Thursday, November 29, 2007

Competency-based interviewing

I just spotted a post by Soul Seared Dreamer about an interview that he had recently, and I immediately recognised the interviewing technique that he was subjected to. Several readers have sent me emails about jobs and banking careers over the last few weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick post about this technique because it's seems to be quite popular at the moment. As part of my management training a few years ago I was taught how to conduct this sort of interview.

The idea is that the interviewer wants to test certain 'competences', which are defined behavioural skills such as 'team working', 'communication skills', 'problem solving', etc. The theory is that when applied properly, two separate interviewers will reach the same conclusion about whether a candidate possesses each competence.

Each question is designed to test a single competence in something. In a half-hour interview, one can probably only test 3 or at most 4 competences, because each competence takes quite a while to establish. The questions typically ask the candidate to describe things that they've done, or things that have happened to them in the past, and there are likely to be follow-up questions about the situation that the candidate ends up describing.

For example, an interviewer might ask "Can you give an example of a situation where you solved a problem in a creative way?" Once you've answered the question, the follow-up questions might be "What did you do next?", "What was the end result?", "What did you learn from that?" etc.

If anyone finds themselves in a competency-based interview, if you can guess what the competency that's being assessed then so much the better. However, I reckon the golden rule is don't make anything up, because the follow-up questions will almost certainly catch you out. Telling the interviewer that you recognise the technique might help break the ice and make you feel more relaxed, and also might establish a good impression that you're not clueless about what's going on. However, it won't help you prove your competences, so don't think that it helps you get out of it!

In Soul Seared Deamers's case it seems that he's through the next interview stage :-). My best guess is that the second interview, which will apparently be with the first interviewers' boss, won't be a competency-based interview. It probably means that the candidates being interviewed at the second stage have all shown that they've got the competences required to do the job, and it's now simply up to the boss to decide who he likes best. The very best of luck to him :-).

Anyway, that's all I can remember. A quick google search seems to bring up lots of matches so if anyone's interested there's probably a lot to read!


Soul Seared Dreamer said...

Hey thanks alot

Wow a post dedicated to little old me on Gay Banker's blog.. I'm honoured and like WOW.

I knew it was going to be competency based.. as Lloyds TSB took to the that interview style like ducks to water. But it was the first one I was subjected to.. so quite challenging... apart from the competency 'attention to deal', I wasn't sure what the others would be.. so the others really put me on the spot.. 'making good decisions' is a good example of one of those.

Surprisingly they didn't go for the obvious ones like 'teamworking', 'communication skills' or 'problem solving' like normal interviewers.

As for the second interview, right you are again. It is pretty much is up to Mr Big Boss Man to decide who he likes best.

But hey.. whats not to like huh? Its me we're talking about. LOL ;o)


GB said...

Well SSD, I've noticed that you often leave comments here, so when I read about your 'Interview from hell' I thought it might help you if I told you what I know, because it wasn't clear from your postings that you knew about competency-based interviewing.

Anyway, good luck for the next interview, love and kisses, GB xxx

SP said...


This is actually a really useful post for me! I've applied for a part time job with a bank, and I have one of these interviews next week, so hope you don't mind me nicking your advice aswell :)


Sir Wobin said...

I've found the STAR technique to be very useful in both interviewing candidates and when I interview to jobs. It's a behavioral interviewing style but it adapts easily to show a facet of yourself that you're required to show.

It's an easy way to frame the first part of an answer and the interviewer is usually left with quite a thorough picture of you to start with. Like GB says, they subsequent questions probe the details and if you're faking you'll be found out. When they drill into a detail, remember the framework of your answer and expand on the point in context. That way you're less likely to get lost and appear like you don't know what you're doing.