What Is a Competency-Based Interview? - Examples & Overview

Instructor: Carol Woods

Carol has taught college Finance, Accounting, Management and Business courses and has a MBA in Finance.

What is a competency-based interview, and why would you use one? In this lesson, we'll discuss what it is, how to use it, and how to develop one to fill open positions with the best possible candidate.

What Is a Competency-Based Interview?

A competency-based interview, also known as a behavioral or situational interview, is an interview in which the interviewer asks questions about specific business situations. The candidate answers by describing how they have handled similar situations in the past, or with what they would do if confronted with the situation described.

Why Use Competency-Based Interviews?

A competency-based interview is designed to determine how candidates will act in certain situations, based on how they have handled them in the past. It's also designed to get more information about candidates work styles and their ways of acting under pressure, so the interviewer can better determine if they are a good fit for the position and company.

How to Develop a Competency-Based Interview

To develop a competency-based interview, start by thinking about the position you need to fill. What are the most important skills in the position? What sort of stresses will occur in the position, and how do you want your hire to handle them? What personal characteristics have caused problems in the past and are to be avoided?

For example, let's assume you need to fill a floor sales position in an electronics store.

Start by considering, what are the most important skills in this position? In our scenario, the number one goal in this position is to sell electronics, so you'll want to develop some questions around selling situations. For example:

  • A customer has selected several items for purchase, and then says they are going to 'think about it' and come back at a later time. What do you do?
  • Describe a situation where a customer asked you a question about a product that you couldn't answer. How did you handle it?
  • What are your personal goals in selling: To sell the most? To make sure every customer is happy? To move out items the company needs off the shelf? Give an example of what you would do to meet that goal.

You might also consider the types of stress that will occur in the position and how you would want them handled. For instance, do you want your sales rep to have excellent skills in dealing with upset customers, or do you want them to hand off the customer to a manager and return to the floor? Once you determine that, develop a question to determine what the prospective salesperson would do:

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