Economics/Business

What is a competency interview/Examples/benefits/How to do

The competency interview is a job interview with the objective of evaluating the actions taken in previous professional situations. In this way, it is possible to trace the behavioral profile of the candidate.

Predicting how an individual will perform in a given role is virtually impossible. However, the competency interview is considered one of the best tools to collect this data.

In this selection and recruitment strategy, the HR team is responsible for evaluating situations already experienced by candidates, using very well-structured questions to highlight the individual’s behavior pattern .

This allows for a much more humane and less “black and white” view of the candidate’s abilities. That is, the individual tends to be evaluated by their professional experiences and not only by what is written in their resume.

It is already possible to notice that this strategy allows a much more complete evaluation of the person interested in the vacancy, right?

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to structure a competency-based interview that generates the expected results. Keep reading through the topics below and enjoy the content to the fullest!

What is a competency interview?

The competency interview is nothing more than a conventional job interview. However, the approach of the questions aims to question the candidate about his past professional situations .

The main objective is to trace a pattern of behavior, much like a behavioral analyst normally does.

Thus, it is possible to understand how this individual overcomes challenges or deals with authority and hierarchy, for example.

This is a way to optimize the selection of new candidates in order to improve and facilitate the process as a whole. 

By elaborating questions focused on the competencies desired by the company at that moment, it is possible to make a search and a much more accurate hiring.

It is worth mentioning that this is not one of those difficult and super-modern concepts of HR management. In fact, this is a technique that has been used for years. 

Currently, smaller companies are adhering to this strategy and focusing on the desired competencies at that moment.

Something that should be clear to anyone leading a competency selection is which competencies are being sought and how to highlight them in that conversation. 

This leads us to some questions. Among them, perhaps the most important is what, in fact, is a competence.

What is a competency?

To apply the competency-based interview tool, it is necessary to understand well what these competencies are.

Well, in that sense, a competency is nothing more than a behavior or action. To better define this concept, it is also important to think about the three items that compose it:

  • knowledge;
  • ability;
  • attitude.

These three items make up the acronym CHA and together they imply that, in order to have a competence, an individual needs to acquire knowledge about a subject; have the skills to develop activities according to their knowledge and put what they have learned into practice.

In this way, when setting up an interview, it is possible to produce much more accurate questions and expose the desired information.

The importance of this tool

When we think about the traditional hiring model, we have a team of people focused on finding technical descriptions in numerous PDFs received through the candidate selection and recruitment tools .

However, what these technical skills or hard skills do not demonstrate is professional performance. 

After all, it is possible to be a professional with dozens of specializations and still have problems working as a team.

Soft kills , or behavioral and emotional skills, on the other hand, are more complex to access, as no one writes on their CV what measures have been taken to resolve the latest professional conflicts.

This is precisely where the competency-based interview makes all the difference. By questioning previous experiences, it is possible to expose patterns of behavior that may or may not result in a hiring .

The types of behavioral profiles

We’ve already talked a little bit here on the blog, in several articles, about behavioral mapping and how to know if the profile of your employees will help you manage and create more responsible and efficient teams.

In the image below, we explain a little about the main behavioral profiles that can appear in a selection:

  • the planner : extremely disciplined;
  • the analyst : who is inflexible and quite dedicated;
  • the communicator : very active and adaptable;
  • the executor : the most dynamic and active of all.

But it is clear that a behavioral profile cannot be summarized only in these four characteristics. Therefore, it is important to know in depth what each of these names means.

After all, this is how this knowledge will be useful for the company, balancing the work environment with complementary profiles that tend to work and collaborate in harmony.

It is also worth making it clear that an individual is not just one of these profiles, but a complex combination of all of them. 

Therefore, applying the test effectively makes all the difference to achieve accurate results.

We are not talking here about technical skills, but about the ability to live in society and to have professional attitudes. Which brings us to the next question.

Technical versus behavioral skills

Technical competences are more linked to the skills that the professional develops to qualify.

The academic training he pursued, the professional courses, the practical experience in the area he wants to work in, the professional exchanges, the skills with other languages, all this represents the professional’s technical competence.

And these excellent examples illustrate some of the skills most in demand by companies.

When we think of behavioral skills, however, we are talking about the candidate’s personality.

It is important to emphasize that both skills have their place of importance when selecting a candidate for a job vacancy. 

However, many entrepreneurs end up overestimating the technical skills of an individual and leave issues such as ease of working in a team aside.

As such, it is important to understand exactly what the company is looking for in order to find the ideal candidate to fill the opportunity.

Thus, a selection strategy that combines these concepts well is the ideal way to overcome this challenge.

How to do a competency interview: understand the step by step

It’s time to get down to business and start structuring a competency-based interview.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you in this process!

Step 1: Understand the role and its competencies

The first thing to do when preparing the questions that will be presented to the candidate is to understand well the position for which he is applying.

When we talk about understanding, we are not referring only to the tasks that the individual will perform on a daily basis.

We are thinking about the skills he needs to perform his activities with quality.

