As a specialist recruitment agency, we are often asked for interview advice by our candidates.

Whilst interviewing, managers will always be on the look-out for future employees who can resolve problems. Which is why candidates are often asked about how they have handled challenges in the workplace.

Competency based questions like “can you give me an example of a problem you encountered at your last job” is a way for the interviewer to assess your attitude towards past conflict and to see if you shift blame or take responsibility.

Popular competency behavioural questions

• Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem?

• Describe a situation in which you found a creative way to overcome an obstacle?

• Tell me about a time that you identified a need and went above and beyond the call of duty to get things done?

• Tell me about a time when you came up with a new approach to a problem?

• What’s the most innovative new idea that you have implemented?

• Tell me about two improvements you have made in the last six months?

• What was the best idea you came up with at your last job?

• Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures?

• Please describe a time when you faced a significant obstacle to succeeding with an important work project or activity.

• Tell me about a time when you had to analyse information and make a recommendation?

When questions like these are asked, it is best to think of them as a request to share how you have intervened to solve problems in the past, rather than an opportunity to complain about difficult situations.

How to answer competency behavioural questions

Have various examples prepared

– Outline a professional win which truly demonstrates your problem-solving skills at their best.

– Align your examples with the role you are interviewing for

– Avoid mentioning negative situations which could not be resolved

Be specific about your actions

To stand out from the crowd, you need to provide enough detail to give a sense of who you are and how you think. Keep your examples interesting but concise and make sure your actions and results make you shine as a contender.


Practice makes you more eloquent and more confident and will considerably increase your odds of getting hired. It is worth your while answering questions out aloud to get a hang of sounding interesting and confident, and without sounding too rehearsed or scripted. Create a framework of bullet points that ensures you hit your key points, so that your delivery will likely be a little bit different and more natural each time.

If you’re looking for a new role, search our latest jobs or contact us at Intelligent People today. We’d love to hear from you and help you find your next position.

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