How to answer competency-based interview questions

Competency-based interview questions crop up regularly in interviews for property jobs, but what are they and what’s the best way to handle them? Make sure you’re prepared to answer them and you’ll have a higher chance of interview success!

What are competency-based interview questions?

Competency-based questions (also referred to as structured, behavioural or situational questions) are open-ended questions that let you talk about real-life challenges you have faced. They are very common in interviews and are based on the idea that looking at how someone has behaved in the past is the best way to predict how they will react to difficult situations in the future. Using the same scenarios in competency questions also makes it easier for employers to compare candidates.

A typical competency-based interview question will focus on a past task, challenge or opportunity. The answer you give should show how you used your skills and experience and what behaviours you demonstrated. The interviewer will then decide how well your abilities match the competencies required for the role.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a job that requires the ability to handle a certain amount of pressure, an interviewer may ask “Have you ever been put on the spot? How did you handle the situation?”

These questions normally begin with “Can you give me an example…”, “Describe a time when you…” or “How would you handle…”. Once you’ve answered the initial question, interviewers may use follow-up questions to get further detail.

What sort of competencies are interviewers looking for?

The competencies an employer is looking for will vary depending on the individual role, but some key competencies for jobs in property include:

  • Negotiation and selling skills
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Planning and organisation
  • Problem-solving and the ability to think on your feet
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership and a willingness to take on responsibility
  • The ability to make decisions under pressure
  • Goal orientation and a focus on end results

Interviewers will also be looking for a good grasp on the technical skills required to do the job.

How should you answer competency-based questions?

One of the best ways to make sure you fully answer competency-based questions is to use the STAR technique:

You set the scene by describing the context in which the situation took place.

You describe your specific goal in that situation. If you were working as part of a team, make sure to outline exactly which responsibilities were yours.

Go through the actions you undertook to achieve your goal, from building a strategy to carrying out a campaign. Make it specific but try not to get bogged down in the detail.

The final outcome of your actions, including quantifiable metrics wherever possible. Employers want to know you can measure the effect of your activity. Keep it positive, so even if your project was not a success, make sure you talk about what you learned.

Take your time before starting to answer to make sure you have all the points covered in your reply – don’t feel pressured into rushing into an answer, only to realise halfway through that you have a better example.

How can you prepare for competency-based questions?

Property interviews almost always include some form of competency-based questioning, so it’s worth putting in some time to prepare for these. Going through the job description and person specification is the best place to start, as these will tell you exactly what competencies the employer is looking for. For each of the job responsibilities mentioned, think about what competencies you’d need to handle it.

The next step is to go through your own CV and employment history and make a list of the key responsibilities for your most recent roles. For each of these responsibilities, think about how you approached them and any things you achieved.

Finally, using both your list of past achievements and the behaviours required for the role, prepare one or two good examples of situations for each in which you demonstrated key competencies.

Examples of typical competency-based questions for estate agents and other property jobs

  • Describe a time when you negotiated a tricky sale.
  • How did you deal with an unhappy client in the past?
  • Tell me about a time when two managers asked you to complete two different pieces of work at the same time. How did you handle the situation?
  • Have you ever faced an ethical challenge in a previous role? How did you address the situation?
  • What has been the most difficult situation you have been in while in your previous role, and what was the outcome?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you developed an innovative solution to a problem?
  • Give me an example of a time in which you experienced conflict in your team. How did you handle it?

For more help preparing for your interview, have a look at our previous articles on:

Interview Tips for Estate Agency Jobs
Interview Tips for Property Management Jobs
Interview Tips for Business Support Jobs

When you’re ready to look for a new property job in London, CPR can help. Get in touch with our friendly and helpful recruitment team on 020 7435 0309 or

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