Key Competency-Based Interviewing Tips for Recruiters

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Priyanka Prashob
Priyanka Prashob is an organizational psychologist with 6+ years of experience in the field of Content and Psychology. She is a passionate writer and has authored 2 books. She has designed content for corporate training programs, worked on organizational behavior reports and numerous individual personality assessment reports. Several research articles written by her are published on platforms like Academia and Research Gate. The articles have gained recognition and appreciation from universities, academicians, and researchers across the world.

Today 78% of interviews are competency-based. In fact, competency-based interviewing is now widely regarded as the most popular technique for employers/recruiters to use. Because it removes the risk of personal bias and makes the hiring process fairer.

Competency-based Interviews are also called structural interviews, behavioral interviews, or evidence-based interviews. Whatever the terminology, the common aim is to use specifically targeted competency questions to discover whether or not a candidate matches the requirements of the job role. Though this technique helps you with accurate hiring decisions however for many candidates it can be a real challenge. To make the process more simple and effective for both you – recruiters and the candidates, here are some competency-based interviewing tips.

How to conduct competency-based interviews?

1. Ask the right questions

You can often work out the questions by studying the job description and person specification. It might feel like a conversational encounter but competency-based interviews are in fact extremely structured. You need to ask each candidate the same questions in the same order and with the same amount of time and prompting. This keeps the interview process fair to all candidates. Competency questions require the candidate to provide specific examples of how he/she dealt with a situation and usually start with: 

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • Give an example of a situation where…  
  • Describe a scenario…

Answers are noted and then scored. 

2. Ask follow-up and probing questions

As recruiters, you need to be prepared for asking probing or follow-on questions based on the answers the candidates provide. The aim of these questions is to find out what he/she was thinking, what his/her motivations were, and what process he/she followed. Probing/follow-up questions will vary depending on the answers the candidate provides and the competency you want to measure. For instance, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, etc. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad idea to jot down a few probing questions to help you kickstart the process. However, to help you with this, here are a few sample probing/follow-up questions.

Here are some probing questions for the competency of problem-solving: 

  • How was this problem affecting others?  
  • Why did you consider this problem significant?  
  • What roadblocks did you face while resolving this problem?  
  • How did you resolve the problem?  
  • What did you learn from this situation?  
  • If given a second chance, what would you have done differently?

3. Frame situation-based, real-life situation questions

Most competency-based and behavioral questions require the candidates to give a real-life example of a past situation they have been involved in. This sounds straightforward and easy but can be the exact opposite at times.  

The things you need to watch out for in the candidates’ response include –  the relevancy and detail in a way that throws light on whether the candidate understands what is required, that he/she possesses the core competency, and if he/she can use it effectively. The key to an effective and top-scoring competency answer evaluation lies in its structure and there are two standard formulas we recommend using, the STAR or IPAR formulas. These scoring models will provide a framework for you to evaluate the candidates’ responses efficiently, accurately, and most importantly without any kind of bias.

  • STAR Model:

S = Situation 

T = Task 

A = Action 

R = Result

  • IPAR Model:

I =  Introduction 

P = Problem 

A = Action 

R = Result

4. Competency-based interviewing scoring model for recruiters

You need to make decisions based on the evidence and the examples that candidates provide.  In other words, the examples that the candidates share must demonstrate the required positive behaviors you are looking for – for that particular job role. You can score and assess the answers in different ways. Here is a sample scoring sheet that the majority of the recruiters use:

  • No evidence or responses that fail to meet requirements – will get a score of 0
  • Little evidence of positive behaviors – will get a score of 1
  • Some evidence of positive behaviors – will get a score of 2
  • Good evidence of positive behaviors – will get a score of 3
  • Strong evidence of positive behaviors – will get a score of 4

Few sample questions for recruiters to use that can be evaluated using either the – STAR or the IPAR model

  • Tell me about a time when you came up with a solution/initiative to resolve a difficult situation?
  • Tell me about a recent situation where you worked effectively to achieve a successful outcome. And how?
  • Give me an example that demonstrates your ability to develop successful working relationships
  • Give an example of how you would handle and resolve workplace conflict

Also read: 5 Tips to Ensure Fair Remote Work Performance Review

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