Skip to main content Skip to job search
Coronavirus update: We know coronavirus is causing a lot of uncertainty, so we just want to reassure you that we’re still recruiting. We’re doing our interviews over video, our technical assessments are online and people are still starting new jobs, albeit virtually. Find out more >

Preparing for a competency interview

Preparing for a competency interview

The competency-based interview

How should you prepare?

Firstly, think about the competency areas we'll be assessing you against, you'll have been told what these were when you were invited to interview. (The full list is in the Competency Interview section.) What do you think these mean in the context of the role you’re applying for? If you aren't sure more information is available about competencies on the internet.

Consider the work that you’ve done to date that shows really good examples of the personal qualities that we are looking for. Remember, this might not be the biggest or most successful project you have worked on, but the one where you showed your skills at their best.

Structuring your response

To answer the questions, it can be helpful to use a structure. One of the more recognised ones is called the STAR technique: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

  • Situation: Describe a recent challenge/situation in which you found yourself.
  • Task: What you were trying to achieve from the situation.
  • Action: What did you do? Why you did it and what the alternatives were.
  • Result: What did you achieve through your actions and did you meet your objectives? What did you learn from this experience and have you used this learning since?

It can be a lot to remember, but STAR is fairly simple, and will really help structure your answer for maximum impact. Whatever approach you use, the key thing is to listen really carefully to the question and make sure you give a full answer to it.

Try and make your examples transferable.

It can help to pick examples that allow interviewers to see how your communication skills can be transferred to the job that they are recruiting for. For example, if the job you are being interviewed for involves lots of presentations as a way of communicating with people, use an example in the interview of where you have communicated verbally, and delivered a presentation. If you find this difficult, use an example of other styles of communication you have used, and then explain to the interviewers how you would have adapted your style and approach to deliver the communication as a presentation.

Think about how you explain your example.

If the project you are trying to describe is quite technical or complicated, give some thought to how you would break this down and explain it simply to people who might be less familiar with the project.

Practice explaining your example to a friend who has never worked with you before. If they are able to understand how you did a great job without knowing anything about the complexities of the project, the interviewers will be able to do the same. Ask your friend to be honest. Really honest. If you ramble too much, gesture too much, talk too fast, or all of the above it's better to hear about this from a friend rather than an interviewer.

Think about the little things you did.

When we work on some really big projects it's sometimes easy to forget the little things that we've done that made it a big success. Sometimes we're so good at taking care of those little things that we forget how good we are at them.

Think of some of the examples that you want to use and see if you can explain them to some of the people who have worked with you closely - ask them if there is anything they would add that you haven't thought of, nine times out of ten they saw you do something really useful that you would never thought to have mentioned in the interview.

Try and relax and take some time.

It's not a race. If you are asked a question feel free to ask to think for a minute about how you want to answer. If you aren't sure of exactly what the interviewer wants, ask to hear the question again.

And finally remember that we're on your side.

No one wants to see a nervous candidate who is upset or anxious about the process. That's why we try and give you as much notice as we can about the interview, tell you what we will be assessing and make sure we give everyone in our processes the same chance at showing their skills.

We aren't trying to trip you up, or catch you out. We just want to book in a bit of time to sit down with you and hear more about you, and give you a chance to meet us.