Answering Competency-Based Interview Questions
Original Editor - Kim Cusack
Use examples from placement, classes and college projects, activities, team participation (sports team are good examples of team work, debate groups), community service, hobbies, volunteering and work experience. Try to draw on real life experiences rather than glamorised fallacy.
A useful tip is to remember the STAR (STAR = Situation, Task, Action and Result) method as outlined below.
Situation or Task
- Describe the situation you were in or the task that you had to accomplish
- Describe, in detail, a specific event or situation
- Examples can be from a previous job, from voluntary/unpaid experience, or any relevant event
Action You Took
- Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you
- If you are discussing a group or effort, describe what you did – not what the team did
- Don’t tell the interviewer what you would do- tell them what you actually did
Results You Achieved
- What was the outcome?
- What did you accomplish?
- What did you learn?
Sample Questions and Answers
Sample question: How do you manage your time?
Sample answer: I only have so many hours in the day to get my work done and I have found that if I don’t create goals, it seems like nothing ever gets done. I keep track of all my responsibilities and goals and review them weekly. I mark down when I am first assigned a task, how long I think it will take, when it needs to be completed and how much time I will need to spend on it each day to complete the job on time. I find this great for reducing stress, but mainly it keeps me on track with what is important. It also helps me from getting overbooked and promising more than I can deliver. Now, I can deliver what I promise and be on-time.
Sample question: Give me an example of a time in which you have shown initiative.
Sample answer: The increased independence and responsibility during my final clinical placement gave me plenty of opportunities to show initiative. One of the memorable occasions came when I set up a group balance class for patients in the neurology department I was working in. I had helped in the management of a balance class on a previous placement and had observed the huge improvements that patients had made as a result. I therefore decided to approach my clinical educator with my proposed idea and reasons for why I feel the department might benefit from it. I was granted permission to set up the balance class which now runs three times a week.
Sample question: Give an example of a time when you had a conflict with a work colleague.
Sample answer: I generally try to resolve any issues with colleagues that I may have calmly and rationally so as to avoid conflict. I remember a time during one of placements, however, when I had a difference of opinion with my clinical educator. My clinical educator had been giving me a large amount of feedback on my assessment and treatment skills while patients were present. As this method of receiving feedback was making me feel uncomfortable and also taking away from much of my time with patients, I asked for feedback to be given at a convenient point later in the day instead. My clinical educator refused however, as they felt this was the most appropriate manner in which to learn. After persevering for another week and still feeling highly-strung over the situation, I approached my clinical educator again and further explained my thoughts and feelings on the matter. My clinical educator took on board my views and the issue was resolved.
Sample question: Give me an example of a time when you played a leadership role in an event, an activity, a department or work unit, or a project. Describe how you led the efforts. Tell me how people responded to your leadership.
Sample answer: During a recent placement I was appointed team leader for a student group presentation. It was a role I embraced. It was my duty to delegate tasks to my peers and also raise and resolve any troubleshooting issues that were encountered.
It was strange having a leadership role amongst my friends and peers but it also meant I was able to recognise and use others team members skills to achieve goals and meet the deadline we were set.
People responded well to my leadership role. I believe I led the team in a decisive and assertive fashion whilst maintaining democracy and motivation.
Sample question: Give me an example of when you had a conflict with a patient
Sample answer: During a placement a patient became irate and started to verbally abuse me having been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Conflicts happen in the hospitals, it is inevitable but it was important to remember to stay professional.
I listened to the patient and his point of view. He was yelling but what he was saying was still valid. I apologised in a calm and soft voice for my part in the situation and explained why I had been delayed. This allowed me to disarm him and we begin working on a solution.