Why a Competency-Based Approach Results in Superior Hires

While employee turnover is a normal part of any business, a higher than average turnover signals an expensive problem in your operation and hiring process.  Per most industry experts, a turnover rate below 15% isn’t cause for alarm.  Losing large numbers of employees each year, however, costs your company both time and money, a problem that competency-based interviewing could solve.

The Hiring Problem

Traditional interviewing techniques are no longer bringing the right people into organizations.  Today more than ever, organization and culture fit has become just as important as skills.  Unfortunately, the only thing that a traditional interview measures is the ability of the candidate to answer canned questions about their past.

Most traditional interview questions are standard open-ended questions that deal with such things as education, knowledge, and a chronological guide through work experience.  These are all elements already listed on a resume.  Also, an entire industry is now in place that prepares candidates to answer questions like, “Tell me about your background.”  Instead, competency-based interviewing turns the tables on the process and asks the candidate to describe behaviors that have brought them success in the workplace.

Why Competency-Based Interviewing is a Superior Approach to Hiring

Also called behavioral interviewing, competency-based interviewing goes beyond a candidate’s work history and academic degree to demonstrate the traits most needed for success in a job.  Whether it be teamwork, confronting conflict, or analytical skills, questions are asked of job seekers so that illicit personal stories from past experiences to demonstrate these competencies.

The premise behind competency-based interviewing is that the best predictor of how a job candidate will perform for your company is how he/she behaved in the past.  To determine these behaviors, you’ll need to first identify the skills or competencies necessary for your position and then develop your unique set of probing questions to interview prospective employees.

Running Your Competency-Based Interview

Implementing a competency-based interview program isn’t a straightforward matter.  The most effective interviews take careful planning, with questions tailored to each individual position.  Also, it would be a mistake to think that all candidates should be asked the exact same list of scripted questions.  These interviews should be flexible and evolve to get the most benefit.

When planning your competency-based interview, plan and structure the meeting with some core questions for each candidate that address job skills and core competencies. This will make it easier to make comparisons across all candidates later.  One downfall of this interviewing approach is that now candidates are coming to interviews with answers and stories already prepared.  Therefore, you’ll need to “drill down” and ask unscripted follow-up questions.

Suppose you ask a “core question” to a candidate such as, “Describe for me a time that you confronted conflict in a team situation.”  Depending on the candidate’s answer, you can follow-up with questions like:

  • Was this team working on a project? If so, what was the project and was it successfully completed?
  • Did this change your future view of working on teams?
  • Tell us about a lesson you learned from that situation”

Competency-based interviews have evolved in recent years to allow interviewers to have productive conversations with their job candidates.  While they require more effort on both ends, the result is the company’s achieving superior hires and candidates being placed in positions for which they are best suited.

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