A competency-based interview works on the premise that previous behaviour will indicate future performance and focuses the questions asked to assess a candidate’s skills and abilities that are relevant to the job they’re applying for. A less structured interviewer will tend to ask open-ended questions to get an overall view of who you are and whether you’ll fit within the company and the role. A competency-based approach will ask more systematic questions and each one will target a skill that is a prerequisite for the role. Many employers find this a much better way to find the candidate with the skillset that they’re looking for more easily than a less-structured approach.
This blog will look more closely at what a competency-based interview is and how it can be used to help you find the perfect candidate for the role that you want to fill.
What are the benefits of a competency-based interview?
Competency-based interviews are designed to align with specific requirements and help to provide a more objective and standardised way of evaluating candidates – based on their actual skills and abilities rather than subjective impressions. As the questions in a competency-based interview are designed to align with the specific job requirements, and the skills and behaviours related to those criteria, the likelihood is greater of finding the ideal candidate than in a traditional interview situation. By using the same competency-based questions with all candidates, all of them are assessed on the same criteria which reduces any potential bias or favouritism.
As the interviews focus on collecting evidence of past behaviour and performance with specific examples of candidates’ previous behaviour – causing them to articulate skills and accomplishments, showing self-awareness and reflection – it demonstrates how candidates have handled situations in the past and will offer clues about their future behaviour and performance. This method generally enables better-informed hiring decisions for employers.
Competency-based interview questions
Questions for a competency-based interview are usually open-ended types of questions that have the ultimate goal of eliciting examples and evidence from the interviewee to describe a relevant situation or experience and they often will begin with “Tell me about a time when….” The goal is to get the interviewee to elaborate on a specific scenario and relate the answer to how that skill would be transferrable to the role they are applying for.
These questions will be targeted at a specific proficiency, for example, for the skill of teamwork and collaboration the interviewer might ask “Describe a situation where you had to work as part of a team to achieve a common goal. What was your role, and how did you contribute to your team’s success?” Or to demonstrate adaptability and flexibility – “Can you give me an example of a time when you had to juggle multiple tasks or priorities simultaneously? How did you manage your time and ensure all tasks were completed effectively?” The specific questions will depend on the competencies and skills that are most relevant to the job that is being interviewed for.
How to answer competency questions
The way to answer competency questions is to respond with the STAR method:
- Situation – set the scene for the interviewer to provide context for your example.
- Task – what was the job or situation that was being faced in the scenario?
- Action – what did you do to overcome the challenge, complete the task set or achieve the goal?
- Result – what was the outcome of the situation and how did your action impact it?
You should always try to tailor the response and the relation of the situation to demonstrate how your past experiences suit you to the current role you’re applying for. The aim is to express how your past experiences will benefit the company you’re interviewing for and not just be transferable in terms of skills but also in actions and how the things you’ve learned can be brought to the new role that you’re applying for.
What are the best competency-based interview questions to ask?
There are a plethora of widely used competency-based interview questions but amongst the more commonly asked are some of the following:
1. What are your greatest strengths?
This will allow a candidate to mention their strong points and hopefully tailor these to the role that they are applying for. Communication, people skills, management experience or more. This is probably one of the most commonly asked competency-based questions as it allows an employer to see whether the candidate understands how their skillset matches the requirements of the role.
2. What will your skills and ideas bring to this company?
This is another classic competency-based question that allows the candidate to show an understanding of your company’s goals, vision and mission and how their skills will align with these to help achieve the same goals. This is an opportunity for the interviewee to stand out from the rest of the pack.
3. What have you achieved elsewhere?
This question will allow your interviewee to show their confidence and demonstrate how they understand their skillset and the ways that these could be used within your company’s context.
4. How have you improved in the last year?
This question will enable your candidate to express their potential weaknesses, but in a positive light as it will enable an employer to see a candidate’s level of self-awareness and also their willingness to learn from mistakes and grow. A candidate who isn’t willing to develop and grow isn’t likely to be the one you’re looking for in your company.
5. Tell me about a big decision you’ve made recently. How did you go about it?
This competency-based interview question will help an interviewee demonstrate their decision-making skills. It will show the interviewer whether they are a logical-thinking person or someone who works more from a gut reaction. Does their approach work with your company’s ethos and way of working?
Both interviewee and interviewer can benefit from an interview that uses competency-based questions as it creates a degree of structure that allows the candidate to express themselves about situations and decisions that they have faced and worked through and to tailor their responses to the skills that the interviewer is looking for. The questions enable an interviewer to see how an interviewee uses the skills and experience that are listed on their CV and how they are likely to react in any role that they might be offered.
If you’re likely to be interviewed with the competency-based question method outlined here, then it needn’t be a daunting task. If you prepare well for an interview, it can be something you can approach with confidence. Firstly you need to look at the job description and identity the skills that the interviewer is going to be looking for evidence of – and then you can prepare examples of when you have demonstrated those skills. Ideally, draw on a variety of situations and experiences and practise your responses with a friend or family member. If your job interview is coming via an employment agency or recruiter, they are likely to be able to offer you advice to help you about the company and what they’re looking for.
Clwyd Recruitment prides itself on supporting candidates as they prepare for interviews and offer support throughout the process. Why not get in touch today to find out how one of our friendly team can help you find vacancies to apply for as well as support you throughout the interview process?