How to answer tricky interview questions

competency questions


Mastering a competency interview is one of the most important skillsets you can develop when seeking your next C-Suite opportunity.

Whilst many of our C-level candidates believe their experience and successes should justify a more informal ‘meeting’, our clients want to ensure that a senior interview is robust enough. General questions only really allow for general answers, and this does little to determine your future performance in a role. It is for this reason interviewers incorporate competency (sometimes called behavioural interview questions) into the process.

When answered well, competency based questions present the ideal opportunity to share your most defining moments and prove to the person interviewing that you are the best possible match to their requirements.

Typically, competencies can be classified into one of the following groups:

  • Behavioural: This typically includes leadership, interpersonal skills or the ability to effectively communicate.
  • Technical: Most jobs require the employee to be able to meet a set of technical competencies and could include data management or programming in digital industries
  • Attributes: This can include intelligence, flexibility and professionalism
  • Attitudes: Designed to measure optimism and enthusiasm. These questions allow the interviewer to get an idea of cultural fit.

Some competency question examples

  • Describe a situation in which you found a creative way to overcome a problem.
  • Tell me about a time where you took a course of action your team did not agree with. How did you deal with any negativity?
  • Explain a situation when you took a risk. What motivated you to do so?

Answer like a pro and get an edge on your peers

  1. Always use real life examples

    It is likely you will be asked questions relating to your behaviour in specific circumstances. This should always be backed up with concise and specific real-life examples. Think about how the situation made you feel and how you reacted and always try and put a positive spin on the scenario.
    Remember questions can relate to past failures as well as to past achievements, so you must explain why you didn’t meet the deadline and demonstrate what you learnt.

  2. Use hypothetical answers where relevant

    If you find yourself struggling to think of any suitable examples, give a hypothetical answer that draws on experience of a similar, relatable situation. Whilst you shouldn’t over-think your answer and make it too complicated, a little bit of preparation and formulating some examples can go a long way.

  3. Make your life easier by using STAR

    The STAR model can provide structure and will make answering a complicated question a lot easier.

    • Situation: Background of the situation and setting the scene.
    • Task: Detailing what you were required to do and by whom
    • Action What you did to complete the task and the skills and behaviours you used
    • Result: What the outcome was and your learnings.

As a registered candidate with ORESA, we will always offer support and guidance before an interview to ensure you are fully prepped beforehand.

If you are an ambitious leader seeking your next appointment upload your CV here and one of our consultants will be in touch.

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