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As a recruiter, the time you have with a candidate during an interview is unbelievably valuable. That's why you need to do your absolute best to figure out whether the person is suited to the job.

Conducting a competency-based interview involves using questions to help you find out whether the candidate has the competencies you need. As a result, all of the questions in an interview should be entirely focused on subjects that are directly linked to one of the competencies you're looking for. 

In practice, it can be a little difficult to know what kinds of questions are suitable to ask. For that reason, let's take a closer look at how to approach competency-based interview questions.

In a competency-based interview, there's no room for questions like "what kind of animal would you like to be?" or "name all of your weaknesses". Instead, you need to ask effective questions that give clear indications of whether or not a candidate fits the available role.

Identify the most important competencies that you can and will be looking for.

When you're filling a vacancy, you should always start by doing some preparatory work to define a job specification. A job specification, or job profile, describes the knowledge and skills a person requires to take on a role successfully. These chosen competencies, skills and personal qualities are the factors you'll be exploring during the interview.


Pink Heart-01Define what they mean to your business  

What does organized mean to you? Is it an ability to plan large-scale projects, to keep track of all the resources and documents required for a job, or to finish work after it's been started?

In order to assess different competencies, you first and foremost need to have a common view of what they actually are. That means you should define what your business regards as competencies so that you know exactly how you're going to evaluate the candidates at interview. 

If reaching a consensus is difficult, it can be very helpful to make use of existing competency frameworks that have been developed by someone else. The main thing is that you agree on what you'll be assessing and which qualities you feel are important for candidates to display. 

Pink Heart-01Create questions based on the competencies you want to explore  

Now let's look at the actual questions themselves. You can't just ask a simple yes/no question if you want to find out whether someone has the right competencies and the exact range of skills you feel the word 'competencies' entails. The best way to examine an individual competency is to ask searching questions that require a candidate to give an answer that describes a situation, outlines how they acted in that context, and explains what the final result turned out to be.

As a rule of thumb, you should ask around 2-4 questions per competency. These questions should allow you to approach each competency from different points of view. It's also recommended that you don't try to assess more than two competencies in a single session so that the interview doesn't become a stressful experience. Bear in mind that the interview will also involve some other business that needs to take place, including questions from the candidate, for example, or a rundown of the job description.

Pink Heart-01Examples of competencies and how to approach questioning candidates 

Competency: Collaboration

Definition: The ability to carry out shared tasks effectively with colleagues in the same working group.

Example question: Can you please describe a work assignment that you shared with another colleague? What was your approach to the task? What did you do to maintain good communication? What was the result of your collaboration on the task? 

Pink Heart-01Assessing an answer 

One way to assess an answer is to define what kind of answer you think demonstrates the required competencies in advance. That makes it easier to see if an answer actually matches up with what your organization is looking for. 

You can keep tabs on the ideal answer by using a rating scale to mark how well a candidate's response lives up to your definition of desirable behavior and ability. 

Even if you're using an interview matrix, however, it's still a good idea to jot down the candidate's answer so that you can go back afterwards and look over your assessment. This can be helpful if two people are carrying out an evaluation together, for example. 

Do you want a practical guide on how to drive competency-based recruitment in all of your next recruitment processes? Try our free competency-based recruitment guide!