Now used as a framework for the HR procedures of many blue-chip organisations, competency-based interviewing (CBI) is the latest form of behavioural interviewing to hit the job market. Unlike the traditional interview that focuses on the individuals’ skills, knowledge and education, this technique allows you to analyse the candidates’ core being – highlighting personality traits, examining competencies and assessing how well they might integrate into your company culture. What better way to prise out those snippets of information that could distinguish your top-achievers from those who simply shine at interview?

  • What are competencies?
  • Why focus on competencies?
  • What do we mean by behaviour?
  • Proven results

What are competencies?

Competencies are best described as, ‘The ability or motivation to apply skills or knowledge.’ They focus on the idea that an individual who does not possess the right attitude, will not succeed, as this is the key inherent personality trait that will drive them to learn more and become more successful in their chosen career.

Professor Boyatzis, author of, ‘The competent manager: a model for effective performance’, researched this theory based on competencies by identifying superior performers and analysing their personal characteristics. As a result of his studies, the concept was first introduced in the US in the early 1970s.

Several years later, many companies recognised the need to introduce a similar philosophy, to cope with a shrinking skilled workforce. Under pressure to up-skill the workplace and retain and develop key staff, competency frameworks were introduced to assist in the following HR facilities:

  • Selection procedures – recruitment, job descriptions
  • Appraisals – designing review procedures based on core competencies
  • Promotion – clear criteria for future growth
  • Performance management
  • Succession planning

Why focus on competencies?

As a result of globalisation, industries are becoming increasingly competitive. We find ourselves having to compete against the well-trained workforce in the US; therefore, as well as the traditional interview, we combine a variety of different selection procedures:

  • Examinations
  • Assessment centres
  • Presentations
  • On-the-job assessment
  • Psychometric tests

Despite the theories and criticism associated with each of the techniques, Boyatzis recognized the strength of the traditional interview, coupled with the need for a behavioural analysis.

What do we mean by behaviour?

Behaviour can be defined as what a person says or does, or doesn’t do or say, when required. By analysing an individuals’ behaviour, in effect, you are identifying the key activities and personality requirements for the job, and using a series of structured questions to gather information for further analysis.

Jolene Lawson, manager for TalentSphere, says, ‘Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. We need evidence of how people react in different situations and how competent they are in those given areas.

‘Traditional interviewing techniques tend to focus on the hypothetical – what would you do in the future? – whereas, CBI probes for the how, why, when, what and where of past performances.’ She adds: ‘If you ask a hypothetical question, the chances are you’ll get a hypothetical response. This can often cloud our judgement, as we’re faced with someone who’s conversant with the art of quick-thinking and effective deliverance.’

Proven results

So, are interviewers able to make more effective hiring decisions based on the competency-based behavioural interviewing framework? According to Jolene Lawson, manager for TalentSphere Accounting & Finance, ‘The effectiveness of the hiring decision is dependant on the experience of the CBI interviewer. In cases where the interviewer is inexperienced, the concept is reversed – the interview becomes a de-selection procedure.’ Therefore, it is vital that the interviewer receives adequate training from a professional body.

Lawson continues, ‘One of the great advantages of CBI is that it inhibits the interviewer from being subjective – if you follow the rules, you won’t form an opinion straight away! – one of the most common mistakes made in traditional interviews.’

Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time should you have any questions regarding the contained information, or require any recruitment assistance.