Competency based questions

These assess your relevant skills to succeed in the role. Typically, you need to outline a specific example of when you have demonstrated a particular skill, how you have performed it well (in detail), and the positive outcome.

Stress your personal contribution and use recent examples from; work experience, volunteering roles and extra curricular activities.

The employer is looking for a well thought through structured answer.  One such way of approaching the question is the CAR approach. CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. It helps you to structure your answer like a mini essay.

“Context” is your introduction, where you describe the scenario you faced, date and place. The “Action” forms the main body and should be the longest part of your answer. The “Result” is the conclusion and like the introduction, should be quite short.

  • Context: Describe the situation and the task you were faced with, when, where, with whom?
  • Action: How? What action did YOU take? Sometimes people focus on what the group did without mentioning their individual contribution.
  • Result: What results did you achieve/conclusions did you reach/what did you learn from the experience?

Here are some typical questions and model answers. Again all answers have been written from the perspective of a 16-18 year old and can be adapted according to your own experiences.  Of course there are many other questions which could come up, if you do attend an interview feel free to post on our forum pages with any tips you might have.

When have you risen to a challenge? Describe your role and any outcomes.

Possible evidence: Balancing your studies with a part-time job, coping with a family crisis or illness, completing a project or piece of work that did not run smoothly as anticipated.

Model answer: I have recently taken part in a World Challenge Expedition to Peru.  Whilst the adventure travelling was at times difficult the thing I found most challenging was raising the £2000 to attend the trip.

To ensure success the team and I organised a variety of fund raising events.  These included lower school discos, cake sales and talent shows.  These tested my organisational, marketing and sales skills.  We all worked together well as a team and brainstormed together to think up creative and engaging fund raising ideas.

We successfully raised the money as a result and now have the memories of a six week adventure to treasure as a result.

Describe a situation where you had to work effectively as a member of the team. What were the team’s aims? How was the team selected? What was your role?

Possible evidence: Working on a group project, fund-raising, team sports

Model answer: As part of the World Challenge we had to plan the entire trip and our full travel itinerary. We had to plan where we wanted to go, where we would stay, how we would get around and how to fit everything into our budget.

Once we had agreed a general itinerary we divided up the different tasks between us. My responsibility was to make the travel arrangements: I researched the various options and decided that rail would be the cheapest and the most flexible way to travel around Peru, so then I had to check the rail connections and timetables between the places we wanted to visit.  This left us with more money to spend on accommodation and food.

Even though the trains didn’t always run on time, we had a great time and visited all the places we had planned to and the team were very happy with the choice.

Describe a situation where you had to use an innovative way to solve a problem.

Possible evidence: Work on the school magazine, art or design projects, computer based analytical work

Model answer: During the school holidays I volunteered to help out at my local youth clubs play scheme for 4-11 year olds. The hardest part was getting the children to keep the equipment tidy and take turns without this impacting on their enjoyment.

I decided to motivate the children by dividing them into groups and making this into a daily competition with a progress chart and prizes and arranged for by my manager. I produced a wall chart to show the points awarded to each team and explained to the children how the points would be won and lost.

The competitive spirit transformed the children’s attitude to tidying up and. There were no more problems with children ‘disappearing’ at clear-up time and parents were amazed to hear how involved their children had become in this activity.

Describe where you have had to show great attention to detail, to produce a satisfactory result.

Possible evidence: Proofreading your own or others work before submission, organising an event, handling money in a work based or voluntary role

Model answer: In my chemistry coursework I had to analyse large amounts of data during as part of an experiment I carried out.

I had to pick out the relevant data and make sure it was accurate as future calculations would be based on this.  I was meticulous in sorting through the data and asked my teacher to check over my results before proceeding with the report.

I successfully did this and was able to carry out the required calculations and proved my original hypothesis as a result.

Give up an example of when you developed effective working relationships with people from differing backgrounds, or having differing views, to accomplish an important result

Possible evidence: Voluntary work in a school, Working in a home for the elderly, Sports coaching

Model answer:

As part of a charity project at school I became involved with an organisation fighting against AIDS. I was responsible for helping to organise an event to raise money and promote awareness for the charity. I had to collaborate with many different people, including; representatives from the organisation, the school headmaster and the school nurse as well as my team mates.

I had to listen carefully to the needs of the individuals, which differed greatly. I had to adapt my communication to suit both adults and. At first I found this challenging, but with experience I learned a great deal about effective communication techniques. I then had the responsibility for producing the marketing material for the; non-school uniform day, bake sale and awareness talks which we had organised.  This was a test of my written communication skills, which was difficult as AIDS is a particularly sensitive issue.

It wasn’t always easy, but we raised over £1000 and the feedback from the day’s awareness talks was positive.