Many organizations have a defined set of competencies they value and have woven into their culture. Their management and recruiters are trained to conduct competency-based interviews to aid in screening candidates based on this. These interviews are structured to determine if candidates display specific traits that will enable them to be successful within the company culture.

Competency-based interviews can be segmented into six general areas:

  • Skills: Individual behavioral demonstration of proficiency or expertise.

  • Knowledge: Usable information that an individual has within the topic area of knowledge.

  • Social Role: A pattern of behavior in an individual that is reinforced because they are a member of a group or organization (Outer-Self).

  • Self-Image: An individual’s conception of their own identity, personality and worth (Inner-Self).

  • Traits: A relatively enduring characteristic of an individual’s behavior.

  • Motives: Underlying thoughts relating to a topic area, achievement, affiliation or power that drive, direct and select an individual’s behavior.


An organization you are interviewing with will likely have developed a specific set of selection competencies. They will ask targeted questions to ascertain if you exhibit those competencies that they feel are critical for success.  Some common examples include the following:

  • Concern for Effectiveness: An underlying concern for doing things better.

  • Initiative: Willingness to go beyond what is required. Acting before being asked.

  • Enthusiasm for Work: Passion for the job.  Working hard and energetically.

  • Self Confidence: Ability to succeed, reach challenging goals and/or overcome obstacles.

  • Concern for Impact: Self-awareness of the impression you are making on others.

  • Conceptual Thinking: Ability to draw conclusions that are well thought out and based on assessment of experiences and observations of seemingly unrelated information to draw analytical conclusions not clearly apparent.

  • Analytical Thinking: Logical thinking in seeing relationships between cause and effect, plan to anticipate and evaluate systematically.

  • Interpersonal Astuteness: Under-

  • standing of others’ desires, strengths and weakness. Interpreting the concerns of others.

  • Effective Communication: Ability to effectively present and engage both formally and informally.

  • Flexibility: Willingness to shift strategies and accept other viewpoints.


In this format, you can expect questions intended to draw out further information from you related to topics of discussion such as:

  • How you got involved;

  • What role you played;

  • How you got the role;

  • What steps were taken; or how you responded.

  • Request to generally say more about the topic, such as describe what you did and what your thinking process was;

  • What your key interactions were;

  • How you felt; and

  • What the outcome was.

The approach may be broken into different segments and assigned to different members of the interview team, therefore you should not necessarily expect to be asked the same questions by each interviewer. Alternatively, areas viewed as critical may be discussed by all to gain multiple perspectives or to determine if there are inconsistencies in answers.  This technique is also used to see if you can adjust your responses to be effective based on the interpersonal dynamics within each meeting while maintaining consistency.

Your understanding and ability to navigate this is a critical part of the evaluation process. It is as important as your professional knowledge needed for the role.