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Using Competency Based Interviewing To Build Your Strongest Team

by Andrew Armstrong

interview

When job recruiters receive hundreds of resumes for a single position, it’s only natural that they choose the ones where the applicant appears to have the qualifications necessary to be successful in the position.

Unfortunately, this is rarely a good way to predict who will actually do well. Start-up organizations that have neither the time nor the resources to deal with high turnover or alienating customers by hiring the wrong employee are increasingly turning to competency-based behavioral interviewing techniques.

This approach places a high emphasis on predicting behavior on the job by analyzing the candidate’s past and present behavior.

Competency-Based Hiring Starts with the Help Wanted Ad.

One of the keys of attracting the right employees is to request certain character and behavioral traits in the employment ad. Along with technical skills, the ad should state requirements like initiative, leadership skills, empathy, service orientation, or other qualities that are essential for the person to succeed in his or her role. These traits, also called competencies, allow the employer to define the ideal behavior for the person who accepts the job. Unlike technical skills that a new employee can learn, core competencies are nearly impossible to teach. They tend to be ingrained within the person instead.

In a typical interview, the person asking the questions requests information about education and experience to determine if the applicant has performed similar tasks in the past. With competency-based behavioral interviewing, human resources personnel focus more on asking questions that draw out the applicant’s personal qualities. This is essential since these details are not on a typical resume. Compared to a structured interview that asks the same questions of every job applicant, this interviewing strategy allows for greater flexibility based on his or her responses and non-verbal communication.

Key Benefits of Adopting a Behavioral Interviewing Strategy.

Since this approach allows employers to predict future behavior and not just assess technical skills, it has the opportunity to reduce employee turnover drastically. However, any company that has implemented competency-based interviewing will admit that it’s hard work. It requires interviewing more people, a more in-depth interviewing process, and the possibility of speaking to the same applicant several times before reaching a decision. The effort is well worth it for companies to avoid the high cost of constantly on-boarding new people for a single position. It also helps to protect an organization’s reputation, which is impossible to measure in dollars alone.

Another major benefit of this approach is that it allows organizations the opportunity to consider a greater diversity of people for an open position. With structured interviewing, the pool of people considered for a job offer is likely to be in the same age range and have other similar demographics. The person most qualified for the job may be overlooked because this approach doesn’t look beyond the external to evaluate personal characteristics that would be a good match for the position. This leads to a situation where the fit looks good on paper but often turns out to be less than ideal in person.

 

Andrew Armstrong

Andrew Armstrong is an independent business and market strategies consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area working primarily with technology and start-up phase clients. He founded and ran his own digital marketing agency, KickStart Search, for 6 years prior to being acquired by Los Angeles-based Wpromote in April of 2015. Follow him on Twitter @kickstartseach.

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