15 Tried and Tested Competency-based Interview Questions

Cornerstone Editors

Creating a meaningful competency framework or model is about identifying the key abilities required to improve performance and achieve success. It's why competency management touches many different talent management processes, including talent acquisition.

And when it comes to assessing whether a job candidate has the competencies that align with your organization's needs, competency-based interview questions can really help.

For example, if your company's life blood is its focus on customer support, then you better make sure that the candidates you are assessing possess the kind of skills required to deliver outstanding customer service and support. The same principle applies for other competencies that might be core to your company's success such as innovation, collaboration, or adaptability.

15 Real-World Examples of Competency-Based Interview Questions

We recently asked our customers to share some examples of competency-based interview questions that they've used to predict the future performance of a candidate. Here are 15 questions they shared with us.

Customer Orientation

  • What was your most challenging customer service moment, and how did you make the customer satisfied that they'd been heard?
  • Please share an example of when you went above and beyond for a customer.

Initiating Action

  • Talk to me about a time when you initiated a people process or program that was successful in your organization. Why did you believe your organization needed the program and what steps did you take to initiate and develop the program?

Continuous Learning

  • Tell me about a time you created an error. Tell me what you learned.
  • What was your last work related mistake? What did you do after the mistake? What could have been done to prevent the mistake? What did you put in place, if anything, to avoid making that mistake again?
  • Have you ever championed a process or a program that failed to take hold in the organization? What steps did you take, and how would you change your approach the next time so that your organization would integrate the initiative?


  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenge and you were unable to meet the deliverable.
  • Tell me about a time when you were working on a project and things did not go as planned. How did you complete that project?
  • What have you done when you have run into significant obstacles or barriers that were blocking you from what you were trying to accomplish? Give a specific example that captures your approach.

Collaborating and Valuing Difference

  • Please describe the most recent thing you have done at work that demonstrated your willingness to work with others.
  • In order to create a spirit of teamwork and unity, how do you show appreciation for diverse backgrounds and talents of others?
  • Tell me about a time when working as part of a team seemed like a challenge and how you overcame the obstacles.

Stress Tolerance

  • Describe a project that had a lot of moving parts and how you handled it.
  • What was the most difficult day EVER on the job (can be any job you've had), why was it the most difficult day and how did you handle it?

Operational Decision-Making

  • Tell me about a time when you did not have all of the information you needed to complete an assignment or project. How did you proceed?

A big thank you to our customers who are always so generous with their experience and expertise. In particular, to the following customers whose questions were used in this article:

  • Aircastle Advisor
  • Bank of Queensland
  • Builders Mutual Insurance Company
  • CGB Enterprises
  • ECI
  • H.O. Penn Machinery Co.
  • Kershaw Health, Killian Construction Co.
  • Mag Pellet
  • Richland County Public Library
  • SGT Inc.
  • Solix Inc.
  • Southern Careers Institute
  • Southern Management Corporation
  • Swope Health Services

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