The Recruiter’s Guide to Competency Based Interviews

Woman-on-laptopIf you find yourself in the trenches of recruiting, you know that it all comes down to asking the right questions during the interview process, regardless of the candidate sitting in the hot seat. Asking the right questions in an interview is key to assessing a candidate’s ability to do the job. This prevents you from making costly mis-hires, as well as helps uncover hidden gems – candidates with unexpected backgrounds that have the skills to propel your business to the top. 

Using competency based interviews is a popular method to effectively and objectively assess candidate potential. Learn more about how you can use competency based interview questions to help make evidence-based hiring decisions.

What Are Competency Based Interviews?

This method requires hiring teams to determine the competencies that would make someone successful in the role. For example, perhaps your new hire needs to work in a cross-functional team. Many interviewers will simply ask candidates if they consider themselves to be collaborative. Of course, it’s easy for the candidate to say ‘yes,’ even if this isn’t the case.

Instead, competency based interviews are structured so that questions assess whether a candidate has these predetermined attributes. It helps interviewers examine if a candidate has key competencies based on their past behaviors in a similar situation.

Competency based interview questions require the potential candidate to provide real-life examples as the basis for their answers. This interview method allows employers to understand how the potential employee handled situations similar to ones they’d experience in the new role. Because candidates are forced to focus on specific incidents, it becomes much easier for interviewers to judge these attributes accurately, rather than relying on a gut decision.  

According to Timothy Marsten, the Senior EMEA Recruiter for Red Hat, Inc., a few key advantages of this method are below:

  • Improved objectivity, leading to truer talent acquisition
  • Consistency in hiring decisions
  • Legal protection for the employer
  • Improved consensus on hires across multiple stakeholders

Depending on the skills required for the specific job, the focus of the questions will allow employers to evaluate the interviewee’s mindset, while learning about his or her past with truthful, concrete evidence and information. 

Here are a few examples of competencies:

  • Organization
  • Adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Judgment
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Integrity/ethics
  • Management
  • Teamwork and communication.

Your company may also view certain competencies as more important than others, but it’s important to understand which matter to your organization long before the first interview.

Have interviewers use a scorecard to score candidates on each attribute during their interviews. This makes it easy to make evidence-based decisions on whether you will move a candidate forward in the interview process.

To help ensure you’re asking the right questions to staff your company with all-star employees, we’ve listed a few example questions below based on the competencies listed above:

Adaptability: Explain the biggest change that you have had to deal with in your life. How did you cope with it?

Communication: Describe a situation where you failed to communicate properly. What would you have done better?

Creativity/Innovation: Describe a time when you derived a new approach that was different than a traditional processes. What was special about your new approach? What kind of feedback did you receive?

Teamwork: Explain a time when you worked as a member of a dysfunctional team. How did you attempt to change this?

Do you have any unique approaches to interviewing candidates? We’d love to hear if your company uses competency based interviews and any ideas you may have in the comments below!

To help implement competency based interviews at your organization, download an interactive scorecard here: 

Download A Scorecard


Filed Under:

Interview Planning