What Is a Skills-Based Interview? (With Preparation Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 29, 2022

Many employers ask candidates about their skills and competencies to determine whether their skill set matches the requirements of an available position. Skills-based interviews allow employers to test a potential employee's skills to see how they handle situations they might encounter if they were to secure an available role. Understanding what this type of interview involves and how you can prepare for it can help you showcase your professionalism while demonstrating your skills to employers.

In this article, we explain what a skills-based interview is and why employers use this type of interview and provide tips to help you prepare for it.

What is a skills-based interview?

A skills-based interview is a formal type of job interview where a candidate answers questions designed to assess whether their skill set best matches what an organization needs or desires. It establishes whether a candidate's skills are right for the position and uses those skills to establish how much difficulty the candidate might have in completing tasks. Professionals may also refer to skills-based interviews as situational or competency-based interviews. Typically, an interviewer develops a list of skills or competencies that they're looking for prior to the interview and may use the job posting or advertisement to guide them.

During the interview, the interviewer asks the candidate questions relating to their skills and compares their answers against predetermined criteria. They often ask candidates questions about past work experiences and how they responded to a variety of situations. The answers to these questions relate to a candidate's genuine experiences in their previous positions and they help to reveal the skills they use. The interviewer can then determine whether they have the relevant skills to be successful in the position. Unlike other types of interviews, a skills-based interview tends to be more specific and structured.

Related: 13 Competency-Based Interview Questions and How To Prepare for the Interview

Why do employers like using skills-based interviews?

Employers use skills-based interviews to assess candidates because it helps them determine how a candidate is likely to use their skills to perform in the position. It can also give them an idea of how many skills a candidate has and how they react to real work situations. Skills-based interview questions are a useful way for employers to assess a candidate's thought processes and important skills like communication, problem-solving or time management. Even if a candidate doesn't have a lot of work experience, this type of interview can allow employers to give them a chance to differentiate themselves.

Common skills and competencies employers prefer in candidates

Regardless of the position you're applying to, there are a few important skills employers look for during the interview process. Here are a few of the most sought-after skills and competencies that employers prefer when they're recruiting candidates for a wide range of positions:

Adaptability

Adaptability is the quality that enables you to adjust to changing conditions or responsibilities in the workplace. Being adaptable is highly valuable in a wide range of industries since circumstances are often unpredictable. Being adaptable also makes it easier to respond to changing expectations, job responsibilities and processes.

Related: FAQ: What Is Adaptability?

Communication

Communication skills allow you to convey information to others and respond to information adequately. The ability to communicate effectively in the workplace is an important skill for professionals in just about every industry. Communication skills often include a combination of written, oral and nonverbal communication, in addition to listening skills.

Related: Communication Skills for Career Success

Organization

Being organized allows you to meet important deadlines, prioritize your work effectively and minimize your level of stress. This competency is important because it can convey to an employer that you're able to manage your time wisely and accomplish your tasks successfully. While it might differ slightly depending on your particular role, it typically involves managing your deadlines, communicating well with your colleagues and keeping your work area orderly.

Problem-solving

Your ability to problem-solve can help you create effective solutions to a variety of work-related issues. A number of issues are likely to arise at some point in the workplace, regardless of the industry. Problem-solving is important for assessing situations and designing the best possible solutions to problems.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Teamwork

Teamwork is the ability to work well with clients, colleagues, managers and other individuals to accomplish key tasks. Many industries require professionals to work in teams, and having them can help demonstrate to an employer that you're able to work well with others during projects, meetings and a variety of other collaborative activities. Teamwork often depends on your ability to communicate effectively and delegate tasks efficiently while also being an active listener.

Related: 7 Examples of Important Teamwork Skills

Leadership

Leadership allows you to take initiative in the workplace and motivate others, whether they're employees you're managing or your team members. Leadership can convey to an employer that you're able to accept additional responsibilities and that you're willing to motivate others to work toward a common goal. The ability to lead others often requires the incorporation of other skills like communication, listening and team-building.

Related: How To Improve Your Leadership Skills: Steps and Tips

Examples of skills-based interview questions

Reviewing some of the questions that you can expect during a skills-based interview can help you become better prepared for it and enable you to plan effective answers. If the job description lists any particular skills, it's important to consider the questions an interviewer might ask you about that skill and how you might answer them. Most questions are likely to ask you about actual events from your previous work experience. Here are a few of the typical questions you can expect to answer during the interview:

  • Describe a situation when you were responsible for leading a team.

  • Describe a time when you were able to demonstrate your leadership abilities.

  • Give an example of a time when you used communication skills at work.

  • Has there ever been a time when you had to handle a conflict at work?

  • Describe a time when you had to adapt to a new situation.

  • Has there ever been a time when you had to handle conflicting deadlines at work?

  • Describe a time when your supervisor gave you a new responsibility and how you handled it.

  • Give an example of a time when you demonstrated organizational skills.

  • Give an example of a time when you solved a problem using critical thinking.

  • Describe a time when you had to make a quick decision in a short period of time.

Related: 4 Popular Competency-Based Interview Questions (With Answers)

Tips for preparing for a skills-based interview

Learning about a few tips to help you prepare for an interview that focuses on skills can help you feel more confident prior to meeting with your interviewer. Following these suggestions can also enable you to perform well during the interview and share your skills with confidence. While many of these tips can be useful for a variety of different interview types, they're especially useful for skills-based interviews. Consider the following tips:

Review the job posting

As you prepare for your interview, it's important to read the job posting or description to see what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate and what the position is likely to entail. Most job postings also contain a section that lists the specific skills and competencies necessary for the position. Even if the posting doesn't directly list the skills necessary for candidates to have before applying, you may be able to ascertain the required skills by reading the job description. For example, if there's a mention of handling customer complaints, communication skills are likely important.

Identify potential questions and examples

After identifying the skills an employer is likely looking for, be sure to review your resume thoroughly to see if you're able to demonstrate them using your previous work experience or educational history. Consider the types of questions that an employer is most likely to ask and prepare a few sample answers to each question. It's important to consider examples that best demonstrate your skills and competencies and convey your past successes and the value you were able to provide to your previous employers. While it's important for your answers to be detailed, try to keep them concise.

Consider the STAR method

As you're in the process of creating your answers, you can use the STAR method to arrange them in a way that's easy to follow and addresses the interviewer's question properly. The STAR method involves sharing the context around a particular event, describing the task you were responsible for completing, explaining the specific actions you chose to take to handle it and finally describing the result of those actions. The method is a useful way to demonstrate your skill set while also describing some of your primary accomplishments.

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

Research the company

Not only is it important to prepare your answers to questions about your skills before an interview, but it's also valuable to research the company. Regardless of the format of your interview, employers are often likely to prioritize candidates who already know a few important things about them. Finding out more about the company can give you insight into its mission and the types of employees it prefers. Having knowledge of the company can also demonstrate to an employer that you're prepared and that you have a genuine interest in the position.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

Practice the interview a few times

Be sure to practice the interview ahead of time so you can become more comfortable talking about your past work experience. You can either ask a family member, friend or colleague to be your interviewer or practice answering the questions out loud on your own. By practicing the interview a few times, you can better articulate your answers and make sure that you're as prepared as possible prior to the actual interview.

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