• McKenzie Douglas

    Your global solution to in-house legal recruitment.

  • Relax, you're in safe hands

    In-house legal recruitment is all we do.

Competency based interviewing

Competency based interviewing is becoming increasingly common so it’s important that you understand what it might involve so you can prepare as best you can.

What is a competency based interview? It’s a structured style of interview based around your behaviour and actions in specific circumstances, which can be used to assess how suitable you are for the role you’re being interviewed for. Instead of asking open questions such as “why are you interested in this position?”, you will be asked questions which target a specific skill or competency.

You will then be asked to provide a concrete (rather than hypothetical) example relating to specific circumstances where you demonstrated a particular skill or competency to address a problem, face a challenge, make a difficult decision, etc. You will also be asked for an explanation of why you chose a particular route of action and what you learned as a consequence.

Questions may be focus around areas such as:

  • - Communication
  • - Adaptability
  • - Tenacity
  • - Leadership
  • - Independence
  • - Managing a conflict
  • - Taking a risk
  • - Influencing
  • - Going against the ‘flow’
  • - Stress / pressure
  • - Problem solving
  • - Teamwork
  • - Integrity

Examples of questions:

  • - Can you give me an example of when you motivated others?
  • - Describe a situation where you had to make an unpopular decision.
  • - Tell me about a time you demonstrated strong leadership skills.
  • - Describe a time when you had to win someone over, who was reluctant or unresponsive.
  • - Describe a situation where you got people to work together.
  • - Give an example of a situation where your initial approach failed and you had to change tack.
  • - Describe a situation where you implemented a new process / function to enable a project to run more efficiently.


Before the interview you might find it useful to reflect on your career to date, focusing on key working experiences and any projects you’ve been involved in, as well as the way you typically approach your work. Familiarise yourself thoroughly with the job spec to try and identify the core skills and competencies you may be asked to demonstrate.

Remember these interview questions aren’t designed to trick you, but for you to highlight your skills, characteristics and methods of working to a potential employer.

How to structure your answers

A useful way of tackling these questions is to base your answers around the STAR technique:

Situation: set the context and describe the situation you were in
Task: describe what you needed to do as a result of the situation.
Action: explain what you did, how you did it and why. This is where you can outline the skills and attributes you displayed to tackle the situation.
Result: describe the end result – what you delivered and accomplished. It’s also helpful to describe what you learned as a result

Try to be specific and keep the emphasis on the role you played, rather than the rest of the team; remember, this is your chance to shine!