Guide to Interviewing

Important Competencies to Include

Job competencies are the skills and personal characteristics that an individual should possess in order to be successful in a position. Below is a list of commonly identified competencies, key behaviors, and interview questions.

Achievement Oriented
Analytical Ability
Communications Skills (Oral & Written)
Decision Making Skills
Diversity Orientation
Interpersonal Skills
Job Motivation
Management Skills
Planning and Organizing Skills
Presentation Skills
Problem-Solving Skills
Team Building/Team Work
Time Management
This should not be viewed as an exclusive list. This list is shown here to give you an idea of what competencies you may want to consider and how interview questions can be developed from them.

Achievement Oriented

Definition: Identifies and accomplishes challenging objectives or personal goals.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Establishes challenging short-and long-term goals.
  • Takes initiative, persists at tasks and pursues completion of objectives.
  • Takes reasonable risks.
  • Overcomes obstacles and resistance to change.
  • Engages in healthy competition.
  • Tell me about the accomplishment you are most proud of and why.
  • What risks were you willing to take to achieve goals you set for yourself?
  • Describe your future goals and the steps you plan on taking to reach these goals.
  • Explain a project you undertook o your own initiative that made a major impact on your department.

Analytical Ability

Definition: Reviews & analyzes a wide variety of information and recommends a specific course of action.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Grasps new concepts, approaches and systems.
  • Examines & interprets a wide variety of data/information and makes recommendations or decisions.
  • Defines parameters of task and desired objectives.
  • Develops results-oriented conclusions.
  • Anticipates problems, opportunities and needs of the organization and the constituent.
  • Organizes ideas and information in unique ways.
  • Tell me about a time you were asked to evaluate a situation and recommend a new approach. What factors did you take into consideration when analyzing the data?
  • Give me an example of a potential work problem that you anticipated and resolved. What are some of the measures you took to prevent the situation from becoming a problem in the future?
  • How do you stay attuned to new trends in your area of expertise?

Communication Skill (Oral & Written)

Definition: Takes the initiative to communicate accurate, up-to-date plans and information to subordinates, peers, and management. Expresses thoughts clearly, both verbally and in writing. Listens and understands the views of others

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Writes in a concise and organized manner.
  • Writes results clearly & grammatically.
  • Appears knowledgeable & confident in communicating information.
  • Shares information with others to help them perform their jobs & seeks information from others.
  • Is sensitive to the communication levels required by different audiences.
  • Listens actively & speaks clearly and directly.
  • Conducts effective meetings.
  • When communicating with others, do you generally write them a memo, call them, or talk to them in person?
  • Tell me about a time when someone returned one of your reports or memos because they didn't understand it. What did you do?
  • What courses have you taken in communication, business writing, effective speaking, etc.?
  • Describe a time when your ability to listen helped you communicate better.
  • This job requires you to spend a large amount of time writing. How would your supervisor describe your writing skills?


Definition: Develops new ideas and unique and novel solutions to problems.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Challenges current procedures to develop other alternatives.
  • Seeks ways to improve all aspects of the job.
  • Brainstorms to develop suggestions and new ideas.
  • Develops several approaches or solutions to a problem.
  • Give me an example of a unique and novel solution you had for a recent problem you encountered in your work.
  • Tell me about a time when you were creative and explored new ways of thinking.
  • Describe a time when you broke away from the regimented way of thinking and developed a creative solution.


Definition: Makes decisions while exhibiting judgment and a realistic understanding of issues; ability to use reason, even when dealing with emotional topics.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Identifies purpose and objectives.
  • Gathers and analyzes data and develops rationale for decision.
  • As appropriate, involves subordinates and others in making decisions.
  • Considers alternatives and assesses their impact and potential problems.
  • Implements decision and evaluates results.
  • What technique do you use in making decisions?
  • Describe, in detail, a situation in which you used your training and experience in making a decision that required sound judgment.
  • What is the most difficult business decision you have had to make?
  • Tell me about a time when you involved others in the decision-making process.
  • In you prior job, what decision did you ponder the longest before making? Why was it difficult?

Diversity Orientation

Definition: Recognizes and values the benefits in the diversity of people, ideas and cultures. Encourages differences as a way to enhance group productivity.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Treats each person in the department as an individual with individual needs and issues.
  • Maintains and enhances the self-esteem of others.
  • Understands and responds to others' needs and priorities.
  • Values differences among team members.
  • Promotes equal treatment while refusing to tolerate workforce bias or racism.
  • Gives equal time to all staff within department.
  • How do you value the differences that employees bring to the job?
  • What benefits have you seen in the changing demographics in your work environment?
  • How have you adapted your behavior to the changing workforce?
  • Give me an example of how you manage the members of your staff differently but equitably.


