Competency-based interview questions

Who is it for?

HR practitioners, Operations Directors and Office Managers with HR responsibilities, hiring managers

What will you get?

A bank of questions you can reuse to build a competency-based interview around the Professional Map behaviours

Why do you need it?

Competency-basequestions provide an objective and consistent way to assess candidates' suitability for a role

When does it apply?

During the recruitment cycle

How to build your competency-based interview questionnaire

These questions are designed as guidance for you to adapt and build your interview questionnaires based on your specific needs: 

  1. Identify the key competencies critical to the role, for example, for a client-facing role key competencies you might want to explore in-depth might be 'Customer focus', 'Inclusivity' and 'Integrity'.
  2. Use the question bank below to help you. You can use a selection of these questions alongside your own, to help you evaluate the critical competencies required for the role. 
  3. Identify within the Professional Map the competency standards against which you will evaluate the candidates. For example, if the role is mostly aligned with band 2, select the relevant standards within that band, but also explore whether there are standards that are critical to the role in other bands. 
  4. Remember that all candidates should be assessed against the same areas of competence and using the same competency standards to ensure fair selection. 

These questions are provided as examples to help you and we hope that they illustrate how the Professional Map can be used to support fair and effective recruitment. Ultimately though, you must satisfy yourself of the suitability of any given candidate for your vacancies and the CII cannot be held responsible in this regard.


  • Tell us about a time when you identified an issue that needed to be addressed or an opportunity that others hadn’t seen. How did you identify the issue/opportunity? What did you do to address it? What was the outcome? 
  • Talk us through something you’ve learnt or a skill you’ve developed in the past 12 months that’s had a positive effect on you and your work. What was it you learnt/developed? How did you go about this learning/development? How has it changed the way you work? Have you been able to share the benefit of this learning with others? 
  • Describe a time when you’ve helped someone else adapt to change (at work)? How did you do this? 
  • Using an example, explain how you’ve been able to implement a new initiative/system/process/way of working while ensuring that there is no detrimental disruption to your customers/stakeholders or the business. What was your role in this?  
  • Tell us about a great idea you’ve had that you’ve been able to implement to good effect.  
  • Tell us about a time when you’ve adopted someone else’s way of doing things. Why did you decide to do this? What did you learn? 
  • How do you contribute to building a creative team environment? What do you do? How do you know it works? 


  • Tell us about a time when you’ve been able to improve customer experience. Who was your customer in this instance? What did you do? How did you measure your success? 
  • Using specific examples, explain how you go about understanding what your customers want or need? What have you done with this knowledge? 
  • Have you ever found yourself having to take a decision where customer and business needs were in conflict? What was the scenario? How did you go about negotiating this? What was the solution/outcome? 
  • Can you give us an example of a time when you have anticipated the future needs of your customers and been proactive in trying to meet them? What did you do? Why did you think it was important? Did you encounter any challenges?   
  • What do you see as the top two or three challenges for our sector in the next five to ten years? How will these change the way that we provide for our customers? 
  • What have you done in the past that has ensured the customer is considered at every level and across all specialisms within your team? 
  • In your view, what makes a good customer outcome? Why? 


  • How does your current/most recent role contribute to delivery of your organisation’s strategy?  
  • What do you do to help your team understand it’s role in the wider organisation? 
  • What does ‘continuous improvement’ mean to you? Do you have any examples of seeing it done well? What have you done to implement these principles in your own work or that of your team? 
  • Can you give us an example of having to negotiate two or more conflicting priorities, equally urgent and important? How did you ensure everything that needed to get done, got done? 
  • How do you plan for peaks and troughs in your workload? How do you use quieter periods? 
  • Tell us about a time when you’ve been able to overcome a significant challenge that threatened the success of a project or task you were working on? How did you do this? How did you feel about the situation? 
  • Tell us about a difficult but constructive piece of feedback you’ve received in the past. Why was this difficult to hear? What did you do to act on it? 
  • Tell us about a time when you have had to take quick and decisive action to respond to a change in priorities or immediate business needs? What was the situation and what did you do? Did it work? What did you learn? 
  • Using an example, help us understand how you plan for a project or complex task. Where do you start? How/when do you involve others? What steps do you put in place to ensure you achieve success? 
  • What’s the best piece of good practice you’ve brought with you from previous roles/experience/observation and been able to implement to good effect elsewhere? How did you convince others to adopt this? Did it have the effect that you hoped it would? 


  • Tell us about a time when you have changed someone’s mind and encouraged them to do something your way? How did you do this?  
  • Talk us through a situation where you’ve been able to achieve consensus and a way forward when you were contending with opposing views/opinions at the start? How did you do this? What was the outcome? Were there any additional benefits that came out of the situation? 
  • Tell us about the best presentation you have ever delivered? What did you do that made it so successful? 
  • Give us an example of a time when you have had to adapt your preferred communications style? What was the situation? How did you recognise that you needed to make a change? What did you do differently? What was the effect? 
  • How do you build successful working relationships with colleagues, partners and stakeholders? What do you do and how do you know it works? 
  • What have you done in the past to build your own reputation or that of your team within the business? How did you want to be thought of? How were you thought of? 


  • Have you ever noticed a colleague who isn’t being listened to? Why do you think this was? How did this make you feel? What did you do about it? 
  • Tell us about a time when you’ve been able to use a colleague’s strengths effectively? How did you make best use of their strengths? How did you address/overcome any weaker or development areas? 
  • What have you done in the past to try and build/encourage a diverse and inclusive team/team environment? Was this successful? Why/why not? 
  • What tools, policies or processes have you devised or helped implement that aim to create a more diverse or inclusive workplace? How successful have they been? 
  • How have you gone about building a professional network in previous roles? What benefits have you seen as a result? 
  • Tell us about a time when you have shared your knowledge, skills or insight with others. How did you go about this? Did you encounter any challenges in doing this? What were the benefits of doing so?  
  • What do you see as your role and responsibility in building a more diverse and inclusive workplace? 



  • Tell us about a time when you had to analyse facts quickly, define key issues, and respond immediately or develop a plan that produced good results. 
  • Describe a time when you had to make an important decision with limited facts. How did you go about this? 
  • Tell us about a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures.  
  • Give us an example of how you’ve used facts and data to make recommendations for action?  
  • How do you leverage the ideas and insight of colleagues/team members? Can you tell us about a time when you were able to do so to really positive effect? 
  • When something goes wrong, how do you learn from it and mitigate against the same issue arising again? Use an example to help us understand how you’ve approached this in the past. 


  • Tell us about a time when you have escalated an issue or decision that you were dealing with. What factors did you consider before doing so? 
  • Have you ever had to defend, advocate for or take responsibility for a course of action externally that you didn’t agree with personally? How did you reconcile yourself to this and what did you consider before doing so? 
  • How do you ensure confidential information is handled appropriately? 
  • Tell us what you do to promote trust in yourself, your team and your organisation? 
  • Have you ever challenged a decision taken by your manager or someone senior to yourself? Why did you decide to do this? What was the result? 

Where to next?

Explore the Map

Explore the technical expertise and behaviours at the core of what it means to be a well-rounded professional.


About the bands

See how different types of role map against four bands of experience.

Find learning

Find the learning you need to meet the development goals of your teams.



Everything you need to know about the Professional Map and how it applies to you and your firm.