How to Answer Skills-Based Interview Questions

How to Answer Skills-Based Interview Questions

Interviews are stressful. Deciding what to wear, what to say and how to present yourself is challenging enough. On top of that, it can be difficult to prepare for interview questions when you don’t know what to expect. Interviewers will sometimes utilize a skills-based interview format to compare candidates, learn more about applicants’ specific skills and ultimately decide which candidate would be the most successful in the role. Understanding this kind of interview, and the questions you might be asked, can make you more prepared when it is time for the real thing.   

What is a Skills-Based Interview?

A skills-based interview, otherwise known as a situational or competency-based interview, is a type of job interview where an interviewer asks a candidate questions designed to assess whether their skills match the position and organization. It helps the interviewer understand whether a candidate’s skills and experiences are right for the open job and predict if the candidate would be successful in the role. Typically, these interviews are formally structured and include specific questions related to the position, which may be different from other types of interviews candidates could experience.

In a skills-based interview, the interviewer will likely ask the candidate questions related to their skills and compare their answers against pre-identified criteria. Questions may inquire about past work experiences and situations in which skills were utilized. They may also ask questions to assess a candidate’s thought process as well as their soft skills such as organization, communication, problem-solving or time management. These questions can provide the interviewer an overall understanding of the candidate’s ability to be successful in the role.

How Can I Prepare For a Skills-Based Interview?

To effectively prepare for a skills-based interview, you can start by reviewing the job description thoroughly. Note any specific skills listed and highlight any skills that are repeated multiple times throughout the posting. These will be important for you to hit on when answering the interviewer’s questions and may give you an idea of what kinds of questions you might be asked in the interview.

Additionally, identify any notable past experiences and accomplishments that demonstrate your expertise utilizing the skills mentioned in the job description. From there, practice discussing how you handled each situation. It is a good idea to practice answering questions that you anticipate being asked in the interview and weave in any relevant examples that display your skills. Below, we’ve identified some common skills-based interview questions candidates could expect to be asked and tips for effectively answering them.

Looking for more interview tips? Check out or post: Six Tips For a Successful Interview

What Kinds of Questions Are Asked in a Skills-Based Interview?

Studying some of the questions you may be asked during a skills-based interview can help you be more prepared to have solid answers. Given that many questions in a skills-based interview will inquire about your past experiences, it is extremely beneficial to identify a few examples that demonstrate your abilities. When answering skills-based interview questions, think about the skill they are trying to assess and learn more about. From there, choose a relevant story and emphasize significant details that demonstrate that skill. If possible, try to quantify results and use strong action verbs in your response.

Here are some examples of questions you might be asked in a skills-based interview, and tips for how to answer them:

1. Describe a situation where you had to work with conflicting personalities on a team. How did you handle that?

At any company, you will work with individuals who have differing opinions and ideas from yours. By asking this question, the interviewer is assessing your collaboration, professionalism and problem-solving skills. In your answer, be prepared with an example of how you put the differences aside to ultimately reach organizational goals.

2. Give me an example of a time you had to manage numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?

Multitasking is a part of almost every job. With this question, the interviewer is likely trying to gauge your ability to handle multiple responsibilities at one time and get insights into your organization skills. In your answer, include a situation where you were juggling multiple projects and tasks, and describe how you were able to prioritize and organize yourself to get everything accomplished.

3. What do you do when priorities change quickly?

With the question, the interviewer is inquiring about your ability to adapt and adjust to changes in the workplace. Answer this question with an example of a time where you faced a disruption and how you managed your responsibilities. Be sure to emphasize your ability to be flexible when priorities change.

4. Tell me about a time your effort helped a project or idea succeed.

This question presents a great opportunity to bring up a situation that showcases a skill that is important to the position and is reflected within the job description. For example, if project management is something that is essential to the responsibilities of the job, answer with an example of how you successfully managed a project that helped drive organizational goals or objectives.

5. Give me an example of a time that you failed. How did you deal with the situation?

This is a good time to explain what failure means to you – is it missing a project deadline? Falling short of a goal? Starting with this can be helpful to narrow down this question and ultimately provide the interviewer insight into how you keep yourself accountable. From there, you can explain the situation, describe how you bounced back and explain how you prevented any future failures.

Overall, it is important to remember that in a skills-based interview, you want to demonstrate your abilities and skills by having examples of situations in past work experiences. Preparing ahead of time for questions, like the ones mentioned above, will help you success when it’s time for the real thing. Lastly, remember that an interview is also a time for you to learn more about the company and if the role is a right fit for you. Make sure come prepared with questions to ask your interviewer to assess company culture and position fit.


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