Product development and competency based interviews | Ambrose Recruitment

What are Competency Based Interviews?

Good news – you’ve been invited to attend an interview. It’s likely that the process will be based on a ‘competency based’ interview, which can be quite daunting. Here, we look to give you the information you need to be successful, starting with what ‘competency based interviews’ actually are.

Like every form of interview, the aim of competency based interviews is to find the right candidate for the job. However, unlike traditional interview techniques where interviewers go through each and every job on your CV, a CBI interview asks for specific examples about how you responded to situations in the past. This common style is based around the STAR technique; Situation, Task, Action and Result. An interviewer will start with a broad open question and then probe the interviewee for further evidence, with questions such as; ‘Give me an example of a project you were responsible for in the past that was causing you difficulties?’ This style of interview also allows the candidate to draw upon real life examples whilst giving the interviewer a good indication of competencies.

Surely technical skills are more important than behaviour?

The question of what is more important, technical ability or behaviour, is an interesting one and one that is often debated. Should an interviewer look for a 100% skill match to the job, or is a 60% skills versus a 40% cultural fit more appropriate? Of course if you are recruiting a mechanical design engineer for example, their skills need to outweigh their behaviour. For other roles, the competency-based interview works with the thought process that you can train someone to do a job, but you can’t train behaviour.

Adopting this form of interview allows an interviewer to gain insight into not only the person’s skills, but also how they will actually fit into the company, manage teams and assist in helping the business grow.

How are competency based interviews carried out?

Ahead of recruiting, the company will have defined the competencies that they need in their team. Competency based interviews will be written and each candidate will be interviewed against the same questions. A candidate will typically be given a score of between 1 and 5, with 5 demonstrating high levels of evidence. At the end of the interview process, the candidates are scored and the one with the highest average should be offered the position. It is important to have a minimum level of competency agreed before interviews commence, and if this is not achieved then none of the candidates should be appointed and recruitment should recommence. It is important to resist the temptation to hire the best of an unsuitable short list.

Typical competences to measure candidates against include:

  • Organisation
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Decision making
  • Responsibility
  • Problem-solving
  • Goal orientation

mature applicant

Questions in competency based interviews

The questions asked during this kind of interview will of course depend on the role and industry the applicant is applying for. However, one can expect to be asked questions where they have to think on their feet such as;

  • Describe a way in which you…
  • How would you react to…
  • Can you give me an example of how you…

Marking and scoring candidates

The employer will have predetermined the type of answers which would score positive points and which types of answers would count against the candidates.
An example of scoring is shown below;

  • Positive
    • Demonstrates a positive approach towards the problem
    • Considers the wider need of the situation
  • Negative
    • Perceives challenges as problems
    • Attempts unsuccessfully to deal with the situation alone

How to prepare for competency based interviews

The kind of questions asked during this kind of interview can be tricky to prepare for, which is actually the whole point. The interviewer is looking for a candidate who can genuinely react to the questions with practical and honest answers. That said, you can give yourself a head start by looking at the key competencies stated in the job description, and have a pre-prepared example of how you have displayed that attribute for each one. Try to use a wide variety of examples including previous employment or work experience as well as examples in your daily life. As tempting as it may be, don’t embellish the truth.

For a candidate, the competency-based interview can often fill people with dread. From an employee’s point of view, operating an interview in this way is arguably the best method of finding the right person for the job. Feel like you’re ready for your next opportunity and prepped for an interview – check out our latest jobs on our job board.

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