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How to Ace an Interview

Competency-based interviewing allows you to assess a candidate against the skills required for the job

You may feel you already know how to get the best from your interviews with candidates. But how do you know whether you’re really establishing that person’s ability to do the role entrusted to you by the client?

The most effective approach is competency-based interviewing. 

Many organisations structure their HR process around a set of competencies which summarise the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are required. Competency-based interviewing, whether for recruitment or promotion, is an accepted part of life in these organisations, but what does that mean for recruitment consultants?

It demands careful planning and a different approach to interview questions. In return, it allows the interviewer to carry out a much more challenging, in-depth interview, focused on the criteria that matter to the client.

Plan the assignment

There will usually be a written summary of the competencies that are required for the job. 

Make sure you understand what these mean in practice. Spend time with the client talking about what successful performance looks like and gathering examples of each competency in action. These will then form the basis of your interview questions.

Competency frameworks can vary from a simple set of four or five core skills – focusing primarily on the key things required for the job – to much larger models.

Bigger frameworks typically cover technical skills such as finance, IT and HR, in additional to behaviours such as tenacity and flexibility, and the key ‘generic’ skills including influencing, team working, problem solving and so on.

During the interview

Competency-based interviewing is fundamentally different from traditional interviewing. Most interview questions focus on the ‘what’, whereas competency- based interviews look at how tasks were tackled.

Get the candidate to talk about real examples of how they have worked in their previous job by listing four or five standard openers. These could include: ‘Tell me about a time when’ or ‘Describe a situation where you have’. Follow this up with probing questions to broaden out the discussion.

Don’t forget that all the usual rules of interviewing still apply and that you will need to combine these questions with some traditional ones, for example to confirm key career details or personal information.

After the interview

Your competency-based approach need not stop with the interview. There is an opportunity to add real value for your client by structuring your feedback against the competencies that you have accessed. This allows the client to use the data as an input to personal development planning for the successful candidate, and also as feedback to develop any unsuccessful internal applicants.

Finally, remember that there are several distinct steps to go through to make your overall assessment. The interview is about gathering and recording competency data, so it’s important not to try to form an overall assessment of the candidate until you can look at all the data objectively. 


Speak with one of our experts about how to implement competency-based interviewing in your organisation today. Contact us here.