to deal with a difficult customer and what was the outcome.

A really good tool for answering competency based questions is something called the STAR technique. Download our easy to use guide on how to use the STAR technique.

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