Competency-Based Interviewing

Recruitment and Selection play a critical role in organisational success.  Hiring the right people for the right jobs gives the competitive edge in terms of human capital.  We have to compensate, develop, motivate and retain employees after they are selected, so it is imperative that the right people are selected in the first place or all these subsequent activities may be compromised.

The recruitment process can take several forms including but not limited to structured and unstructured interviews, tests or assessments, work samples and psychometric testing.  In recent times, the use of assessment centres have grown in popularity and these utilize of combination of the methods just described to screen and select the most suitable candidates.  It has been proven that the use of one method alone is far less predictive of future behaviour of employees, than a multifaceted approach.  I have experienced a situation, where going on gut feeling and just an interview would have lead to selection of an inappropriate candidate.  When a work sample was produced by the candidate, it was less than ideal and thus a better decision was made with this additional information.

I will focus on the interview, as this is the most common element used.  The interview can be unstructured,  structured or a mixture of both.  Unstructured interviews allow the interviewer to ask whatever comes to mind.  While this may be more free-flowing, the relevant information to inform the decision may not be gathered.  Time may be unnecessarily wasted and inappropriate or illegal questions may be asked.  A lot more bias can be introduced, as depending on the answers put forward, the interviewer may take queues and take the interview in a particular direction.

Structured interviews are conducted using a predetermined set of questions.  Ideally, these questions should be based on competencies that have been identified as being most relevant to undertaking the responsibilities.  These can be derived from job descriptions, the Core Values or any source agreed upon.  The competencies can of course be technical in nature such as a specific skill or behavioural, such as an attitude or attribute.  The use of these allows for better comparison amongst candidates.  It also helps to reduce bias and ensures that focus is placed on areas that directly impact the accurate prediction of performance.  These same competencies, it should be noted can be used in other areas such as Performance Management and Training and Development.

Once the competencies are determined, interview questions can be developed.  These should be open-ended and be constructed in a way that forces candidates to illustrate specific examples of past behaviour.  This allows for provision of positive and negative evidence in determining competence levels.  Probing questions can be used to get more details or to find out candidates’ specific role in the outcome.  This would allow for some flexibility while maintaining the structure.

The questions can be structured by asking candidates to outline the circumstance or situation, the actions they specifically took and the result or outcome.  Furthermore, any differences in approach that they recognized after the situation could be described.  This approach to interviewing allows the interviewer to maintain control over the interview and get the most accurate information to inform decision making.

Bianca Attong

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