Make Better Hires with a Competency-Based Approach

The problem with traditional interviewing is that it only assesses qualifications on paper. It doesn’t delve deep enough to discover if the job candidate is indeed a good fit for the company culture. The competency-based behavioral interviewing technique was borne of this frustration. This strategy starts with the assumption that an interviewee’s past behavior is the best way to predict future behavior on the job. Interviewers who use this strategy ask questions that determine why the person took a specific action. They need to ask situational questions enough times and in enough different ways to determine a clear pattern.

Finding the Right Person Using STAR

In practice, competency-based interviewing follows the STAR acronym. First, the interviewer asks the candidate to describe a situation where he or she used a core competency. Exploring this further, the interviewer asks the interviewee to expand on the task achieved in the situation they just described. Now it is time to explain the action he or she took to complete tasks in the situation at hand. Lastly and most importantly, the candidate should be able to explain the result in sufficient detail so the recruiter gains a clear understanding of his or her thought process and behavior patterns. Questions are open-ended and start with phrases such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • Walk me through this situation from beginning to resolution…
  • How did you respond to…

The Tangible Benefits of Competency-Based Interviewing

While candidate knowledge and skills are easy to assess, determining competencies has long been an overlooked part of the hiring process. That is because no adequate method of shaking out attitude and behavior patterns existed until several years ago. Now that employers have embraced it; they are reaping rewards that go far beyond minimizing financial loss. These include:

  • Consistency: When candidates for the same position must answer the same questions, it provides a reliable benchmark to measure them against one another. The structured interview format produces an accuracy rate greater than 80 percent. Although recruiters should update the questions periodically to reflect changes in job expectations, asking consistent questions based on a combination of behavior and technical skills produces the most reliable results. By the same token, this approach eliminates interviewer bias because he or she is unconcerned with candidate demographics.
  • Predictor of Future Performance: After successful onboarding of a new employee, recruiters can take the same set of core competencies to create a hiring strategy for future expansion.
  • Ability to Provide Clear Candidate Feedback: Up to 94 percent of people who interview for a job want to know why they got rejected. However, only 41 percent receive this feedback. Competency-based interviewing enables hiring managers to craft a concise response to this question rather than ignoring it.
  • Lowers Employee Turnover: More people resign quickly from a job because of a poor personal fit rather than being underqualified for it. Companies that use this interviewing approach retain employees longer, particularly past the critical first several months.

Having the right skills and education is no longer enough to secure a higher-level position in today’s competitive workforce. Both those seeking a job and those interviewing people for an open position would be wise to take this into consideration.


Arnel Ariate is the webmaster of Money Soldiers.

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