Definition: Recognizes and responds to unanticipated events and requirements. Willing to do what is necessary to get the desired results.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Copes successfully with unexpected events.
  • Handles several projects simultaneously.
  • Adapts own behavioral and communication style to gain cooperation of managers, co-workers, peers, customers or suppliers.
  • Adapts well to, and supports, change.
  • Brings simplicity and order out of complexity and chaos.
  • Describe a time in your current job when you boss assigned you a rush project even though you had other important priorities at the time. How did you feel and what was your response?
  • Explain a situation where you adapted your behavior and communication style to gain cooperation on a team project.
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to adapt to a difficult-to-deal-with employee.


Definition: Actively seeks opportunities to make a contribution rather than passively accepting situations. Takes action to achieve goals beyond what is necessarily called for; originates action.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Actively seeks solutions to problems before being asked or directed.
  • Questions the way a process is done and suggests changes.
  • Initiates self-development efforts.
  • Seeks additional job responsibilities to assume.
  • Looks for new ways to contribute to the business.
  • Tell me about a project you generated on your own & what prompted you to initiate it.
  • Give me an example of how you made a change in a work-related procedure or process, why you made the change & the results.
  • Tell me about some new ideas and suggestions you have made to your supervisor in your current job. Which were accepted and why.
  • What do you do differently than other employees in your current job?
  • What have you done to add value in your department?

Interpersonal Skills

Definition: Establishes productive, cooperative relationships with subordinates, peers and management. Understands and responds to others' needs and priorities. Resolves conflict in positive ways.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Resolves conflict in positive ways.
  • Gives and seeks feedback that will increase the productivity of relationships.
  • Deals with the diverse behavior of others in groups in order to increase the group's productivity.
  • Maintains and enhances the self-esteem of others.
  • Recognizes strengths and limitations of self and others.
  • Give me an example of a time when you encountered conflict with another department. Tell me how you resolved it.
  • Describe a difficult employee relations issue you were involved with and how you managed it.
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to demonstrate empathy or sympathy to someone.
  • Explain a time when you were sensitive to the diversity of a team or group you were working with and how you affected the productivity of that group.

Job Motivation

Definition: Maintains a high level of interest and enthusiasm for job responsibilities. Has demonstrated record of being a self-starter and self-motivated.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Takes pride and derives satisfaction in one's job.
  • Assumes ownership for getting the job done.
  • Enthusiastic about taking on challenging projects.
  • Goal oriented; concerned with achievement & doing better.
  • Makes plans and follows through.
  • Give me an example of when you felt the greatest sense of achievement.
  • All jobs have their frustrations & problems. Describe an example of specific job conditions, tasks or assignments that have been dissatisfying to you. What did you do?
  • What gave you the greatest feeling of achievement in your job at _________________?
  • What makes a job interesting to you?
  • What "turns off" your motivation in a job?


Definition: Weighs alternative courses of action and makes decisions that reflect factual information and are based on rational and logical assumptions that take organizational resources into consideration.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Makes sound decisions by considering alternatives.
  • Considers impact in other areas of the organization.
  • Weighs alternatives and selects practical solutions.
  • Reviews decision to see if it satisfies long-range plans.
  • Describe a decision you recently made and identify the process that led you to that decision. What were some of the sources you used to reach that decision? What were some of the issues you took into consideration?
  • Give me an example of a good decision you made in the last six months. What were the alternatives? Why was it a good decision?
  • What was the toughest decision you had to make in your current job? Tell me about it.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to ask your manager for assistance on a project or situation.


Definition: Uses appropriate interpersonal styles and methods to guide individuals or groups toward achieving results.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Develops and communicates a vision of challenging goals, growth and progress.
  • Motivates others to work together toward common objectives.
  • Successfully gains cooperation in situations where the person has no direct authority.
  • Works effectively in cross-functional groups.
  • Takes on a leadership role in school, work and/or community.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to gain cooperation of others outside of your organization where you had no direct authority. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
  • Have you ever developed a mission statement for your department? How did you go about it?
  • Describe the role you usually take in a task team situation.

Management Skills

Definition: Motivates, trains, and develops a diverse workforce and provides an environment conducive to achievement and growth.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Delegates effectively and acknowledges accomplishments.
  • Responds positively to innovative ideas and suggestions from subordinates.
  • Resolves personnel problems quickly and effectively.
  • Communicates plans and information to staff in a timely & thorough manner.
  • Promotes teamwork and cooperation within the department.
  • Meets budget responsibilities.
  • Provides constructive, ongoing feedback.
  • Balances concerns for results, deadlines, tasks, and people.
  • How would your staff describe you as a manager? What would they say are your strengths? Opportunities for improvement?
  • How would you describe yourself as a manager?
  • Describe a personnel problem you had recently. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?
  • How do you communicate organizational changes and other relevant information to your staff?
  • What methods do you use to accomplish the projects that add value to your department?
  • Give me an example of a performance issue in your department and how you managed it.


