How to Interview – Step 6 – The Competency Based Approach

19 05 2010

Competency Based Interviewing is considered to be one of the more robust methods of interviewing for likely job success (there are many views on how successful interviewing is as a predictor of job performance…)

Unlike situational interviewing (What would you do if…) competency based interviewing is essentially a structured series of questions that looks at how a candidate has done specific tasks in the past.  It’s intention is to determine the person’s likely behaviour against specific job-related competencies’.

Advantages of this type of interview are: –

  • Questions asked are based on the competencies required for the role and can be seen as relevant to the skills needed for the job by asking the candidate to provide specific examples.
  • The information can be gathered in the interview and evaluated on a rating scale against the particular competencies.
  • Information from the interview can be integrated with other sources i.e. role-play, if they are all based around the same competencies.

How to do it.

First things first, identify no more than 4 competencies  which are relevant to the job you’re recruiting for (speak to us if you need to know more about how to do this).  Some example competencies include – Communication, Initiative, Impact, Team work, Problem Solving, Leadership etc.  Determine before you start the selection process and what good and bad looks like for each of the competencies.

You may wish to share the competency headings with the candidates in advance of the interview, albeit most companies don’t.

At the interview here’s a suggestion for a framework for undertaking the competency based interview:

  • Introduction
  • Then, for each competency:
    • Introduce the competency
    • OPENING questions (tell me about a time, give me an example)
    • PROBING questions (use the B-A-C-K model to help you here by asking behavioural/appraisal/comparison and knowledge related questions)
    • Summarise what the candidate’s said
  • Close the interview
  • Candidate Question time

Summarising the evidence is a useful tool to ensure that you have understood the candidates’ example fully and also that you’ve written down what they’ve said.  The summary does not need to be a repeat of all of the evidence but should cover the key points, thereby offering the candidate an opportunity to add additional information.

During the interview you should write down as much of what they actually say as possible. This will allow you to fully evaluate your evidence against the competencies and associated behavioural indicators at the end of the process.  It’s important that you resist the urge to classify and interpret what the candidate is saying at this stage, as well as putting their comments into your own words.  Also, remember that all notes and summaries should be kept on file after the interview and can legally be requested by a candidate.  They can also be submitted as evidence in the case of an employment tribunal, so be mindful of what you write.

Once the interview is completed thank the candidate for the information they have provided and advise them of the next steps in the process.  Take some time after each interview to write-up your notes and evaluate the evidence.  We’ll spend some more time focussing on that next time.

For more information about how to competency based interview, please get in touch with Michelle on 01202 853647 or email us at




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