Recruitment Terms & Definitions

What is a competency-based interview?

A competency-based interview is a type of job interview that focuses on assessing specific skills, abilities, and behaviors that are relevant to the job at hand. Instead of asking general questions about your background or experience, the interviewer will inquire about the candidate’s past experiences and actions in specific situations. The underlying assumption is that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.

What is an example of a competency-based answer?

Let’s take an example of a competency-based question and provide a corresponding answer using the STAR technique.

Competency-based question: “Can you give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a challenging team member, and how did you handle the situation?”

Competency-based answer using STAR:

S – Situation: In my previous role as a project manager, I was leading a team to deliver a critical project with a tight deadline. One of my team members, let’s call him John, was consistently missing deadlines and causing delays in the project.

T – Task: The task was to address John’s performance issues and ensure that the project stayed on track. It was crucial to maintain team morale and meet the project deadlines.

A – Action: I initiated a one-on-one meeting with John to discuss his challenges and understand the reasons behind his delays. Through active listening, I identified that he was overwhelmed with his workload and lacked certain skills required for a specific aspect of the project. Instead of reprimanding him, I decided to provide additional training and support. I also redistributed some tasks within the team to alleviate his workload.

R – Result: As a result of these actions, John’s performance significantly improved. He met his deadlines, and the overall project was successfully completed on time. Moreover, the team developed a stronger sense of collaboration, and communication improved, contributing to a positive work environment.

Are competency interviews easy?

The perceived difficulty of competency-based interviews can vary from person to person. Some individuals may find them relatively straightforward, while others might find them challenging. Here are a few factors to consider:

Preparation: Competency interviews can be easier for individuals who are well-prepared. Knowing the key competencies required for the job, understanding the STAR technique, and having specific examples ready can boost confidence and make the interview process smoother.

Experience: Candidates with a wealth of diverse experiences and a track record of handling various situations effectively may find competency interviews more manageable. They have a broader range of examples to draw upon, showcasing their competencies in different contexts.

Communication skills: Strong communication skills are crucial in competency-based interviews. Candidates who can articulate their experiences clearly, using the STAR technique to structure their responses, tend to perform better.

Self-awareness: Understanding one’s strengths and areas for improvement is essential. Being self-aware allows candidates to identify relevant examples that highlight their competencies and to honestly discuss situations where they may have faced challenges.

Job-specific requirements: The difficulty of competency interviews can also be influenced by the nature of the job and the specific competencies being assessed. Some roles may require a more extensive range of competencies, making the interview more demanding.

Nervousness and confidence: Some candidates may find competency interviews challenging due to nervousness or lack of confidence. Building confidence through preparation, practice, and positive self-talk can help alleviate these concerns.

How to run competency-based interviews

Running effective competency-based interviews involves careful planning and execution to assess candidates’ abilities and suitability for a specific role. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct competency-based interviews:

  1. Identify key competencies: Before the interview, work with hiring managers and stakeholders to identify the critical competencies necessary for success in the role.

    Common competencies include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, and technical skills.
  1. Develop structured questions: Create a set of questions that specifically target the identified competencies. Questions should begin with phrases like “Can you give me an example of a time when…” or “Describe a situation where…”

    Ensure questions are clear, unbiased, and directly related to the job requirements.
  1. Provide a comfortable environment: Create a welcoming and professional atmosphere to help candidates feel at ease. This can encourage more authentic responses. Start the interview with a brief introduction, explaining the format and purpose of the competency-based questions.

  2. Explain the STAR Technique: Briefly explain the STAR technique to candidates before beginning the interview. This ensures they understand the structure for responding to questions (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

  3. Ask Open-ended Questions: During the interview, ask open-ended questions that prompt candidates to provide detailed responses about their past experiences and actions.

    Be attentive to their answers and ask follow-up questions for clarification or more information.
  1. Document Responses: Take thorough notes during the interview to capture key points and examples provided by the candidate. These notes will be valuable for evaluating and comparing candidates later.

  2. Probe for Specifics: If a candidate provides a general response, probe for specific details to understand their role, actions taken, and the impact of their actions.

    This helps in assessing the depth and authenticity of their experiences.
  1. Evaluate Consistently: Use a standardized evaluation rubric to assess each candidate consistently across the identified competencies.

    Compare candidates based on their demonstrated behaviors and achievements.
  1. Allow Time for Candidate Questions: At the end of the interview, provide an opportunity for candidates to ask questions. This not only helps them understand the role better but also demonstrates their interest in the position.

  2. Provide Feedback: If possible, offer constructive feedback to candidates, highlighting areas of strength and areas for improvement based on their responses.

    This can contribute to a positive candidate experience.

  3. Collaborate with the Hiring Team: Share your interview findings and collaborate with the hiring team to make informed decisions about each candidate’s fit for the role.

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