Definition: Utilizes appropriate interpersonal styles and methods to gain agreement or acceptance of an idea, plan, activity or product.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Gains approval of a plan or idea by focusing on the benefits of the proposal to the audience.
  • Persuades people from various levels, positions or backgrounds by using a variety of interpersonal techniques and approaches.
  • Improvises, thinks quickly on his/her feet.
  • Sells ideas despite resistance.
  • When convincing others of your ideas, what skills or personal abilities do you use?
  • Describe a situation where your enthusiasm persuaded a person(s) to your point of view.
  • Tell me about one of your toughest "sales" experiences and the steps you took to gain acceptance.
  • Give me an example of a situation when you were unsuccessful in selling your idea to the "customer" and changed your approach to gain support.

Planning and Organizing

Definition: Establishes a course of action for self or others to accomplish a specific goal.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Develops plans to achieve objectives.
  • Identifies resources needed to accomplish objectives.
  • Resolves conflicting priorities and accomplishes work on time.
  • Utilizes a "to do" list, calendar, or some type of planning tool.
  • Maintains a balance and awareness of status of all projects.
  • Anticipates obstacles and ways to overcome them.
  • Develops short-and long-range plans.
  • How do you ensure you meet your objectives?
  • Give me an example of a project you were given and how you accomplished it.
  • How do you prioritize your daily, weekly, etc. responsibilities?
  • Give me an example of when you had conflicting priorities and how you completed them on time.
  • Tell me about a time when you used your organizing and scheduling skills to create a productive work environment.
  • What kinds of project planning and administration to you enjoy in your current job?

Presentation and Public Speaking

Definition: Expresses oneself in a clear, concise manner during individual or group situations.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Presents in a confident and enthusiastic manner when addressing people in a large or small group.
  • Demonstrates a sound knowledge of the subject matter.
  • Delivers information in a clear, concise, and logical manner.
  • Gains acknowledgment of audience and is able to understand the communication level required.
  • Effectively uses various audio-visual media to enhance presentations.
  • Describe your presentation style.
  • What steps do you take before making a presentation? How do you prepare?
  • What has been one of your most successful presentations? Why?
  • How often do you present? To whom?
  • Describe a presentation where you had to persuade an audience on an idea, service or change.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to present information outside of the scope of your responsibilities.
  • Tell me about a time when a presentation did not go well and what you did to "rescue" it.

Problem Solving

Definition: Identifies and defines problems through the gathering of relevant information leading to the development of alternative solutions.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Identifies the existence and cause of a problem
  • Brainstorms potential solutions.
  • Identifies conditions that solutions must meet.
  • Evaluates alternative courses of action.
  • Identifies key people involved in evaluating solutions to the problem.
  • Implements solutions and evaluates results.
  • Do you use any particular problem-solving techniques? Please explain.
  • Describe a problem you solved where you used your investigative skills to get to the heart of the problem.
  • Give me an example of a problem you dealt with that frustrated you. Explain why, and what you did about it.
  • How much autonomy do you have in the problem-solving process? When does your manager get involved?
  • Describe a problem you identified and explain how you obtained agreement & support from key individuals as you developed solutions.

Team Building/Team Work

Definition: Promotes cooperation within the department and in interactions with other departments. Values differences among team members and can manage work groups with diverse influences.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Promotes open participation and communication within department and throughout the organization.
  • Shares pertinent information with all members of the team.
  • Adapts to other people's behavior style in order to achieve the desired goals of the team.
  • Provides opportunities for subordinates to participate in project teams, task forces, etc., for development purposes.
  • Promotes a team spirit within and outside department; partners with other groups.
  • What sets you work group or department apart from others in your organization?
  • Tell me about a task force or project team that you were a member of and the role you played in that group.
  • Give me an example of a difficult situation with another department that you need to work with regularly and how you resolved it.

Time Management

Definition: Manages a variety of responsibilities in a timely, efficient manner.

Key BehaviorsSample Questions to Ask
  • Effectively prepares and uses a daily "to do" list.
  • Allocates time to planning, thinking and mapping out tasks.
  • Assigns priorities to tasks.
  • Controls time spent in attending meetings.
  • Controls interruptions.
  • What methods or techniques do you use to help manage your time
  • Describe how you manage to maintain balance between accomplishing projects and attending meetings.
  • How do you handle interruptions to ensure that you complete your projects on time?
  • Describe a time when you had several projects to complete and how you prioritized your workload.
  • In your present position what limits your ability to manage your time? How do you work with these limitations?