Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic than a typical chat based interview, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency as defined in the job description or person specification. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate’s behaviour or skills.

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What can be measured in a competency based interview?

Below are some examples

  • Adaptability
  • Compliance
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Decisiveness
  • Delegation
  • External awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Independence
  • Influencing
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Leveraging diversity
  • Organisational awareness
  • Resilience and tenacity
  • Risk-taking
  • Sensitivity to others
  • Team work

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How to score a competency based interview

Before the interview, the interviewers will have determined which type of answers would score positive points and which types of answers would count against the candidates. For example, for questions such as “Describe a time when you had to deal with pressure”, the positive and negative indicators may be as follows:

Positive indicators  Negative indicators
  • Demonstrates a positive approach towards the problem
  • Considers the wider need of the situation
  • Recognises his own limitations
  • Is able to compromise
  • Is willing to seek help when necessary
  • Uses effective strategies to deal with pressure/stress
  • Perceives challenges as problems
  • Attempts unsuccessfully to deal with the situation alone
  • Used inappropriate strategies to deal with pressure/stress

In some cases, negative indicators are divided into two further sections: minor negative indicators, i.e. those which are negative but which don’t matter so much; and decisive negative indicators i.e. those for which they won’t forgive you e.g. not asking for help when needed.

Marks are then allocated depending on the extent to which the candidate’s answer matches those negative and positive indicators. Here is an example of a marking schedule for the table above:

0 No evidence No evidence reported
1 Poor Little evidence of positive indicators
Mostly negative indicators, many decisive
2 Areas for concern Limited number of positive indicators
Many negative indicators, one or more decisive
3 Satisfactory Satisfactory display of positive indicators
Some negative indicators but none decisive
4 Good to excellent Strong display of positive indicators