Competency & Values-Based Interview Questions

Competency & Values-Based Interview Questions for Search Committees

Competency-based questions

Job Performance/Career Goals:

  • Could you share with us a recent accomplishment of which you are most proud?
  • How much supervision have you typically received in your previous job?
  • Describe one or two of the biggest disappointments in your work history?
  • Why are you leaving your present job? (Or, why did you leave your last job?)
  • What is important to you in a company?  What things do you look for in an organization?
  • What was your primary contribution/achievement?  Biggest challenge?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • In what areas would you like to develop further?
  • What are your career path interests?
  • What would you most like to accomplish if you had this job?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • If you are the successful applicant, how would you expect to be different after a year in the position?
  • Can you give us an example of your ability to manage or supervise others?
  • What are some of the things you would like to avoid in a job?  Why?
  • In your previous job, what kind of pressures did you encounter?
  • What would you say is the most important thing you are looking for in a job?
  •  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses as workers.  What are your strong points for this job?
  • What would you say are areas need improvement?
  • What were some of the things about your last job that you found most difficult to do?
  • What are some of the things you particularly liked about your last job?


  • What special aspects of your education or training have prepared you for this job?
  • What courses in school have been of most help in doing your job?


  • Tell us about your management style – people, teamwork, direction?
  • Describe an ideal supervisor.
  • What is your own philosophy of management?
  • Have you participated in planning processes?
  • What was the most challenging personnel issue you’ve had to deal with and how did you handle it?
  • A new policy is to be implemented organization-wide.  You do not agree with this new policy.  How would you discuss this policy with your staff?
  • Describe a decision you made which would normally have been made by your supervisor?  What was the outcome?
  • Discuss and differentiate between remediation, corrective action, and discipline.
  • Explain, step by step, how you have handled an employee who had performance problems.
  • Why should employees seek to improve their knowledge and skill base?  How would you motivate them?
  • What coaching and mentoring experience have you had?  How did you determine the appropriate way to coach/mentor and what were the results?
  • Management requires both good writing and verbal skills for good communication.  When it comes to giving information to employees that can be done either way, do you prefer to write a memo OR talk to the employee?
  • What is the largest number of employees you have supervised and what were their job functions?
  • Would you please describe your interest in becoming (title of position)?
  • Tell us about your current position or most recent position and how you helped the organization accomplish its goals and mission.
  • Tell us about your fiscal management experience:  budgeting, reporting, cutting costs, building and maintaining reserves.
  • Have you ever had to champion an unpopular change?  How did you handle it?
  • Give us some example of how and when you were the spokesperson for your current or most recent company.
  • Tell us about your experiences with staff development.  How do you think your current or most recent staff would describe you?
  • How do you get people who do not want to work together to establish a common approach to a problem?  If you do not have much time and they hold seriously differing views, what would be your approach?
  • How do you stay informed of current ideas on management and the industry field for the organization?
  • What would you think are the most important characteristics & abilities a person must possess to become a successful leader? How would you rate yourself in these areas?

Customer Service:

  • Tell us about a time when you went out of your way to give great service to a customer.
  • Describe a process or system that you improved so customers would be better served.
  • Tell us about a time when you asked for feedback on your customer service skills from your manager or co-worker, and then used that response to improve your work.
  • Tell us about a time when you had trouble working with a difficult or demanding customer.  How did you handle this?


  • If someone told you that you made an error, describe how you would react and what you say in your defense.
  • You are a committee member and disagree with a point or decision.  How would you respond?
  • Tell us about a time when you were part of a great team.  What was your part in making the team effective?
  • Give us an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker.  How did you handle the situation?
  • Can you tell us about a time during your previous employment when you suggested a better way to perform a process?
  • Give us an example of a time when you were trying to meet a deadline, you were interrupted, and did not make the deadline.  How did you respond?
  • What strengths did you rely on in your last position to make you successful in your work?
  • What motivates you?
  • What kinds of things do you feel most confident in doing?
  • Can you describe for us a difficult obstacle you have had to overcome?  How did you handle it?  How do you feel this experience affected your personality or ability?
  • What gives you the greatest satisfaction at work?
  • What things frustrate you the most?  How do you usually cope with them?


  • Explain the phrase “work ethic” and describe yours.
  • What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with?
  • What methods do you use to make decisions?  When do you find it most difficult to make a decision?
  • How would your co-workers describe your work style?
  • What do you think are the best and worst parts of working in a team environment?  How do you handle it?
  • Under what kinds of conditions do you learn best?
  • Do you prefer working in groups or alone?
  • Some people get to know strangers quickly; while others prefer to take their time letting people get to know them.  Describe how you entered relationships when you were “new” on a job.

Creative Thinking:

  • What was the most creative thing you did in your last job?
  • What is your interpretation of “success”?
  • Can you think of a problem you have encountered when the old solutions didn’t work and when you came up with new solution(s)?
  • Of your creative accomplishments big or small, what gave you the most satisfaction?
  • What kind of problems have people recently called on you to resolve?  Tell us what you have devised.
  • The person in this job needs to be innovative and proactive.  Can you describe some things you have done to demonstrate these qualities?


  • What was your most difficult decision in the last six months?  What made it difficult?
  • The last time you did not know what decision to make, what did you do?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make without consulting your immediate supervisor?

Work Standards:

  • What are your standards of success in your job?
  • When judging the performance of your employees, what factors or characteristics are most important to you?


