Competency Questions

A competency is a quality, skill, knowledge or ability that employers seek in their employees. When you approach the recruitment process, and complete either a CV or application form and prepare for an interview, you will need to be prepared to demonstrate examples of where you have developed or deployed a range of skills and competencies.

In this module we will give you some examples of key competencies employers look for and some possible questions or approaches that employers may use to draw this information out. We will give you some advice and tips to effectively understand what the competency really means and how to formulate your examples and descriptions. We have also provided you with some further guidance.

Take a look at the Careers and Employability webpage to learn more about the skills and competencies that employers may be looking for.

Why do employers ask you competency based questions?
Because by finding out how you have dealt with situations in the past, employers are better informed about how you might perform in the future.

It doesn’t always matter what the situation was, (employers are keen to hear about a range of examples including work, degree and extracurricular activities) but you should think about and be able to demonstrate:

  • What was the situation?
  • What processes or methods did you use or approach did you take?
  • What skills did you acquire or develop?
  • What was your contribution in the task or situation?
  • What did you achieve, or what went wrong?
  • What did you learn from this?
  • Will this affect how you might approach a similar situation like this in the future and if so how?

Types of competencies
Competencies can be technical (systems, legislation, software) or behavioural. Behavioural competencies are very wide ranging, so we have focused upon some of the key competencies that employers will look for. It is worth visiting additional websites such as which contain further information. You will need to be prepared to demonstrate a whole host of competencies and of course it could depend on the type of job, sector or field to which you are applying. It is important to do as much research into this area as possible. Have a look at the Links section.

Other competencies might include:

  • Responsibility
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Trustworthiness and ethics
  • Organisation
  • Enterprise, entrepreneurship
  • Self awareness
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Numeracy
  • IT
Prospects Planner (Prospects)
Careers Report (TARGETjobs)