Therefore, it is essential to map the essential competencies for the position and, from there, prepare the interview script.

The mapping process does not have a formula, however, these guidelines can help you in this process:

  • talk to managers about the position and the team;
  • observe the characteristics of the top performers of that team;
  • take into account the skills that the company needs to achieve its goals;
  • then map the competencies that professionals in that position cannot lack.

It is interesting not to try to “encompass the world with skills”. Keep in mind that each individual has a limit of skills they can perform competently.

Ideally, limit yourself to about five soft skills and five technical skills .

In addition, this limitation also allows you to stay focused during the interview and explore the really relevant points.

2nd step: formulate the questions by competence

There is no point in selecting the most relevant competencies for the position if the questions are not designed to make the candidate share the necessary information.

Here, the tip is to create a kind of script, remembering that it is not an obligation to follow it to the letter, since it is the candidate himself who will dictate the pace of the conversation. 

If the script has a logical order for the questions proposed, it can help the candidate to open up more. It is interesting to have at least three questions for each competency.

When formulating the questions, always try to ask the candidate to refer to his experiences, inducing him to talk about how he used the skills in question.

Don’t worry, we’ll give you some sample questions for selection by competence later on!

Step 3: Conduct the interview and evaluate the answers

During the interview, the interviewer’s communication skills are put to the test, as it is his responsibility to guide that moment in the most productive and natural way possible.

Thus, it is important to have some questions ready to encourage the individual to continue sharing details, such as: “what did you do about it?”; “How was this situation resolved?”; “How did that impact you or the company?” etc.

For example:

“Tell me about a conflict situation in which you had to intervene or were involved and had to mediate the situation to resolve it.” 

Then, it is possible to follow up with the following questions: “how did you feel?”; “What did you do about it?”

What are the best practices for a competency interview

There are still some good practices that can be applied in an interview like this. Below are some tips we’ve learned from experience.

Don’t look for the unicorn

A common mistake interviewers make is thinking they’ll find the perfect candidate for the job. 

Nobody is 100% perfect for anything, and the pursuit of that level of perfection can lead to some frustrations.

Thus, it is interesting to keep in mind what are the essential competencies that the individual needs to have and what are those characteristics that can be developed with training .

Focus is on candidate experience

The employee’s experience starts from the interview, that is, it is the interviewer’s duty to make the candidate for the vacancy feel free to share their stories.

Of course, it is common for people to get nervous, after all, this is a moment that can change their lives considerably. 

Here, it is up to those conducting the interview to look through this cloak of anxiety directly at their experiences.

Watch your personal opinions

No matter how professional we are, it’s more common than we think to have our judgment clouded by a little personal opinion.

Therefore, having a standardized model to carry out the interview, as we will comment below, is more than necessary to help the interviewer to have a more impartial view of the situation. 

Not only that, it is much easier to make objective decisions and justify them using numbers than thinking about the impressions that the interviewee made. 

Examples of competency interview questions

Below, you will have access to a sample competency interview guide to help you formulate your own questions.

leadership identification

  • Tell me about a situation where you needed to take a different position than your company proposed and it was effective.
  • Have you ever needed to lead a project involving more than one area or department of the company? If yes, what results were delivered?
  • Have you implemented any strategy to motivate your employees?

customer experience

  • What actions have you already taken in order to contribute to customer loyalty?
  • Have you ever had to deal with difficult customers? What were these situations like and how did you solve the problem?

Flexibilization

  • Have you ever led a project that needed to change direction during development? How was it for you?
  • Have you ever had to perform tasks that were not your responsibility? What did that make you feel?

Creativity

  • Has there ever been a situation where you needed to be inventive to solve a problem due to lack of resources?

Focus on results

  • What is your process for structuring an action plan?
  • How do you measure the results of your projects?

For more examples, you can consult an excellent document developed by the team at Linkedin, the world’s largest professional social network. 

The file can be found in the document “ 30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Identify High-Potential Candidates ”.

How to evaluate the answers

During the analysis of responses, a scale from 1 to 5 is usually created, in which 1 represents little or no sign of the competence for which the candidate is being evaluated and 5 demonstrates a lot of evidence.

At the end of the analysis, just add up the points for each competency and you will have an idea of ​​the professional’s compatibility with the position he is competing for.

We’ve already talked a little about the importance of putting personal opinions aside in a process like this. 

Although a mathematical scale is used to avoid a biased result, the points are assigned by the interviewer, based on their view of the interviewee.

Therefore, one way to reduce personal bias during the interview is to have at least two interviewers who will compare their results later.

The benefits of competency-based interviews

There are some advantages for the HR team and for the company that opts for the competency-based interview strategy. Below we list some of them:

  1. have personal contact with the candidate;
  2. assess the individual’s behavior in different situations;
  3. understand how he behaves when confronted about his part in conflict situations;
  4. adapt the profile of the professional to the company in the best possible way;
  5. create a more objective and fair recruitment and selection process;
  6. generate more possibilities of being a successful hiring.

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