Your Guide to Competency-Based Interviews

Share this post

The effects of Covid-19 are still sending shockwaves across many sectors, I have already witnessed an increase in candidates looking for new accountancy roles – it’s a tough time for lots of individuals. 

Interviews can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but when employment opportunities are scarce, there is a whole different level of pressure. 

To help candidates through this challenging time, I am creating a series of blogs using my recruitment and career knowledge to help accountancy candidates.  

Today, I share my best practice tips so that you can give an excellent performance in a competency-based interview. Let me start by determining what a competency-based interview is, and if you’re likely to have one. 


What is a Competency-Based Interview? 

A competency-based interview (sometimes referred to as a structured, behavioural or situational interview) aims to discern how suitable you are for the available position by drawing on competencies – your unique behaviours – from your previous roles and experiences. 

You will be familiar with aspects of a competency-based interview if you have had an interview in the last 15 years or so, as they have increased in popularity during this time. 

The entire interview might take place in competency-style questions, or there might be a mixture with more traditional simple ‘question and answer’ dialogue. 

For example, a traditional interview question would be “why do you want to work for this company”, and a competency-style question is “tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem”. 


Identifying Competency-Based Questions 

Though you or your finance recruitment consultant will have an idea about some of the questions you are likely to be asked – either competency-based or traditional – you can’t predict all of them. 

For this reason, you should rehearse both traditional answers, but also be aware of when you are being asked a competency-based question so that you can answer in a way that the interviewer is looking for.  

With that in mind, here are some examples of common competency-based questions you could be asked. 

  • Describe a situation in which you led a team. 
  • Give an example of a time you handled conflict in the workplace. 
  • How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues? 
  • Tell me about a significant decision you’ve made recently. How did you go about it? 
  • What has been your biggest work achievement to date? 
  • Describe a project where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal. 
  • Tell me about a time when your communication skills improved a situation. 
  • How do you cope with adversity? 

A tip to identify a competency-based interview question is if the employer is asking you about your specific reaction or the way you handled a previous scenario in your role.  

Now you know how to spot a competency-based interview question, how do you answer in a way that will wow the interviewer? 


What Competencies Usually Come Up in Interviews? 

Preparing for an interview can be challenging, but in a tight job market, it is the candidates who come best prepared that stand the best chance of securing a new role. 

The language that appears in the role description, as well as the information you gathered from your recruitment consultant, can help you to anticipate the types of questions your interviewer might ask.  

Once you think you know what your would-be employer is looking for, make a list of must-have competencies. If you are working with a recruitment consultancy like ourselves, we will be able to share more specific detail here. 

Prepare to talk about the following competencies which usually come up  

  • Leadership and people management 
  • Experience with subscription organisations 
  • Experience working to quotas 
  • Strong teamwork 
  • Resiliency and flexibility 
  • Outstanding communication skills 
  • Your productivity 


The STAR Method  

In a competency-based interview, its easy to get caught up in the story youre telling and veer off track. Remember, itcritical to answer questions as concisely as possible.  

The STAR model is one of the easiest ways to structure your answers to achieve the results you want – a role offer.  

The way to answer is: 

  • S: Situation: Describe the challenges you faced. Maybe it was introducing a new audit process or meeting a critical deadline.  
  • T: Task: What did you need to do to reach your goal? Highlight the complexities you faced, and the timeframe you were working with.  
  • A: Action: What did you do to accomplish your goals? How did you use the competencies your employer is looking for (communication, leadership, etc)? 
  • R: Results: What did you achieve? Be specific with the data you use. Talk about savings, reducing time frames etc 

Additionally, remember  

  • Don’t attempt to show that you have every competency the interviewer is looking for at once.  
  • Keep your answers positive, never criticise previous managers or colleagues.  
  • Don’t just make up an example, as you won’t sound believable.  
  • Use different examples for each question; don’t use the same one over again. 
  • If you can’t think of response quickly, ask for a moment to organise your thoughts saying, “ I have a couple of examples, can I come back to that one later?” 


Staying Authentic and Positive  

When you get an interview for a role you want, it can be easy to be at the effect of your nerves. I have written a separate article about keeping your confidence up here, and if you’ve recently gone through redundancy, this post might help too.

Remember that while you might feel like the perfect fit for this role, there will always be more opportunities in the future. Remembering this should allow you to stay calm and collected so that the authentic you can shine through in your interview. 

Additionally, remember to stay positive, and try to answer each question from a positive perspective, and remember to smile and be personable and friendly – many candidates forget how important this is!  


Next Steps 

If you’re looking for a new finance role now or in the new future, I can help. As a dedicated accountancy recruiter, I have been helping candidates just like you get through the last few months and will continue to do so until the Covid storm is over.  

Get in touch with me today if you would like finance career advice, advice about a new role or to keep in touch about further opportunities in the sector. 





About Rebus Financial Recruitment   

Rebus Financial Recruitment provides a specialist and focused recruitment service to its customers, which historically range from a wide variety of organisations including SME’s to large PLCs.   

We strive to offer both the client and candidate a seamless recruitment experience. Using our expertise, we get to the heart of employer and employee needs; and, in doing so, we match the two perfectly. To find out more, get in contact with one of our team today, or you can call us on 01282 930930. 

You consent to receiving emails from us. Please see our privacy policy.