How to answer competency Qs the right way – and get the job

Competency questions are a vital part of the interview process. Chances are you’ve come across these questions before but have you amazed the interviewer? These type of questions are very easy to prepare and with the correct technique, you’ll feel comfortable and confident.

So let’s get started.

What are competency questions?

At an interview, competency questions help determine if a candidate is suitable for the position by examining past behaviours. Knowing how you performed in the past is a good indicator about how you will react to situations in the future.

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Interviewers will use questions in the style “tell me about a time when…” to gain some knowledge about how you would perform on-the-job. (More on this later!)

The types of questions asked will be looking for a particular behaviour or competency. There are many core competencies that an employer will look for in a candidate  A startup may define teamwork, motivation, and initiative as key behaviours they look for in a candidate. Here are some examples.



  • Describe a time that you demonstrated the ability to be an effective team player
  • What strategies would you use to motivate your work colleagues?


  • Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to the team
  • Tell me about a time when you had to present complex information


  • Describe a time when your initiative caused a change to occur
  • Tell me about how you prepared for this interview

The important thing is that you look at the job description and research your position. It may sound obvious but understanding the company’s needs will help you to prepare your own past stories.

If that seems like a lot, there’s no need to get starry-eyed!

  1. This structure will keep you focused on answering the question. No rambling or faltering

  2. It will bring value to your answer by highlighting the desirable skills and experience

How to use the STAR Method to answer competency questions

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Introduce the interviewer to the situation or task. It’s all about setting the context here. It’s important to be clear and concise when choosing your scenario. Don’t be vague. If you have no work experience, don’t worry. Apply the STAR method to extra-curricular activities, a volunteer role or an internship you have completed.

Let’s apply this STAR method to one of our above examples to get a better idea.
“Tell me about a time when you demonstrated the ability to be an effective team player?”

  • Give details of the project you were working on.
  • Who were the other team members?
  • What was your timeframe?
  • Were you working in a cross-functional team? If so, state exactly what your task was in the situation.


  • This is where you will give the most detail. What was the action that you took when you were working in a team?
  • Avoid rambling by following this structure; What did you do? When did you do it? How did you do it?

Did you take responsibility of your actions and outcomes? You need to demonstrate here how you put the team’s interest ahead of self interest. You could also show how you took into consideration the needs of others.  


  • Once you have explained in detail your action, reflect on the result.
  • What is it that you have accomplished? Did you learn anything?
  • The Hiring Manager is looking for the best match for the business. You want to prove that you can handle situations that may arise in the future.

In this example, you want to show that you can bring value and work with a team to achieve goals. Did you work effectively in a team to produce a high-quality product or service? Be sure to highlight the measurable outcome.

LIME Advice

  1. The key here is to Practice, practice, practice! Using the STAR method, have some of your past accomplishments ready. Businesses will have a clear idea of the skills required for the job and will ask behavioral questions based on this. It’s up to you to use these real life stories to prove your abilities.
  2. We always suggests to our candidates to set aside some time to prepare for competency questions. Take a look at the job specifications. What are the core competencies that the perfect candidate would need? Prepare 4-5 answers to match each value.

Once you have prepared, check out our guide to answering tricky logic questions and go to your next interview at ease!