Competency-based questions

Competency-based questions are used both in written applications and interviews – they are a favourite of recruiters. So, it’s important to practice them and understand just what the employer is looking for in your answer. 

Questions are based on scenarios you’ll have encountered previously. Your answer will demonstrate how you behaved, what you learnt from your experience and give the recruiter an idea of how you might respond to similar situations in the future.

Remember - the recruiter is looking for what youdid, and not your team. Use 'I' and not 'we' in your answers.

Knowing your competencies

The competencies required for a role are often provided within the personal specification section of a job description – but even if they are not, don’t assume you won’t get competency based questions in your interview.
Most questions will begin with:

  1. Give me an example of when . . . ?
  2. Describe a situation when  . . . ?

Think of different examples, taken from your studies, work experience, extra-curricular activities or hobbies, that fit the competencies required for the role. 

Download the Careers+Placements PDF Competency Explained to understand more about the 16 commonly used competencies. 


1. Competencies Explained

Preparing your answer

Although you would have more time to consider your response in a written application, you can still practice for interviews.

  • Consider competencies you think the employer is looking for 
  • Think of some real-life examples from the last 4 years that would fit
  • Particularly in an application, use a different scenario each time
  • Consider how the experience you gained would benefit the company


Recruiters are looking for what you did, not your team. 

Use 'I' and not 'we' in your answers.

CAR and STAR methods

There is no right or wrong way to prepare answers to competency based questions. We recommend using either of the following techniques to help you give clear and succinct answers. CAR and STAR.

Use the one that you find simplest to remember. These are explained further in the Competency Explained PDF.


For more advice, book an appointment with the careers team