What is a skills-based interview? (Plus tips to succeed)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

Usually, when you apply for a job, you're asked to take part in an interview so the employer can assess whether you're suitable for the role. Job interviews can take a range of formats, and some interviews focus on candidates' skills. It's important to prepare in advance for a job interview and knowing what a skills interview is and how you can prepare can increase your chances of being successful. In this article, we explain what a skills-based interview is and share some tips to help you prepare and succeed in this type of interview.

What is a skills-based interview?

A skills-based interview is a formal type of job interview that aims to establish whether a candidate's skills match the skills the employer requires for the role. Some people refer to this type of interview as a competency-based interview or a situational interview. Interviewers usually have a set of skills or competencies that the job requires. This list is usually also included in the job description or advert. The interviewers ask questions that relate to each of these competencies and compare your answer against pre-set criteria.

When you're in this type of interview, the interviewer usually asks questions about past work situations you've encountered and how you responded to the situation. The answers you give relate to actual situations you've encountered and genuine experiences. This reveals the skills you use in particular scenarios and can show whether you have the relevant skills and competencies to do the job. It works on the principle that your past behaviour indicates how you might respond in the future. This type of interview is systematic and more specific than other types of job interviews.

Related: What are competency-based interview questions?

Why do employers use skills interviews?

Employers use skills interviews because it's a useful way to assess how a candidate is likely to respond in a particular situation. This helps the employer to evaluate how well the candidate is likely to perform in the job. Interviews of this type can also be helpful for jobs that require no past industry experience. It makes it easier to compare candidates who might come from a broad range of backgrounds and helps employers to assess their transferrable skills. This can be useful when recruiting for entry-level or graduate positions.

Sought after competencies

The competencies the interview assesses you on are likely to depend on the exact job description and requirements of the employer. These interviews can assess a wide variety of different skills and employers use them for a range of jobs and industries because of this. Some competencies that employers often look for when they're recruiting for a wide variety of different positions are:

  • adaptability

  • flexibility

  • team working

  • communication

  • leadership

  • organisation

  • problem-solving

  • resilience

  • independence

  • decision making

  • conflict resolution

  • commercial awareness

Related: 10 valuable soft skills that you need to succeed in your career

Why is it important to prepare for a job interview?

As with any interview, it's important to prepare properly before a skills interview. When you're well-prepared for an interview, you're likely to feel more confident and in control. This can help you perform well under pressure. Preparing for your interview means that you deepen your understanding of the job and the organisation and better understand the type of questions you might answer.

Some employers advise you on the type of interview you're having when they invite you to attend. This information can help you prepare yourself more carefully. You can also ask the recruiter if there's anything to be aware of before the interview, for example, its format.

Tips for showcasing your skills

Knowing some tips for succeeding in an interview based on skills can help you prepare thoroughly. This might give you an advantage and help you perform better when you're at the interview. Following these suggestions can also help you feel confident and in control. These tips can be helpful for many jobs interviews but they're particularly relevant to skills-based interviews:

Read the job description

When you prepare for a skills-based job interview, it's important to read the job description again and check the details carefully. It's likely to include a section that lists the skills or competencies the employer is looking for. You can then think of specific incidents where you've demonstrated each skill or competency. It's often beneficial to choose a mix of experiences that cover different jobs you've had previously and education experiences. These are also experiences that are genuine and actually happened.

Think of multiple answers

Thinking of more than one answer for each competency can help you prepare thoroughly. You might identify a skill the employer is looking for, but struggle to know the specific questions the employer might ask you. Often interviewers ask several questions for each competency. Thinking of a few answers for each skill gives you more options and can help you answer a wider variety of questions with ease.

Use the STAR method

Using the STAR method can help you structure your answer effectively. This method involves identifying a specific situation or task, communicating the action you took and the result. This helps you to explain your points in a clear and concise way and can help you remember your answers more easily.

Give relevant answers

By giving answers that apply to the job you're interviewing for, you show that you're focused. Relevant answers also demonstrate that you have connected and useful experience for the new job. You can give answers that relate to situations that are very different to the job if those are the only answers you have, but it's useful to aim to make each response as relevant as you can.

Related: 15 signs a job interview went well

Be truthful

Being truthful is important when you answer skills-based questions. Sometimes, the interviewers might ask follow-up questions and giving your own honest answer means you can easily address these questions. Being truthful also makes your answers authentic and believable. Often, your interviewers can tell that you're giving a pre-prepared answer instead of a genuine experience. This could harm your chances of success, so it's wise to always give truthful answers.

Practise the interview

Practising the interview beforehand helps you to form and remember your answers. You might choose to ask a friend and family member to act as an interviewer or practice speaking answers aloud on your own. A mix of both approaches can be useful for some people. Practising in advance helps you to articulate your ideas clearly and feel confident when you answer questions.

Related: How to prepare for a competency-based interview (with sample questions)

Research the organisation

Preparing your answers is important, but it's also worthwhile to research the organisation. Regardless of the interview format, the interviewer might ask you what you already know about the company. Finding out more about the business can sometimes give you more insight into their priorities and what they want from employees. Having some background knowledge also demonstrates to the employer that you're genuinely interested in the organisation and that you've prepared in advance.

Example skills questions

Knowing some examples of skills questions can help you work out what the interviewer might ask you and prepare strong answers. When you identify a skill from the job description, you can think about the questions they might ask for that skill and consider your answers. These questions are asking about actual events from your past experience. Some skills and competencies questions that employers frequently ask at interviews are:

  • Give an example of a time when you had to lead a team.

  • Describe a time when you've shown outstanding leadership.

  • Give an example of a significant decision you had to make at work and how you made your decision.

  • Describe a time you had to do something you disagreed with.

  • Describe a time when you had to handle conflict at work.

  • Describe a time when you had to face a challenge and how you overcame it.

  • Give an example of a time you experienced significant change at work.

  • Describe a time when you had conflicting deadlines and what you did about it.

  • Give an example of a time when you used communication skills to change a situation.

  • Give an example of a time when you had to be persuasive.

  • Give an example of a time when you had to handle an angry customer or stakeholder.

  • Describe a time when you solved a problem using creative thinking.

  • Describe a time when you made a decision but changed your mind later.