Competency based interviews (also referred to as Behavioural Interviews) are widely used across many companies and organisations, particularly within the Public Sector.

At Maher Consulting we have a wealth of experience working with candidates preparing for competency based interviews. Our advice is simple, practical and tailored to each individual clients needs and most importantly we have a very strong track record in helping people achieve success in competency based processes.


An Garda Siochana, The HSE and most other state bodies as well as many private sector organisations use this type of interview. They involve giving specific examples from your previous experience that demonstrates particular skills. Competency based interviews do not explore your career history in detail but instead focus on certain abilities (competencies) that the interviewers feel are crucial for the role. They are based on the premise that “past actions are the best predictor of future actions”.

Competency-based interview questions are generally easily identifiable as they often start with “Describe a situation where you….…” or “Give us an example of a time when……” Common competencies include teamwork, building & maintaining relationships, communication skills, managing conflict, problem solving, planning & organising skills, analysis & decision making, working under pressure, innovation, decision-making and so on. This is not an exhaustive list however so go through the job description/person specification to identify other skills or competencies mentioned.  Further questions can then be asked to determine why you took the course of action you took in your example such as What did you learn? or What would you change if you were in a similar position again?. When answering, always remember that the interview is about YOU and YOUR actions so avoid over-use of the word ‘we’.

Answers to competency based questions must be specific. General commentary about how you feel about a particular competency is not the way to go. Having a simple structure to help you to remain focused during your answers is also very important and there are a number of techniques you can use.

STAR (Situation, Task, Actions, Results) is a very common methodology that is often used to structure competency based answers. However at Maher Consulting our experience has been that many interview candidates can find some of these structures a little confusing so rather than help them to answer questions they merely add an unnecessary layer of complexity to the process. We have developed our own simple but highly effective structures and methodologies to help our clients successfully tackle competency based interviews.

It is true to say that many people find competency based interviews more daunting than the more traditional, general interview style. However they should not present an unsurmountable barrier for candidates. After all, you will be told well in advance (in most cases anyway) what specific competencies you will be asked about and therefore you can prepare properly. Good preparation is key.