How to ace competency-based interview questions

If you’re currently on the job-seeking scene, you may have noticed a change of approach in the interview room. Do you find that increasingly it’s your skills – as opposed to your qualifications or work experience – that hiring managers focus on? Do they seem determined to extract specific, real-life examples of every competency required of the role? And do they seem to be scoring you as you speak?!


Change, dear job hunter, is afoot. And this particular change takes the form of competency-based interviewing. In recent years, the HR industry has embraced this approach as the most effective way of identifying best-fit candidates. If it’s new to you, you’ll be pleased to discover the STAR Technique, which enables you to answer skills-based questions logically and concisely, showcasing your proven strengths in the process.


Here’s an example of how a candidate could use the STAR Technique – which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result – to answer a question about the initiative. The example answers were published in a recent article on the subject in The Metro.

  1. For Situation, describe the context, e.g., ‘Sales had dropped in the first quarter.’
  2. For Task, explain the challenge or goal that you set, e.g., ‘My team was given a target to increase sales by 10%.’
  3. For Action, explain the steps you took to complete the task successfully, e.g., ‘I developed and delivered an in-house sales training course for my team.’
  4. For Result, describe the positive outcome that you achieved, e.g., ‘Sales increased by 25% and the training course was rolled out across all teams and divisions.’


Key tips flagged up by the article include:

Don’t make it too obvious that you’re using the STAR technique. Try to sound natural and authentic.

Don’t save your best examples for the perfect question. It may never be asked as some questions touch on three or four skills at once.

Before your interview, re-read the job description and highlight the key skills and competencies required. Write a STAR example for each one, using recent examples if possible. You want them to come to mind immediately when you’re questioned about them.


Note that, while the STAR technique is great for addressing skills-based questions, you also need to be prepared to answer questions about your personal strengths and who you’d most like to be stuck on a desert island with. It’s these ‘off-script’ answers that enable your wonderful personality to shine.


For more advice on how to ace your interview or any other recruitment-related matter, please get in touch with ABL Recruitment, the UK’s number one multilingual recruitment agency. With over 30 years of experience behind us and longstanding relationships with 400+ leading companies worldwide, we will quickly find you fantastic job opportunities and help you nail the interview. Please contact us at or on 020 7092 3911 today!