Competency Based Interviews – Head-hunted candidates

A person’s competency is a combination of their knowledge, skills, judgment, and attributes. Examples of competencies might include leadership or decision-making.

Competency based interviews are designed to test whether each candidate has the precise knowledge, skills, or values that you are recruiting for, and to provide a way of rating one candidate’s competence and interview performance against another.

This method is very different from an informal "getting to know you" interview style, which focuses on the candidate's personality, general fit and building up a relationship with the candidate. 

In a head-hunt situation it’s important to recognise that the initial “interview” with a potential recruit is much more of a two-way business meeting where the head-hunted candidate is assessing the fit from their perspective and looking to gather information on the business, role, and longer-term outlook that feeds into their essential “what’s in it for me” criteria.

Competency based questions can be used to assess a candidate in more detail either at the back end of an informal interview once a relationship has been established or as the structure of a more in depth second interview. 

In a competency-based interview, questions focus on assessing a candidate's strengths and weaknesses in the key competencies that you need them to demonstrate against set criteria to determine their level of fit.

In a head-hunt situation it remains important to top and tale this more formal set of questions with opportunities for the candidate to engage in less structured conversation and ask any questions that they have about real-world situations, projects and processes in the business.

Step 1: Develop your Selection Criteria

Outline the skills, attributes, knowledge, and behavioural traits that you need a recruit to demonstrate to form a competency framework for the role.  Set this against job description and the likely skills matrix that candidates will require.   Consult with successful employees that are currently doing the same role or have done the role in the past to gain improved perspectives and feedback.

Step 2: Prepare Appropriate Questions

Create one or two questions that focus on each core competency in your competency framework.

Competency Based questions general examples:

Key Competency: Conflict Management Skills

Tell me when you had to manage or resolve a conflict between two or more members of your team.

Supplement this main question with two or three more probing follow on questions such as:

  • What was your strategy?
  • Were you required to show sensitivity?
  • In what way were you sensitive to the needs of the team and your colleagues?
  • How was your sensitivity received by the colleague involved?
  • Did your strategy lead to a positive resolution, did your intervention have the desired effect?
  • Looking back, how would you act differently now in that given situation?

Key Competency: Problem Solving

Describe a situation in which the cause of a critical problem was not initially clear.

Probing questions:

  • What impact was the problem having?
  • What information did you need?
  • How did you utilise the information?
  • When did you identify the root cause of the problem?
  • How did you solve the problem?
  • How long did this process take?
  • How effective was your solution to the problem?
  • In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?

Key Competency: Judgement

Tell me about a decision you had made objectively, despite your own personal bias.

Probing questions:

  • What decision needed to be made?
  • In what way were you personally biased?
  • Why did you need to be objective in your decision making?
  • What was the result of your decision?
  • How did you prevent acting on bias?
  • Has personal bias influenced your decision making since?

Step 3: Conduct a Structured repeatable Interview

  • Create a scoring system 0-5 as follows:

0 No answer given or answer completely irrelevant. No examples given.

1 A few good points but main issues missing. No examples/irrelevant examples given

2 Some points covered, not all relevant. Some examples given.

3 Some points covered. Relevant information given. Some examples given.

4 Good answer. Relevant information. All or most points covered. Good examples. 3 Some points covered. Relevant information given. Some examples given.

5 Perfect answer. All points addressed. All points relevant. Good examples.

Questions can be weighted 1 (low importance) or 2 (high importance) to reflect their overall importance to the position.

Candidates scores are logged and used to measure relative performance and fit.

  • Set structure. Ask each candidate exactly the same questions in the same order, so that each candidate is graded fairly and consistently.
  • Allow thinking time. Expect periods of silence to allow the candidates the time to think about their answers.
  • Active listening Pay attention to the candidate and acknowledge their responses.
  • Take notes. Interviewers might disagree on what they remember was said, so be sure to take accurate notes on candidate content and your conclusions.
  • Evaluate. Spend some time afterward discussing the candidate's test performance and looking at any examples of their work that they've brought with them. Prepare questions for this stage, too.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback.  Regardless of the outcome it’s vitally important that the interviewers take the time to provide some valuable feedback to candidates.  These candidates have invested their time and effort in a process and whilst their desired reward is a job offer, the minimum they expect is some constructive feedback that will help them in the next process they enter.

I am an international head-hunter with a recruitment career spanning over 20 years focussed on the consultancy sector. 

During this time I have recruited across professional services, successfully completing mid to Partner level assignments in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, France, Germany and the Middle East.

I have particularly strong experience of tackling senior, winner-doer practice building roles and hard to fill problem positions where the pool of potential candidates is small, highly specialist and hard to reach. 

Put simply I help the owners and leaders of Consulting company's hire senior, hard to find, and niche talent.

When you engage Mindset Search you will know exactly who you are dealing with throughout the process.  

I will be your single point of contact and I will deliver your assignment, do the research and interview your candidates.  

If you are striving for growth in your consultancy practice I would be happy to talk through your plans and how I am able to help you.

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