Competency Based Interview Questions for Employers

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 12th February 2015

As a manager faced with a recruitment interview, you might find yourself with little time to prepare, and unsure of which questions to ask.

Most of us have faced the ‘why do you want this job?’ or ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ questions that might indicate a lack of planning or forethought on behalf of the recruiting manager, and which tell us little about the candidate’s suitability.

If you are recruiting, forget about asking questions that sound good, or doing what you’ve seen done in the past and keep it simple – what are the key skills, behaviours, competencies and attitudes you want to recruit? What ones do you want to avoid?

Competency Based Interview Questions for Employers

Asking new questions

Think about people you’ve seen recruited or worked with that turned out to be poor recruitment choices… what do you wish they’d been asked? What questions might have identified that they were unsuitable or unlikely to perform? Interviews are a key recruitment method, but one which is potentially flawed and can end up as an artificial ‘role-play’ situation, where both parties are on their best behaviour and where the real truth may well stay hidden.

Try to keep your questions open, and focused on getting the candidate to reveal some truth about themselves. Competency based interview questions are often a very good place to begin. This means asking the candidate to talk about real situations or challenges they’ve faced, and what they did. This is often very revealing and less likely to get a ‘rehearsed answer’.

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Competency Based Interview Questions for Employers

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Interviews often invite sugar coated answers. The following competency based interview questions for employers force interviewees to address both the positive and negative aspects of their working style, resulting in answers that are both more honest and more compelling.

  • Tell me about the most difficult person you’ve ever had to deal with. What made them difficult and what did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you went against your manager’s wishes? Why did you do it and how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a change you found difficult to deal with. What made it difficult and what did you do?
  • Tell me about a situation where your approach wasn’t working and you had to adapt and change your tack. What indicated that it wasn’t working and what did you do to change? What did you learn?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to influence different stakeholders with varied agendas. What approaches or strategies did you use? How did you decide what to do?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to inspire an individual or team. What challenges or barriers did you face and how did you overcome them?
  • Tell me about some risks that you have taken in your professional or personal life. How did you go about making your decision? What did you do to manage the risks?
  • Give an example where you worked in a dysfunctional team. Why was it dysfunctional and how did you attempt to change things?
  • How do you build relationships with other members of your team?

These are just some of the many areas you might explore, depending upon the needs of the role. The thing to remember is to explore the key aspects of the candidate’s typical approach and capabilities, so that you can make an informed decision about their suitability.

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