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Competency Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated May 4th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 25
Give me an example of a challenge you overcame in your last position.
View Answers
How to Answer
Demonstrate your positive approach to problem-solving. Show that you are proactive and competent when it comes to challenging workplace situations. Perhaps you went over and above to meet a tight deadline while taking over the responsibilities of a co-worker who was out sick. Another example could be that you trained yourself on a new software that was difficult to understand.

In your answer, focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge, rather than the challenge itself. The interviewer wants to hear that you are determined and able to problem solve.
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Top 25 Competency Interview Questions with Full Content
1.
Give me an example of a challenge you overcame in your last position.
Demonstrate your positive approach to problem-solving. Show that you are proactive and competent when it comes to challenging workplace situations. Perhaps you went over and above to meet a tight deadline while taking over the responsibilities of a co-worker who was out sick. Another example could be that you trained yourself on a new software that was difficult to understand.

In your answer, focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge, rather than the challenge itself. The interviewer wants to hear that you are determined and able to problem solve.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"The biggest challenge that I overcame in my last position was that I was brand new to the industry. I had sales experience; however, I knew very little about the oil and energy industry. I took my evenings and weekends to study hard on industry background, and trends. It didn't take me long to feel comfortable and confident when speaking with potential clients. All it took was some time and dedication!"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When starting my last role, there were 35 critical leadership openings in the business. It was causing a huge challenge for the businesses to function and meet their key initiatives. I worked closely partnering with talent acquisition to accomplish the successful hiring and training of all roles."
Anonymous Answer
"In the international organization I was working in at that time (before my current job), I started as a team coordinator. All of a sudden, a task force was created within the team in order to better coordinate and supervise the massive project the team was working on at the time, and I was invited to join the task force, with an almost immediate start, as the project was running behind. At the very beginning, I read the job description and felt like I was matching it only for 60% of the requirements. Nonetheless, I felt grateful and empowered by the fact that my director believed in me so much to offer me the position, and I was sincerely excited about such a learning experience, so I accepted. I admit, there were a few tough weeks, when I had to hit the ground running, learn a few new software and get used with a new style of work, but, all my hard work paid off, my contract was extended, and I was offered to remain in the organization until the end of the project."
Rachelle's Answer
This sounds like a challenge, indeed! It's great that you stepped up despite any hesitation or fears. Nice answer!
"At Company ABC, I started as a team coordinator. Suddenly, a task force was created within the team to better coordinate and supervise the massive project at hand. I was invited to join the task force, with an almost immediate start, as the project was running behind. At the very beginning, I read the job description and felt like I was only a 60% match for the requirements. Nonetheless, I felt grateful and empowered by the fact that my director believed in me so much to offer me the position. I was sincerely excited about such a learning experience, so I accepted it. I admit, there were a few tough weeks when I had to hit the ground running, learn new software, and get used to a unique style of work, but all my hard work paid off. My contract was extended until the end of the project."
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Anonymous Answer
"It was the first week of my current job; I was working on the system test, getting trained for the test. One day the guy who was teaching me was sick, and he calls off. On the same day, Engineers have done some change in the configuration file of the testing SW, so we have to follow his procedures, his steps he writes it down in his language which was difficult for me to decode. But I try to make sense on his code with a google search and try to find meaning in his speech, and I asked for help and made sure that what I understand and what you mean is the same. Then I have done testing, and it works."
Rachelle's Answer
This is a good example; however, it's difficult to follow. I recommend organizing your thoughts and sticking with the facts. Please see below.
"The first week of my current job, the person training me called in sick one day. The same day our engineers changed some configuration files that impacted our testing. The colleague training me wrote down the steps for me to follow, but it was in his language which was difficult for me to translate. I utilized Google to translate and asked others for help. In the end, I performed the testing, and it worked out well."
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2.
How do you deal in uncomfortable situations?
Often, our work environment holds the possibility for awkward or tense situations. It can be challenging to know how to respond when you have a coworker who is moody, or when your coworker lacks social skills and continuously asks inappropriate questions. The interviewer wants to know that you can keep your cool in situations like these.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have had my share of awkward situations and having raised two kids, I am no stranger to them! In the workplace, if an uncomfortable situation arises I tend to face the issue head-on, but tactfully. Sweeping things under the rug rarely helps. I have no problem being open with my team or colleagues if I am not feeling comfortable in a particular situation."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have learned over the years that if something makes me uncomfortable, I better dive right into it. Change and growth happen outside of your comfort zone. I embrace this!"
Anonymous Answer
"I take a deep breath, tell my self don't panic and try to understand a person's perspective, and if necessary, I clarify the situations."
Rachelle's Answer
These are great steps to dealing with uncomfortable or challenging situations. Good answer!
"When faced with an uncomfortable situation, I take a deep breath and tell myself to remain calm. If the situation involves someone else, I will take a moment to understand that person's perspective and ask for clarification if necessary."
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3.
Name a few things you were asked to do in your most recent position that you weren't necessarily trained to do. How did you cope?
The interviewer wants to know how you approach a situation when you do not necessarily possess the knowledge to complete a task. Most of us ask others for help, or conduct research to find the answer. Highlight to the interviewer that you are competent when it comes to leading yourself to the right answer. Show that you do not get frustrated; rather, you take it as an opportunity to grow.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I first started my current role, I was asked to present to my team about an idea I wanted to implement that would save the company money and time. I had never done this before and the idea of presenting made me a bit nervous. I spent a good deal of time researching viable business solutions. I played around with PowerPoint and watched some YouTube videos on how to put together an engaging slide show. It turned out great and I learned a lot from the experience."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I worked for a lean organization that had a lot of crossover between HR, Marketing and IT. Often, I would be asked to perform the functions of a department for which I did not work. We are all on the same team so I would figure out what to do and get it done, then later recommend a process to better handle the type of situation in the future."
Anonymous Answer
"I was not trained to do most tasks in my current position. However, I'm resourceful and a self-starter. For example, I was asked to step in as an Accountant I Specialist because we were short-staffed. I enlisted the help of co-workers by asking questions. Asking questions helped me learn, and I was able to finish the tasks."
Rachelle's Answer
Your answer is excellent! You show the ability to learn new tasks and a willingness to jump in, even when it may be uncomfortable for you.
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Anonymous Answer
"I started to work in this organization literally a week before their huge annual meeting took place. Most of the colleagues had been already transferred to the venue of the conference (which is one of the most famous conferences in the world), and there wasn't anybody around to onboard me or to give me training, so I had to function, and be as helpful as possible, with the little advice received by the IT technician who set up my computer, and a few written guides provided to me by the HR staff). I used all my patience to figure out the internal tools, and I tried to research what I didn't know and leverage my network of people I knew that were already working in the organization to ask for direction and best practices. I honestly do not think that I was already at 100% during the first week, but what's matters are that I was helpful to my supervisor (who was at the conference and able to deliver what was needed)."
Rachelle's Answer
Wow, this sounds like a massive challenge and a lot of potentially uncomfortable situations for you. BUT, you powered through and delivered what you needed to do. Fantastic example!
"I started to work for Company ABC one week before their huge annual meeting took place. Most of my new colleagues were already at the conference venue, which is one of the most prestigious conferences in the world. Nobody was around to onboard me or to give me training, so I had to function and be as helpful as possible, with the little advice received by the IT technician who set up my computer, and a few written guides provided to me by the HR staff. I used all my patience to figure out the internal tools, and I tried to research what I didn't know. I leveraged my network of people I knew that were already working in the organization to ask for direction and best practices. I honestly do not think that I was at 100% function during the first week, but what mattered was that I was helpful to my supervisor, and delivered they needed at the conference."
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4.
Do you consider yourself a patient person? How do you increase your patience level in challenging situations?
The interviewer would like to know if you consider yourself a patient individual. Impatience can cause a lot of stress and anxiety in coworkers, so it is essential that you can showcase your ability to remain patient and professional in workplace situations.

