Answers to Competency Based Questions

BulletProof Logo

Tanim Zaman

There is a huge amount of information online about what a Competency Based Interview is.  There are also an endless number of sites telling you exactly how you ought to structure your answers.

Most of them will regurgitate the same old mantra… use the S.T.A.R. Method.

However I have rarely come across anyone sharing an example of an outstanding answers. A BulletProof Answers, as I like to say.

So I thought I should share some in order to help people understand where the benchmark is.

Example 1 – The Part-Time Job Example

Tell us about a time when your communication skills made a difference to a situation.

S: While at university I worked part-time as a Training Advisor, running trainings and workshops for students and staff on MS Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. One day me and a colleague were delivering an advanced Excel training to a group of 6 students. One of the students was having trouble understanding how to apply Pivot tables to the exercise we gave them and I noticed my colleague struggling to explain it in a simple and accessible way. She asked me for help.

T: I had to find the best way to explain the concept, by adapting and tayloring  my communication style and skillfully guiding the student through the steps involved in creating the correct pivot table. I also forced myself to empathize with him and to understand his frustration and confusion- which reminded me of the time when I was learning and struggling myself.

A: Firstly I asked the student to explain to me what he understood about Pivot Tables. By listening very carefully I was able to gauge what his understanding was, but also establish what type of communication style he had. When he spoke to me he adopted a very simple and methodical approach, so I knew I had to do the same with him. Instead of explaining the whole concept in one go, I reasoned with him step-by-step, so that he would be able to follow the logic. I knew explaining the abstract concept may not be effective, because I had observed my colleague doing that with him unsuccessfully.

R: After having guided him step-by-step, he was able to finish the exercise and he thanked me enthusiastically for having helped him to finally understand and apply pivot tables. He mentioned that the step-by-step approach really helped him understand the logic behind the tool and that he was confident he would be able to comfortably use Pivot Tables in the future.


Example 2 – The Wacky Example

Tell us about a situation where you had to influence someone to achieve a different course of action

S: A few months ago I went on a fishing trip with my grandad. He took me to a spot in Dover where he had been going for many years. I knew that fishing requires a lot of patience, but when we didn’t catch anything for several hours I started wondering whether there may be a better spot somewhere nearby. I was quite keen to explore the vicinity for a better fishing spot but he was adamant that he knew the area well and that we wouldn’t have better luck in a different place.

T: I wanted to convince my grandad to move to a better fishing spot so that we could have  a better chance at catching more fish.

A: I knew that in order to convince my grandad I had to establish some credibility (because he was way more experienced than me). I therefore quietly took out my phone and did some research on fishing forums online to try and find some information about the best spots in Dover. Once I had found some tips from a very recent forum post, I knew that I had to deliver my case in a compelling way and that the only way to convince him was to frame my suggestion as a win-win. So I told my grandad that some individuals from a specialist fishing website caught lots of fish last week in a spot not too far from where we were. I proposed that we should go there and give it a try for one hour and that if we have no luck we can return to the initial spot. I reminded him that we both want the same outcome (catch more fish!) and that the advice was not coming from me, but from a specialist fishing website (credibility).

R: After some initial reluctance and questions about the reliability of the forum information, my grandad agreed to my suggestion and admitted that usually he catches something within the hour. He told me that he was willing to give it a go because of the proof I provided, which meant my strategy was critical and successful. We had much better luck in the new spot and ended up catching 2 fishes within 45mins – not as many as we wanted, but at least we caught more than my grandad’s spot!

Learn the 4 Easy Steps to create your own BulletProof answers at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *