How to Answer a competency based interview question? I would always recommend that you use the STAR approach as this will give your answer structure and is an easy platform that you can remember, and easily follow. The is no point in learning a job interview structure that you cannot remember or follow when answering difficult questions during your job interview.
The STAR Approach
You can find a fantastic article here with detailed instructions on how to use and remember the STAR approach but in short, the STAR approach simply stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. When answering competency interview questions you need to make sure that you explain the situation that you were in, explain in detail the Task that you had, explain what you were actually responsible for and what the end Result was.
60% of giving a great answer to a competency interview question is making sure that you go into enough details. The general rule for answering competency based interview questions is to keep your answer to the point, but make sure that you go into as much detail as physically possible in the couple of minutes that it will take to answer the question.
Competency Based Interview Question Examples
Below I have provided you with Four very Typical Competency Interview Questions and tried to explain how I would give answers to these questions whilst using the STAR approach.
Question – Tell me about a difficult problem that you had at work and how you were to over come this?
The interviewer is trying to test how you handle yourself in difficult situations and is looking for proof that you can tackle problems head-on and will not just bogged down. To create a strong answer, you need to make sure that you clearly demonstrate a problem, what action you took and what the result was.
- Situation – Whilst work as a sales manager in company X, I often found it difficult to make sure that my team achieve our sales targets at the end on the month.
- Task – I needed to improve consistency and increase the sales targets of my team
- Action – I sought advice from the directors within the business to find out how they motivated their teams through the month.
- Result – I implemented a number of different daily and weekly incentives over the course of the month and successfully increased my team’s sales figures by 30%.
Question – Give me an example of a difficult customer that you’ve had to deal with and how you used your skills to overcome the problem.
If you are going to going to learn an answer to one competency question, learn an answer to this question. Candidates often freeze when confronted with the question because they cannot think of answer and the more time that goes by where you cannot think of an answer the more difficult to becomes to think of a good one. The number one bit of advice to answer all customer based questions is to make sure that you give an answer where you resolved the problem, not where you had to refer the problem to your senior manager.
- Situation – Whilst work as a sales manager in company X, I picked up the telephone to a client who was exceptionally unhappy because they had not got their goods and were running out of stock in their shop.
- Task – The client was very unhappy and wanted to know when their order would arrive as they urgently needed these products. My job was solve the problem
- Action – Firstly I listened carefully to what the customer had to say and both apologised and empathised with this situation. I then clarified that I my understanding of the problem was correct and took responsibility to resolve the problem with the client. I gave the client, both my mobile number and email address and made it known to the client that they could call me directly any time they had a problem and I would do my best to resolve it.
- For the current problem, I offered a solution by personally finding out what had happened to their original order. It turns out that their order was lost in the system and would take another week to be delivered. As a temporary measure I offered the client some alternatives and would be to send a much smaller order directly to the client today which would give them enough stock to cover the this period until the main (much larger) order would arrive.
- Result – I confirmed this solution was acceptable by the customer and both followed up to make sure that the smaller order arrive by the end of the day and the much larger order arrived by the end of the week. I followed up with the client after both orders had arrived and ensured the customer was happy with the products. The customer was very happy with my service and professional approach and promised to contact me directly again when they wanted to make their next order.
After being in communication for a few months with the customer, I managed to meet the customer in person and introduce them to three other business lines which they also included in their next order, therefore increasing the value of further orders by 45%.
Question – Tell Me About a Situation Where you lead a Team?
This is a great example of a competency based interview question where the interviewer is trying to understand how you relate, manage, motivate a team to ensure that you get tasks completed on time. Ultimately this question tests your leadership skills. As with all competency based interview questions you need to use the STAR approach. Whilst you should spend time describing the situation, you need to make sure that you really focus on your role as the leader. Watch out that you tell the story with you as the leader and not the dictator.
- Situation – During my last year at College, I was responsible for managing a number of business events aimed towards potential employers coming to our college to meet with graduates who were going to start looking for jobs in the summer.
- Task – I noticed that the numbers of both Students and Potential Employers to these events had been dropping over the years and wanted to do change this and ensure that future events were more successful.
- Action – I designed a new promotional package that we could send out to employers and local business within the city outlining what we were doing and the location. I made sure I included both the address and a Map seeing as the location of our networking event was quite hard to find. I also designed a promotional leaflet for the students, which I had sent around to all the students that were graduating at the end of the year making them aware that this networking event was taking place.
- Result – I result was brilliant and we had a 25% increase in the number of employers visiting our college and a 60% increase in the number of students that attended the event. I also designed a “feed-back” form, which we passed out to both students and employers asking for feedback on how the event went and what improvements we should make for the following year. The feedback was collected and I passed this information onto the next president of the business club.
Question – Tell me about a situation where you worked in a Team?
Where in the above question you were asked about leading a team, this question focuses on your personal team involvement. In your working career there will often be times where you have to work in a group where you might not be the leader even if you are the owner of the company. This question is often asked instead of the question, are you a team player? Given that 99% of candidates answer this question with a simple Yes.
- Situation – During my time working on the shop floor we would often have busy periods of the day or year where we need everyone to pull together and help out. An example would be around Lunchtime during the week when people got out of work and needed to quickly pick up a few things..
- Task – My job was to manage and lead the shop, however in these peak times, I had to roll my sleeves up and help out.
- Action – During these peak times, I helped out to make sales for my colleagues and make sure that we did not miss any sales to our competitors.
- Result – We were able to increase sales by 10% simply down to all pulling together during these peak hours, without increasing costs. I also leant that by helping out with the team during these peak hours, I did not have to increase my costs my hiring more people and helping out the shop floor team rather than simply focusing on my own goals made for a much better working environment.