Competency-based interview questions: Get it right the first time!

March 5, 2015 Sarah Beckett

It happens all the time–a new hire that did well in the interview process turns out to be a lackluster performer. It’s a frustrating problem, and one that often find its roots in the selection tools you are using.

Research shows that typical interviews do not provide reliable results, and do not accurately predict candidates who will be high performers. As much as 80% of turnover is a result of hiring and interview mistakes, and those mistakes can cost companies between two and six times the employee’s salary to fix.

And beyond the immediate costs are the long-term consequences. The quality of employees is one of the most important factors in determining whether an organization will thrive or wither.

Choosing the right interview process is critical, and incorporating competency-based interview questions into your selection process is one way to ensure new hires are selected based on proven performance rather than subjective or irrelevant criteria.

An interview process guided by competency-based interview questions enables you to:

  • Focus on job requirements. When derived from job analysis, competencies ensure the alignment of interview questions with job requirements. By asking job-relevant questions, interviewers can better evaluate the extent to which candidates’ skills and abilities match those required on the job. Interviews which rely on job-relevant questions are legally defensible. They are also less likely to result in claims of unfair discrimination because candidates can see a clear link between the interview questions and what is required on the job.
  • Assess past behavior. Behavior-based questions are those that ask candidates to describe what they did in the past. Past behavior predicts future behavior. Research shows that behavior-based interviewing is a stronger predictor of job success than questions that ask interviewees to describe how they think they would respond to a hypothetical situation. (For example: “If you were tasked with improving customer service, what’s the first thing you’d do?”)
  • Achieve greater consistency. One way to focus the interview on job requirements is to structure it. A structured interview is one in which all candidates are assessed using the same set of questions. With a structured interview, interviewers are less likely to forget to get the necessary comparative information for each candidate. In addition, candidates are more likely to see the interview process as fair because the administration of questions is consistent across candidates.
  • Score more accurately. Competencies increase the reliability of interview scoring by providing interviewers with observable benchmarks against which to evaluate interviewees’ responses. These benchmarks help to standardize the interview assessment and ensure consistent evaluation of all applicants.

Competency-based interviews improve the effectiveness of organizational selection systems by providing job-relevant behaviors against which to assess job candidates. They add structure to the interview process and enhance the reliability of scoring. By introducing a competency-based interview questions in your selection system, you will be able to select the most suitable candidates for your organization.

Dye, C. F. (2007). Hiring: Get it right the first time. HRM (Healthcare Financial Management), 61(3), 116-118
Judge, T. A., Cable, D. M., & Higgins, C.A (2000). The employment interview: A review of recent research and recommendations for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 10, 383-406.
Pulakos, E.D., & Schmitt. N. (1995). Experience-based and situational interview questions: Studies of validity. Personnel Psychology, 48, 289-308.

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About the Author

Sarah Beckett

Sarah is an experienced marketer with over 10 years experience. She drives HRSG brand marketing strategy and the implementation of all related programs.

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