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Top 5 Competency-Based Interview Questions

Competency-based interview questions help hiring managers understand how you will react in certain workplace scenarios. Going beyond traditional skills-based interviews, competency centred questions use real-life experience examples as key indicators to predict future work performance.

The most effective way to answer competency questions is to use the STAR technique.

Situation – where did the example take place?

Task – what job/task were you required to complete?

Action – how you did it

Result – the outcome

Before your interview, prepare for possible competency-based questions. You can also use these examples as research into competency-based job applications.

1. What is your greatest achievement?

We recommend that for the experienced worker you mention something work-related whereas for the inexperienced candidate use an example of personal achievement.

Such as this:

“I trained last year for a marathon. Running has never been something that comes naturally to me but I trained hard and raised over £1000 for charity.”

Example for the experienced employee:

“Taking on the challenge as supervisor. I initially started out as a junior and worked my way up to managing a team of ten. Through great mentorship, I quickly became settled in my new role and built strong relationships with everyone in my team.”

2. Tell me about a time you used your communication skills to work collaboratively in a team?

The interviewer wants to know how well you work with others and do you have strong communication skills in order to excel within the role.

Prove you do, with this example:

“I work well with others and use my strong organisational skills to bring groups of people together. In my previous role, I worked on a big media campaign that required lots of different inputs from the team’s designers and developers. I navigated deadlines and brought together everyone’s work to ensure we all met campaign objectives, successfully.”

3. Describe a time when you solved a difficult problem at work?

A difficult scenario in work is best described as a time where you felt challenged and pushed outside of your comfort zone. It should definitely not be taken as an opportunity to start singling out and bad-mouthing previous co-workers. But instead a chance to discuss the outcome of the problem and positive result.

Good examples:

  • Ability to complete a project under a tight deadline
  • Covering for senior-level roles
  • Resolving client issues
  • Managing a high-volume workload
  • Meeting client/managers expectations

Your ability to recognise a tough situation and reflect on how you overcame it is key to answering this interview question.

4. How do you handle customer complaints, and can you provide an example of resolving a complaint issue?

Interview scenarios for customer-facing roles aim to dig deep into your customer service skills and ability to handle and diffuse customer instances.

How to resolve complaints:

  • Listen – make sure you know exactly what the customer is unhappy about
  • Reassure – tell the customer you are there to help and are committed to fixing the problem
  • Apologise – take ownership and apologise to the customer
  • Fix – do what you can to fix the issue and put in place measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again


“As an account manager, I was responsible for maintaining client relationships. However, in one instance due to a lack of understanding, I made a presumption about the client’s needs for a project. Which turned out to be wrong. I took ownership and immediately apologised. I made sure this wouldn’t happen again by always listening and asking for clarity in the future – just to be sure.”

5. Describe a time where you experienced failure and how you overcame it?

Competency-based interview questions aim to assess your own self-evaluation. Asking about a time you experienced failure is a perfect example of this.

There are two parts to this question. The first part is describing the failure itself and the second is how you overcame it. The interviewer is most interested in the latter.

What did you learn from the failure and do you now do things differently because of it?


“I became burdened with stress because I knew I was unable to complete a project on time. Instead of asking for help or communicating with my supervisor, I attempted to finish it by myself because I was afraid I would look incompetent. Looking back, I should have asked for a deadline extension and managed my time better.”

These are our top five competency-based interview questions. Remember to use the STAR technique and answer with integrity and express the ability to self-evaluate.

Good luck!

If you have any questions – ask in the comments or @BubbleJobs.


  1. Jewell

    These are general interview questions. I have been interviewed many times and have also been asked these questions. Your article is excellent. There are many exciting suggestions to answer questions. These suggestions will probably attract employers. Thank you for sharing a handy post

  2. liahughes

    The secret questions work very well on those candidates who have prepared correct answers, and this is very noticeable. In order to interrupt “memorized answers,” any of these questions, which are not standard at all, are asked. Often such questions also bring down the tempo of the interlocutor’s speech and allow you to distinguish prepared from deliberate answers by the speed of the previous answers.

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