What are competency-based interview questions?
Competency-based interview questions help reveal candidates’ job relevant skills and experiences through behaviorally focused questions.
For example: “Tell us about a situation where you had to solve a problem, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a number of options”.
Due to their direct relation to job-relevant requirements, competency-based interview questions add a layer of objectivity and fairness to your hiring process: all candidates get an equal chance of demonstrating the tangible knowledge, skills and abilities at the specific proficiency level needed for any given job.
Why use competency based interview questions?
- Competencies help to facilitate a structured interview process as they are a quality indicator (when measured) to aid in defining job performance.
- When using competency based interview questions, most organizations develop a set of questions for each competency. This makes it easy to create interview guides/scripts based on the competency requirements of the job. Competencies help to facilitate a structured interview process as they are a quality indicator (when measured) to aid in defining job performance.
- Every candidate is asked the same questions (to ensure fairness) then assessed based on the quality of their answers relevant to the competency interview questions.
- Competency based interview questions are based on a solid and relevant foundation (I.e. the job requirements for the position), ensuring both the relevance, objectiveness and consistency of the interview process.
- According to Wired, structured (or competency) interviews have been proven to predict performance about 26% of the time, much better than unstructured interviews (14%) or background checks (7%).
How to conduct a competency based interview
A competency based interview (also called behavioral or structured interviews) has questions designed to extract information from a candidate by focusing on their thought process and skills (relevant to the job position).
To conduct a competency based interview, a HR professional will require a well-prepared script which will should include the following items:
- A list of initial competency interview questions
- A series of follow-up questions designed to draw out additional information as needed
- A consistent scoring mechanism
- This will help you evaluate the responses and assign a numeric value that indicates the quality of a candidate’s answer. I.e. Did a candidate’s response demonstrate below-average, average, or above-average capability?
Example of a regular interview question
- Interview Question: “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated empathy?”
Example of a competency interview question
Competency focus: Empathy (Level 2)
- Competency interview question: “Can you tell me about a time when you coordinated efforts among others to help team members facing challenges?”
This type of question can help an interviewer get more meaningful feedback from a candidate.
Helpful tips for competency based interviewers
- Structure the interview process
- Involve at least two other colleagues in the decision-making process: one who holds a similar role in the company, and one whose role is different, but requires interaction with the role to be filled.
- Keep social and small talk to a minimum. This can help an interviewer to avoid biases triggered due to something said by a candidate.
- Evaluate both “soft” and hard skills
- Avoid hypothetical questions.
- Prepare structured follow-up questions (after each competency interview question) to draw out deeper responses from candidates.
- Place more weight (based on a scoring mechanism such as a 1-5 sliding scale) on interview questions that are tied to critical competencies for the job position.
- Avoid talking with other interviewers about current candidates until all the interviews are completed and scored.
Competency based interview questions examples
Competency based interview question for specific job position (example)
Job: Customer Success Representative
Competency focus: Client Focus (Level 1)
- Can you tell me about a time when you showed a client or customer that their perspectives were valued
Objective: To ascertain if a candidate is “able to shows clients or customers that their perspectives are valued.”
- If you were tasked with improving customer service, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Competency focus: Empathy (Level 2)
- Can you tell me about a time when you coordinated efforts among others to help team members facing challenges?