Competancy Based Interviews

Competency based interviews (CBI) are a trend that is not slowing down. Many of our HR community will be familiar with the CBI approach and may well have used this format to conduct interviews in the past. However the experience of being on the “other side” of a CBI process is likely to be quite different, and to help your interviewing success, it is useful to understand the reasoning behind use of CBI as a screening and selection tool.

What is CBI?

There is a school of scientific thought that believes the best guide to the future is to look at what has happened in the past. By looking for evidence that something has or hasn’t occurred we are better able to make decisions about what should or will happen in the future.

The same general principle applies to human behaviour. Interviewers in a CBI are looking for evidence of what you have done so that they can more accurately predict what you will do, or be able to do, in the future.

Traditional CBI, also known as “situational” or “behavioural” interviewing, focuses on experiences in both a candidate’s personal and business life to determine one’s competencies. The idea is that a candidate possesses and utilises a range of competencies in all situations and these are all relevant in determining suitability for a job.  Being a good leader, for example, might be evidenced equally from a work activity, a neighbourhood project or captaining the local cricket team.

What are competencies?

Competencies are made up of knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes that typically result in a likely set of behaviours. These in turn provide organisations with an indicator on how people will go about the work tasks required. These competencies enable organisations to evaluate whether the way someone does their work is in line with company culture, and achieves the type of result required. They are also an indicator for the extent to which employees are, or are not performing, and may therefore be used as a means to develop individuals in a very specific way.

The specific competencies in any organisation will depend on the desired behaviours of that organisation but there are many that are common across multiple employer companies. These include Leadership, Communication, Self-Motivation, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Teamwork, and Commercial Awareness.

Typically, competencies are expressed on a scale (eg: from novice to expert), with individuals being assessed against the standard required at the level of their job or the job they wish to have. This is often referred to as “the competency framework”, and behaviours are expected to vary within a competency depending on experience level.

Using the “leadership” competency as an example, this might consist of four levels of behaviours from simple supervisory skills at the novice end to complex multi-disciplinary team leadership at the top end. The precise definition of what leadership means in one organisation is likely to be unique to that organisation and likewise the specific behaviours within it.

There is significantly more background and information on Competency Behavioural Interviews available in the public domain. Certainly thought, a high level of preparation is usually recommended for anyone about to undergo a competency based interview, and we’ll cover this in a separate article.