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Competency based interview questions

Competency questions are largely designed to find out how you use your strengths and overcome your weaknesses, how you manage your time, work with others, and assess and address risk. They are largely dictated by the organisation, so they can vary depending on the employer and role being applied for. All the questions, however, enable you to draw on real-life examples. This assists in revealing the extent of your skills in areas where you will need to be competent in order to safely perform the role you have applied for. 

You could be asked to talk about an example where you were unable to complete a task despite intending to do so.

The employer will be looking to see how you recognise and learn from your mistakes. You will need to be detailed with your answer and end on a positive – perhaps explaining how the mistake helped to inform your work. 

You are likely to be asked specifically about how you manage your workload.

You will need to draw upon real-life examples. This will be much more powerful than describing your appreciation for time management. An employer will be looking for indicators of how adaptable you are at meeting the needs of those you support and how you deal calmly within the confines of the law. 

Can you tell me about the areas you need to develop?

is frequently asked. It’s an open question. The answer will very much depend on you as an individual, but you could talk positively about an area you are already knowledgeable or trained in and how you see your learning continuing in this field of work. This also provides you with a good opportunity to discuss your professional development. 

Providing an example of when you had to make an important decision without access to all the necessary information is sometimes asked.

You will need to explain why this was the case – perhaps there were specific safety issues that you urgently needed to address or there was a risk of harm. Make sure you explain in full, but only using information that is directly relevant to the question. 

Conflict management is also an area of competency.

You could be asked to recall a time where you were unable to deal with a difficult member of your team, and how you managed the situation. Be prepared to explain how you arrived at a positive outcome. 

Competency questions can of course take many different formats but if you have an example to give for each of the areas below, you’ll be as prepared as you can be:

  • Where you’ve led on a piece of work and how you guide and enthuse others
  • When you’ve managed an aggrieved service user
  • How you coped and adapted to change in the workplace
  • How you made sure you were legally compliant in a complex case
  • How you used a non-conventional method and the challenges you faced
  • When you delegated responsibility 
  • How you drove a team through change (if applying for a managerial role)