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“Competence-based” and “structured interview technique” in greater detail

This quick guide provides more in-depth details of what “competence-based” and “structured interview technique” entail.

A structured interview is one in which there is a concrete approach to evaluating a candidate’s abilities in relation to a number of specific competencies (Malin Lindelöw).

The aim is to find out and evaluate the extent to which the candidate has previously demonstrated the abilities, skills, approaches and competencies required by the appointment in question.

Past performance (with examples from specific situations) helps to forecast future performance.

Interview template with behavioural questions developed for the specific appointment and interview.

When evaluating the same competencies and abilities, the same questions are to be put to each candidate. However, the follow-on questions may vary.

What is competence?

As a term, “competence” can be defined as “skills or qualities used to achieve what is required in a given situation”.

All competencies that, for example, are linked to a specific position need to be clearly defined. It is also necessary to examine which types of behaviour are linked to each competence.

( 2017) “The ability to do something well” Cambridge Dictionary (2018).

Types of question – How you ask determines how you are answered

Behavioural questions (competence-based recruitment) – Questions that focus on past performance/action via examples from specific situations.

Hypothetical questions – Questions that are speculative and do not reveal how the interviewee actually would react in a given situation if it arose.

If you want clear answers, avoid leading, multiple choice and double (multipart) questions.

Ask short questions as well as direct and simple questions – avoid ambiguity.

Behavioural questions

Behavioural questions can be formed as below (in this case, the CAR method).
Behavioural questions focus on past performance/action via examples from specific situations.

Example for the competence of being structured

  • CAR (Structured)
  • Context – Please tell me/us about a major project for which you were responsible
  • Action – How did you plan your work?
  • Result – How did it go?

Examples of competence-based questions

Competence: Being structured

Definition of the competence:

  • Plans his/her work in advance
  • Organises and prioritises activities efficiently
  • Sets and meets deadlines

Please tell me/us about a time when you realised that, initially, you had not been sufficiently structured. What did you do? What did you learn from this?

Please tell me/us about a major project for which you were responsible. How did you structure the work? What were the results?

Would you describe yourself as structured or unstructured? Could you give some examples that demonstrate this?

Examples of competence-based questions

Competence: Being collaborative
Definition of the competence: Works well with other people. Relates to them receptively and flexibly. Listens, communicates and solves conflicts constructively.

Have you ever had to work with someone that you felt it was difficult to work with, for example, a colleague, customer or someone else? Please tell me/us about the situation. What made it difficult? How did you deal with it? Can you give an example? How did it go?

In which ways are you currently dependent on each other in your work team? How do you work together? How do you feel it is going? What is your role in the team? Why do you think you were given this role? What do you think about it? What feedback have you had about the way you work with others?

Tips for generally appropriate follow-on questions

  • What did you learn from this? / What did you take from this?
  • What would you like to do differently next time?
  • What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
  • Can you develop that a little, please?
  • Can you please tell me/us more?
  • What was your contribution to/part in this?
  • What do you feel when you look back on the situation?
  • If you were to give someone advice about what to do, or not do, in a similar situation, what would it be?


Regardless of whether you are interviewing alone or with someone else, it is important to assess interview answers in accordance with an operations-wide template/scale.

Below, there is a suggestion for an assessment scale you can use. On the intranet, there is also an assessment template.

1 = Significant weakness in the area 2 = Weakness in the area 3 = Acceptable level in the area 4 = Strength in the area 5 = Significant strength in the area.

It is important that you make your own assessment before you discuss with others.

Ensure that you (as an individual or as a team) can give relevant feedback to the candidate after the interview or at the appointment/rejection decision.

The 7 most important things to remember

  • You are not objective – be alert to your feelings and impressions throughout the interview
  • Put yourself in the candidates’ shoes
  • Be attentive and show interest in each candidate
  • Remember that you are projecting KTH’s employer brand
  • Do not simply accept the answers you are given – ask follow-on questions
  • Do not be afraid of silence or let candidates chatter on about personal qualities
  • End the interview with information about the next step

You can read more about competence-based recruitment (CBR) here .

If you would like to learn more, you can also take part in KTH’s own Structured interview technique course .

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Last changed: Jul 13, 2021