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Competency Questions for interviews


I've got some but it's always good to have input from others.
This one's quite urgent!

Many thanks in advance
Chris Reynolds

6 Responses

  1. some thoughts
    Hi Chris

    This is an interesting question and the reason why is that terms like reliability/dependability are fairly general terms that could mean different things to many people.

    Presumably, if they are key competencies within the role in question, you will have a set of positive indicators (& possibly negative ones), to support this competency area- if so, these should give you a good starting place for your questions. If not, it might be that those people involved in developing the competencies need to clarify what it means and to write some positive indicators first.

    For example if, in your competency matrix, reliability is linked to Team Work, the question could be; ‘When working in a team what would you consider to be your main responsibilities to the other members?’

    Alternatively, it could be just a more general question like ‘It’s essential that our employees are dependable, give me an example of how you have proved dependable, in the past’ (this could be substituted for reliable).

    or simply

    ‘In a work context, what is your understanding of the terms reliable & dependable, giving me some examples of how you have demonstrated these qualities in the past’

    With these questions, you can then use your checklist of indicators to see if they match or use them as a springboard for further questioning.

    Hope that helps.


  2. Thanks Clive
    Yes I agree. I also think it might not be a competency – reliability that is. It is a difficult one indeed. I think as you hinted in your kind response, it is a conglomeration of competencies. eg Attention to detail, integrity, work standards, responsibility etc etc.
    Food for thought.
    Many thanks once again

  3. Another suggestion
    Hi Chris

    How about something like “Tell me about a time when other people have relied on you to help get a job done/achieve an objective. How did you reassure them you would do what you promised?” etc.

    I would agree, though, that this is more of a personal quality rather than a competence. If reliable means meeting deadlines, working to standard, achieving your objectives, then questions really need to be asked around those competencies. Perhaps you could start by asking yourself “What would I see/hear if someone were reliable/dependable?”.

    Hope this helps.


  4. Good idea
    Good one. It’s got me thinking now even more as to whether it can be quantified in this way. I’m sure it can but I lack the mental software to come up with an awful lot! You’ve given me a great start anyway, for which I am grateful
    Thanks Jenny

  5. Not a competency
    I agree its not a competence ie. you cant be better at dependability, you either are dependable or you arent. Reliability is the same its not something one can personally influence and even if someone is ‘just below standard’ for levels of reliability how ar eyou going to train them to be more reliable.

    A competency is something you can be better or worse at and have control over (like a skill). These just dont fit.

  6. What are you trying to find out?
    Hi Chris

    I get questions like this all the time on training sessions and coaching programmes I run (no matter who the company is or which sector they belong to). The questions is around having a list of generic questions that suit each interview. My answer is always the same…

    Rather than look for good questions to ask, look instead at the behaviours you are looking for the person to have demonstrated and ask questions about these. Your competency framework and / or the job description you are interviewing for should have these details. With this approach you can now turn the behaviour into a question.

    A generic ‘team-working’ example might be…

    Behavioural example from Competency Framework: ‘…will take time to prioritise the work of others and self to identify where others priorities are greater than own, and to provide help where required.’

    Situation / Set-up / Context statement could be: ‘In this role there will be times where members of the team will have different priorities. However we must all work together to achieve team goals.’

    Behavioural Question could be: ‘Can you think of a time when you have had to assist someone else in meeting an important deadline even when you have had your own deadlines to contend with…’

    Probing questions might be: ‘Can you think of a specific time when this happened…’ (where the candidate is vague or generic in their answers – we can all give a textbook answer!!), ‘What did you consider when deciding your colleagues work should be done before your own…’ (checking whether they used a considered approach or just gave up their own work, which might be followed by), ‘…can you think of another time when you had to adopt this approach to team goals and targets…’

    …and for contrary evidence… ‘Can you think of a time when you had to continue doing your own work to meet your own deadlines even where colleagues are pressing you for help with their work…’ and then, ‘…how did you come to this decision, to continue with your own work…’

    I hope this makes sense to you. Competency / Behavioural Interviewing is something that comes naturally once you get the ‘concept / theory’ right in your head. This allows you to probe each candidate response and get to the evidence of what they have done in the past (i.e. the best indicator of future performance is past performance), rather than read a list of questions that might or might not be relevant to their experiences and the answers they initially give you.

    I’ll send you (and anyone else interested) a slightly longer answer that I couldn’t fit into TrainingZones 2000 characters maximum response. Just e-mail me.

    Good luck!


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