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Competency Based Interviews

Competence Based Interviewing - Sample Questions


  • Can you give me an example of when you have written an important letter to a client? How did you ensure it was clear to the reader? What feedback did you receive?
  • Have you ever had to explain something really difficult over the telephone? What was so difficult about it? How might you do it differently in future?
  • Describe a talk or presentation you have given recently? How did you prepare? Who was in the audience? What was their reaction to your presentation?
  • Tell me about a time you had to communicate a complicated idea to another person or team. How did you go about this? What was your strategy to ensure they understood? How did you check that they understood?
  • What types of communication have your utilised in the past?
  • How do you ensure communication is effective?
  • How would you persuade colleagues that an established procedure could me more effective if amended slightly?
  • How would you handle a situation where a client wanted a huge discount?


  • Tell me about a time when you had to convince a colleague(s) of your point of view. What positive messages and benefits did you outline and why?
  • Think of a time when you had to argue a case and outline the obvious arguments. How did you outline the less obvious arguments? Which arguments did you use to win the case and why? When developing lines of argument, to what extent do you involve others?
  • Describe a time when you had to develop an important strategy or initiate a project. How did you go about it? Who was involved? How did you ensure success? What indirect influencing methods did you use?
  • Tell me about the types of influencing and negotiation situations you have been involved with. How did you approach them? What specifically did you do to ensure success? What did you learn from this experience?


  • How do you prioritise your own work?
  • How do you establish your own priorities?
  • How regularly do you review your priorities?
  • What do you do if an urgent request comes in from a client?
  • What do you feel is the most important part of planning a telesales call?
  • Which aspect of planning do you find most useful?
  • What would your first steps be?
  • What would your action be?
  • How would you monitor / evaluate progress?
  • What was the most important event you have had to plan for in the past?
  • Was your action plan successful?
  • What if anything would you have done differently?
  • What aspects of the process did you find most challenging?
  • Describe for me a recent project, which required you to assemble a lot of different /a large amount of information? How did you know you had the appropriate information? How did you know you had enough information? Where did you get the information from?


  • What experience have you had of working in teams? What size were they? Describe the team and how it operated? What was your role in the team? What did you contribute to your team? What support would you expect to get from your team?
  • In your past experience of working with a team, how did it manage to deal with an unplanned event?
  • What steps did the team take to deal with the situation?
  • How much involvement did you have?
  • Give an example of where you have been required to significantly adapt a plan in order to respond to changes within the environment. Explain how you adapted the plan in the way you did. What impact did your action have on the outcome?
  • Tell me about the last time you had to cope with a significant change in your daily work patterns, brought about by factors outside your control.
  • How do you cope with the problem in the workplace of simultaneous, 'urgent' demands made upon your time?


  • What experience have you had of dealing with uncooperative customers? How did you initially approach the situation? Did you change your style or approach at any stage? How successful was your approach? What did you learn from the process?
  • How do you motivate yourself?
  • How do you manage really dull administrative tasks? Not all experiences have a positive outcome, how do you pick yourself up after a bad experience? What did you learn about your own motivation from this experience?
  • How would you react if an extremely angry client or candidate phoned you demanding an answer to a problem that had been passed from pillar to post over the last two weeks, and who is also hurling personal abuse and insults at you?
  • Give an example of a difficult situation you have found yourself in. How did you approach it?
  • What advice would you give to colleagues who found themselves in a stressful situation?
  • Can you describe a situation where you faced overwhelming odds yet managed to prevail? What odds did you face? How and why did you prevail?
  • Tell me about a time you knew you were right, but were being forced to abandon your position. What was the issue and the nature of the resistance? How did you attempt to overcome this resistance? What was the final outcome?
  • When you are championing an unpopular position, at what point are you prepared to abandon the cause?

Relationship With Others:

  • How would you establish yourself in a team? What steps would it be important to take? How would you maintain the relationship when it became routine?
  • How would you develop and build on existing established client relationships? What past experience of this do you have?
  • What do you think is important to do / not to do?
  • How would you establish a good working relationship with a new client?
  • Tell us about a client that you would like to develop a partnership with currently. What made you select this client, how are you establishing their needs, and what specifically is you role in the process?
  • Describe a time when you feel you definitely contributed to the success of a team. Why was the team so successful? What was your contribution to its success? What did you learn from this experience?
  • Can you think of a time when you were part of an unsuccessful team? Why was that team unsuccessful? In hindsight, what could you personally have done to remedy the situation?
  • Give an example of how you have responded to a colleague who has seemed to you obviously overworked or stressed.

Problem Solving:

  • Can you give an example of when your manager was absent and you were required to deal with an unforeseen problem? What did you take into consideration? How did you analyse the situation? What alternatives did you consider? What was the effect of your decision?


  • What personal strategies do you employ when you are required to work very long hours? What are your coping mechanisms?
  • How do you manage to maintain high energy and concentration levels when work becomes tedious or monotonous? Can you give me examples?
  • Can you cite any examples of when your own personal energy and drive inspired others to see things differently, and thus turned negativity or apathy into positive results?

Example Interview

Competence Interviewing - The Principles

Below is an example taken from an actual interview, where the interviewer begins to use probing and summarising skills.

"How do you go about managing the three staff under your control?"

"I just give them jobs to do on a daily basis, and keep a watchful eye on their work."

"How do you decide who has which task?"

"This depends on their ability to do the task. I will only give them a task if they are capable of performing it."

"So you will only give out a task if you know that the member of staff is capable of performing it (mini summary to clarify the situation) - is this always the case?"

"Well actually - no. Sometimes I will give someone a piece of work if I feel they are say 40% capable of doing it and can learn the rest through trial and error."

"How do you go about monitoring the learning through trial and error?"

"Well, this is the problem. I find my self short of patience when my staff do not learn the things I found easy to learn through trial and error. I find out what has happened by checking performance and invariably finding mistakes."

"Have you ever received any management training?"

"No. But apart from some minor problems, I really do feel that I am a good manager, and this has been borne out by my appraisals."

"OK, so far we looked at some aspects of how you go about managing your staff. Basically you allot them tasks on a daily basis if you feel they are up to the task. In order to stretch some staff you may give them a task if you feel they are 40% capable and can learn the rest through trial and error.
However you invariably find that they have made mistakes in the process and this causes you to lose your patience at times.
Am I right so far?" (summary)