Competency versus Behavioural Interviews

Two of the most common interview techniques are behavioural and competency-based interviews. Often these interview concepts can get confused due to the similar nature of the answer format.

Usually, the STAR technique, which focuses on situation, task, action, and result, is used to answer these types of questions. However, there are subtle differences in what the interviewer is looking for, and you need to be aware of this to ensure that you give the best answers.
If you are unsure of the difference in these types of questions, take a look at our guide below:

What is a behavioural interview?

In brief, behavioural interviews are based on the idea that past behaviour can predict future action. Essentially, the interviewer wants to know how your previous actions would lend to how you can perform in a new role.

The questions are designed to reveal the way an interviewee thinks; essentially, what motivates and drives them. The purpose is to understand if they are a good fit for the culture of the organisation.

Examples of behavioural questions include:
1. Think about a time when you struggled to build an important relationship in the workplace. What steps did you take to overcome the challenge, and how is your relationship now?
2. Give an example of a time when you didn’t meet a goal, and how you handled this.
3. How do you drive colleagues to adopt your vision and/or ideas? Give an example of a time you successfully persuaded a person or team to follow your lead on an important project or decision.
4. Think about a long-term goal you were (or are) working towards. How do you stay motivated to achieve it given competing priorities?
A good way to prepare for these questions is to study the company and try to gain an understanding of the culture. For example, are they innovative or more traditional? Does the department require rapid responses or a more considered approach?

What are competency-based interviews?

Alternatively, competency interviews are based on the skills needed to perform the job. Again, the idea is that if you have used these skills before, you will be able to perform them to the necessary standard again.
The interviewer will be looking for key indicators which demonstrate the requirements laid out in the competency.

Examples of competency questions include:
1. Describe a time when you had to analyse a problem and generate a solution.
2. Tell me about a time when you changed your priorities to meet others’ expectations
3. Explain to me how you ensure that you deliver the best customer service.
4. Tell me about a time when you had to respond to change in the workplace.
The aim here is to hit the critical indicators for the competency. So the first question above would relate to problem solving and judgment. The critical indicators could be: ability to analyse a situation effectively; find a solution; establish necessary resources etc.
By tailoring your answers around the job specification and skills, you can find examples which show how your previous work experience applies to this role.

Answering both competency and behavioural questions

The STAR technique is the preferred method of answering both behavioural and competency based questions. It provides a structure to your response, with each area weighted differently.

The STAR technique should be used as follows:
Situation: provide a brief description of the “why” – 10% of your answer
Task: provide a brief description of the “what” – 10% of your answer
Action: provide a larger description of the “how” – 65% of your answer
Result: provide a brief description of the outcome – 15% of your answer


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