Key Tips

  • To succeed in a Competency-based Interview or a Strength-based interview, it is vital that you prepare. Identify the competencies relevant to your job and then think about examples from the past when you have demonstrated these.
  • Build your answers. Write down your examples in the format of STAR – Situation, Task, Action (longest area), and Results. See below to learn more about STAR.
  • Make sure your responses to an interview refer to “I” (what you did) rather than “We” (what the team did); the interview is about you and your competence.
  • Our Question Identifier Tool (QIT) assessment will help you to identify which competencies are likely to be assessed and provide you with the types of questions likely to come up along with answers to teach you what a good response looks like. 

How will you be assessed during the Job Interview?

Contrary to some beliefs, observers do not (or at least are trained not to) ‘Evaluate’ (make judgements) during a job interview. Instead they write down (record) everything they ‘hear’ and ‘see’ and avoid writing anything they ‘think’ or ‘feel’. The reason for this is simple; judgements are not objective and any candidate’ rejection based on an opinion that cannot be backed up by evidence that was seen or heard could result in huge fines for the employer. After the interviewer is over, the assessor reviews the information which they have ‘recorded’ and decides on how each response may fit to a particular area of a competency which they require. The assessor then makes a decision about an individual’s competence.

Learn how to answer competency based interview questions. Advice and examples from previous SHL Assessment experts. See tips & tricks below.

An assessor will look for evidence in the answer that you provide to a question, which supports your competence. For example, if you talk about an example of a time when you planned a complex project and then go on to describe many of the positive behaviours that are involved with this process, you will be rewarded accordingly.

Assessors will probe using sub-questions if your answers are not sufficient. Do not be disheartened if the assessor asks further questions, or stops you at any point. They simply want to get the relevant information from you and move on to the next question. It is unfortunately a process!

How to Answer Interview Questions – CAR and STAR

Following the CAR and STAR approach to structure your responses will help greatly. Also see section on ‘Competency Based Interviews’ which outlines how to structure interview questions – CAR and STAR. Using this structure will save the interviewer some time by them not needing to ask probing questions, but will also make the interviewer’s job easier.

There are numerous ways to answer a competency-based question and the answer will involve seeking information from a situation in the past where you may have demonstrated those behaviours that are being asked about in the question. However it has become standard for trained interviewers to accept an answer which follows a particular format otherwise known as the ‘STAR’ or ‘CAR’ model.

For example: a job may require the ‘Planning and Organising’ competency. The interviewer may ask you to ‘tell them about a time when you have had to plan and organise a difficult project or task’. They will probe further until you have fulfilled the following aspects to support your demonstration of this competency:

Situation – also known as the context of the situation

Task – which you were undertaking

Action – which you took

Result – of the action that you chose to take

This can be remembered using the acronym ‘STAR’. Another acronym ‘CAR’ may be applied where the letter ‘C’, ‘Context’, covers both the ‘Situation’ and ‘Task’ elements of the ‘STAR’ model.

good answer here may refer to a project which you undertook, highlighting behaviours such as planning with contingency, being aware of and sharing risk with all stakeholders, providing updates to all stakeholders on a regular basis, managing expectations of all stakeholders and so on. However, if you did not perform any of these behaviours, then this would suggest your competence in ‘Planning and Organising’ is not sufficient – this would most likely work against you.

Want to know what questions are likely to appear in your interview? Complete our short ‘Question-Identifier’ tool (QIT) and we will provide you with the questions that are most likely to come up, along with sample answers.