How to prepare for a competency-based interview

Here are some tips from HR experts on preparing for a competency-based interview. Photo by: andibreit / pixabay

Many global development organizations favor competency-based assessment models to evaluate candidates — going beyond their previous job roles and responsibilities, the employer wants to know how a candidate may react to a real life situation or challenge. This approach is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate, through their past behaviors and experiences, that they have what it takes to succeed in the position. Sara Canna, human resources manager with the global talent management team for the World Health Organization, explains that a candidate’s past actions can help an employer understand how they might behave in the future.

Competency-based questions, whether for an interview or written exam, are often created by the hiring manager and specific to the role. While this can make the questions a little more unpredictable, here are a few tips HR experts shared to help you prepare.

Do your research

As with any job application or interview, doing your research beforehand is key, and can help make the experience a little less stressful. In many cases you can find out from the organization's careers page what kind of selection process they use for screening candidates. The United Nations careers page, for example, states that candidates must first complete a written examination before being invited for an competency-based interview, and WHO provides a detailed overview of the competency-based model it uses for interviewing candidates at different professional levels. Understand what exactly is expected of you, as a candidate, at each stage of the assessment process to ensure you are investing your time and energy wisely in your preparations.

Make a list and rehearse

The language used in the job announcement can often help you anticipate what types of questions the interviewer might ask. Canna advises candidates to check the required competencies in the job vacancy notice and rehearse responses for each in advance. Make a list of the required and desirable competencies, noting industry keywords such as conflict resolution, strategic planning, leadership experience or budget management, then come up with two to three talking points for each. If you have made it through to the interview stages then you have at least some of the competencies the employer is looking for, so make sure you have specific examples ready to demonstrate how you’ve applied them on the job.

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About the author

  • Emma smith

    Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.