Patience is indeed a virtue but can be challenging to maintain when it seems that situations continue to push your buttons. Show the interviewer that you possess the ability to keep your cool in challenging conditions.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I do consider myself a patient person. I would rate myself an 8/10 for patience because I certainly have room to grow, but I do have a very long fuse. If I need a boost of patience in a challenging situation, I will take a step away, count to 10 and then return to the situation. I recently read a book, 'The Power of Patience' by M.J. Ryan which also gave me some excellent new methods for coping with stress."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am fairly patient, with other people. I tend to be impatient with myself if I am not finishing a project as fast as I think I should be. But, I am learning to be patient with myself as well. I find that breathing exercises, and closing my eyes for a few seconds can help me regroup."
Anonymous Answer
"I am a very patient, very emotionally disciplined person. When a situation is challenging, I take a break from it by removing myself mentally and changing my thoughts to something else. If possible, I'll go for a walk or listen to music. The important thing for me is to disengage until I've had time to decompress."
Rachelle's Answer
Highlighting the fact that you are emotionally disciplined will go a very long way with the interviewer. Well done!
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Anonymous Answer
"I can't say, but I have received this feedback often from colleagues, who consider me really patient. I would rate myself a seven or an 8 out of 10 because I know that there is always room for improvement. In general, I must stay professional and provide the best service possible to my colleagues, and this helps me to stay focus on the task at hand. In the end, the satisfaction to see your customer happy is worth being patient, at least for me."
Rachelle's Answer
It's great that you left room for improvement, but be sure not to undercut yourself. For instance, if you give yourself a 7 out of 10, does that mean you act impatiently 30% of the time? I like that you mention staying patient makes your customers happy. This shows where your values are, which is great.
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5.
Tell me about an achievement you are proud of. What skills did you use to achieve this goal?
The interviewer would like to know that you are capable of setting goals and reaching them. The person who aims to achieve more and more every day is the exact person that every manager wants to hire! Discuss an example of when you overcame obstacles to reach a career related goal that seemed impossible. Or, share a time when you received an award, and talk about the most challenging parts of achieving that award. Highlight your determination and focus.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"My company has a President's Club for all top sales reps. When you reach PC level, you earn a trip to Mexico! Last year I told myself that I was going to reach the President's Club level, no matter what it took. I worked an average of 50 hours per week, I doubled my cold calling numbers, and utilized areas of our Salesforce program that most people in our company don't even know. Mixing my strong determination with sound technical skills, and willingness to push through, I made it! I was proud of this achievement."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I recently earned my Degree in Business Administration while working full time. This goal I set for myself so that I could readily earn an Executive Assistant position like this one."
Anonymous Answer
"Last November, I was being offered a position of the lead technician at work, which I am proud of. I use my problem-solving skills, determination, patience, and technical knowledge to achieve this goal."
Rachelle's Answer
Perfect! It's great that you readily offer up what you did to achieve this goal.
"Last November, I was offered the position of lead technician at work, which I am proud of. I used my problem-solving skills, determination, patience, and technical knowledge to achieve this goal."
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Anonymous Answer
"I decided that I needed to get an internal auditor certification to learn continuously and to make myself relevant. I used my organization and planning skills to organize efficient study hours, and I was disciplined to follow the timeline I set for myself. I always aim for a positive result, and I was successful in passing parts 1 and 2 of the exam in just six months. I am currently studying for the final part."
Rachelle's Answer
Good for you! You seem determined to work hard and get what you want. You mention passing parts 1 and 2 in just six months...to give the interviewer more context, what is the benchmark or the average?
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