Interview Questions Surrounding Core Competencies

Prepare stories that show, rather than tell, your strengths.

Prepare stories that show, rather than tell, your strengths.

Interviewers strive to find out as much as they can during an interview to make the right match for the company and the right fit for a particular job. They find the right person for the job by asking questions designed to get you to describe how you behave in various situations. The core competencies they look for are those skills most applicable to the position. You can expect certain core competency interview questions no matter what kind of job you’re applying for.


Core competencies are those skills, attributes or traits vital for you to perform the job requirements. The basic core competencies interviewers look for tend to be communication, leadership, teamwork, initiative and customer service. While every job may employ some aspect of these five core competencies, some are more important than others for certain jobs. If it’s a sales job you’re after, for example, the interviewer will want to determine your level of communication competency. Leadership competencies are vital for managers and analytical abilities important for a researcher. While your training shows that you’ve passed the requisite tests to earn your credentials and your previous jobs may have given you a certain amount of essential knowledge about the job, the core competencies are those innate characteristics you have no matter what kind of schooling or training you’ve received.

Behavioral Questions

Effective interviewers won’t just come out and ask if you’re persuasive. Instead they’ll ask you to give them examples of how you persuaded a client to make a large purchase when she turned down other salespeople. The interviewer will ask you to relate a specific scenario that shows how your core competencies played out, or how you used those abilities in a certain situation and what kind of results you achieved in the process.


You can prepare for various behavioral questions based on the core competencies you know are expected of the ideal candidate. For example, a recruiter for a customer service position will expect you to relate stories about how you dealt with a disgruntled customer or what you did when a client threatened to pull her business. Expect the questions and prepare with stories that provide details about a specific encounter with an unhappy customer. Talk about what happened, what you did and how the situation turned out. Prepare positive examples that illustrate how you successfully relied on your core competencies to solve a problem and save a sale.


You know you’re being asked about the core competency and not just about a technical skill when the interviewer begins a question with something like “tell me about a time,” or “give me an example.” When hit with those questions, you can bet the interviewer is testing to see how you reacted to the situation in the past and how you react to the stress of an interview. How you handle the stress of interrogation tells a lot about your core competencies, thinking on your feet and addressing customer concerns. Prepare for the questions and you’ll leave the best impression on the interviewer.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by LIVESTRONG.COM
Brought to you by LIVESTRONG.COM

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images