  • What was the most important idea or suggestion you recently received from your employees?  What happened as a result?
  • What do you think about continuous changes in company operating policies and procedures?
  • What was the most significant change made in your company in the last six months which directly affected you, & how successfully do you think you implemented this change?

Values-Based Interview Questions

PEOPLE – success, diversity

  • Tell us about a time you had to adapt to a wide variety of people by accepting or understanding their perspectives.
  • Tell us about a time you adapted your style in order to work effectively with those who were different from you.
  • Tell us about the most difficult challenge you have faced in working cooperatively with someone who did not share your ideas, values, or beliefs.
  • Give us an example of a time when your values and beliefs impacted your relationship with a peer, coworker, supervisor, or customer.
  • Tell us the steps you have taken to create a work environment where differences are valued, encouraged, and supported.
  • Describe a situation when you had to give feedback to someone who was not accepting of others.
  • Please describe how you would work to create a campus environment that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse. 
  • Describe how you, as a faculty member, function and communicate effectively and respectfully within the context of varying beliefs, behaviors, and backgrounds. 
  • What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural and inclusive settings. 
  • What is your definition of diversity? How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual? How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion? 
  • How do you seek opportunities to improve the learning environment to better meet the needs of students from all over the world?
  • Describe your experience in serving or teaching underrepresented communities.
  • How would you work with people under your supervision to foster a climate receptive to diversity in the department, the curriculum, staff meetings, printed materials, initiatives, etc?
  • Suppose that in working with a University unit you discover a pervasive belief that diversity and excellence are somehow in conflict. How do you conceptualize the relationship between diversity and excellence? What kinds of leadership efforts are needed to encourage a commitment to excellence through diversity?

LEARNING – discovery, innovation, scholarship

  • Tell us about an innovation that you've introduced in your work area.
  • What have you done to introduce change or redefine the way work gets done in your area?
  • What continuous improvement methodologies are you familiar with? Tell us about your experience.
  • Tell us about a time when you used fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to step away from traditional methods to solve a difficult or complex problem.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to respond quickly to a crisis situation.
  • Give an example of how you solved a problem in a unique way within the past 18 months.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to change your point of view or your plans to take into account new information or changing priorities.
  • Describe an example of a time when you had to approach people (with different perspectives) for support or cooperation.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to accommodate unplanned activities or demands.

RELATIONSHIPS – collegial, professional, ethical

  • Working with others usually involves some give and take. Describe a time when you worked out an agreement with a peer or colleague. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you wished you’d been more collaborative with others. What did you do?
  • Leaders often have opportunities to foster positive relationships at work. Give me an example of a time when you did this.
  • Tell us about one of the toughest groups that you’ve had to work with. What made it difficult? What did you do?
  • Interdepartmental cooperation involves giving and receiving. Tell us about a time you collaborated with others to determine courses of action to achieve mutual goals.
  • Describe a time when you were asked to keep information confidential.
  • Give examples of how you have acted with integrity in your job/work relationships.
  • Tell us about a time when your trustworthiness was challenged. How did you react/respond?
  • Tell us about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethical issues?

PARTNERSHIPS – regional, entrepreneurial, global

  • Give us an example of how your understanding of a community issue helped you address a business problem, issue, or concern.
  • Give us an example of when you were involved with in the community through which both the community and businesses located in the community benefited.
  • What do you consider to be success as an entrepreneur?
  • How is running a successful business different than what you thought it would be?
  • What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
  • What entrepreneurial hacks have you developed to stay focused and productive in your day-to-day?
  • What things about entrepreneurship do you struggle to understand?
  • What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with? How would you like people to remember you and your company?
  • When I tell people about how I met you, what would you like me to say?
  • Give a specific example of a time when you had to address an angry customer. What was the problem and what was the outcome? How would you assess your role in diffusing the situation?
  • It is very important to build good relationships at work but sometimes it doesn't always work. If you can, tell about a time when you were not able to build a successful relationship with a difficult person.
  • Tell us about a time when you built rapport quickly with someone under difficult conditions.
  • In your opinion, what are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business relationships? Give examples of how you made these work for you.

SUSTAINABILITY – social justice, economic opportunity, environmental protection

  • Can you tell us what social justice means to you?
  • What identity-related work have you explored on your social justice journey?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to expend social capital to champion social justice.
  • What is your sense of the complexities and leadership challenges related to social justice and multiculturalism at WSU?
  • How does your company define sustainability? What’s in and what’s out? Is there a separate group working on corporate citizenship initiatives?
  • How do social, environmental and philanthropic initiatives and strategies interact at your organization?

STEWARDSHIP – fiscal, intellectual

  • Can you give an example of a situation when you saw someone at work stretch or bend the rules beyond what you felt was acceptable?
  • Tell us about a time when you felt compelled to immediately address a difficult situation with your boss or supervisor when others wouldn’t. (You had to do the right thing.)
  • Tell us about a time when you felt compelled to express an unpopular viewpoint to maintain your integrity.
  • Tell us about a time when you thought through the consequences of a specific action in planning a project.
  • Tell us about a time when you felt it would benefit the situation to disregard structure or formal processes to achieve a better outcome.
  • Tell us about a time when you contributed to improving a process that was beneficial to the entire organization.
  • Can you describe a situation when you made a decision that was positive for your organization, but not necessarily positive for you, or for your individual department?
  • Tell us about a time when you saved time or money for your organization.
  • Give us an example of when you initiated a change in process or operations in response to customer feedback.
  • Tell us about a time when you have championed the concept of corporate stewardship within your team and/or organization.

From: Wright State University