USP-D Recruitment - Competency based Interviews


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Recruitment: Competency-based Interviewing. Enhance the Recruitment Process in your Organization How to improve the interviews to make them more valid and reliable through the use of competency-based questioning.

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USP-D Recruitment - Competency based Interviews

  1. 1. USP-D enhancing effectivenessRecruitment: Competency-basedInterviewingEnhance the Recruitment Process in yourOrganizationHow to improve the interviews to make them more valid and reliable throughthe use of competency-based questioning.White Paper 04/09Gerard Mc DonnellUSPD Schulte & Ster Consulting GmbH T +43 1 585 55 94 Wien-DüsseldorfWinckelmannstrasse 8 F +43 1 585 62 261150 Wien
  2. 2. USP-D enhancing effectivenessIntroduction Companies recruiting new entrants tend to rely on the personal interview as the quickest, cheapest way to bring new staff on board. So why is the personal interview not as effective as generally thought? Unstructured questioning, too little time dedicated to the task, a lack of experience in interviewing coupled with asking the wrong questions (or asking the right questions in the wrong way) are just some of the reasons why the personal interview can be a waste of both the manager’s time and the applicant’s efforts in finding a job that matches his/her skills. If a more focused approach were taken to how interviews are managed the results would lead to a more efficient, competent and productive workforce. Employee turnover would also be reduced, resulting in greater cost savings in training, greater retained ‘tacit’ knowledge and lower annual overheads on recruitment. The working atmosphere in the company would be happier and teams would complement each other better. With the right approach to interviews in the recruitment process there would be a better person-job fit in the company. When interviewing goes wrong companies can be faced with possible litigation and higher employee turnover. The costs of recruitment and training increase and the loss of tacit knowledge in the company rises. It can also lead to greater dissatisfaction in the workplace coupled together with reduced efficiency, competency and productivity. In many instances the wrong person gets the job. If recruitment is handled badly there is also the chance that the company’s reputation will be damaged through bringing in someone who then has to separate early. The personal interview is one of the first real opportunities for both the manager/company and the applicant to get to know each other and it is crucial that it is handled well, especially if it is the only hiring method being used. Managers and their companies should be encouraged to integrate more instruments into their selection processes and enhance the interviews they hold with applicants. There are many effective instruments which can be supplemented with interviews such as psychometric testing, ability tests or assessment centres or a combination of all. Due to their relatively high costs these methods tend to be avoided or only used for more senior personnel recruitment or for senior staff who have been in the company for some time (i.e. for promotion purposes). If the personal interview is the only instrument available every effort should be made to enhance its effectiveness and managers need to build up the necessary skill-set to be good recruiters. The danger can arise that if applicants prepare themselves well and attend interviews where the interviewer is poorly prepared or has a lack of interviewing skills the interviewee can easily slip through the net and get hired. Too little is discovered about them in the interview on their true suitability for the job. Page1 of 4
  3. 3. USP-D enhancing effectiveness The truth is that managers ask the wrong questions or often do not know the right questions to ask. Many such interviews take an unstructured approach. Interviewers quiz applicants about their previous experiences, their strengths and weaknesses, why they should be chosen for the job and what they hope to contribute to the company. These in themselves are important and relevant questions but in truth they reveal very little about the competencies and skills of the candidate or their real background experience. Applicants who prepare themselves well will have worked on these questions in advance, often delivering what they believe the interviewer wants to hear. Usually the replies are rhymed off and the applicants delight themselves in providing ‘good’ answers. How can this be best overcome? One of the most effective ways is to ask questions which are competency-based and focused on the candidate’s previous experience and behaviour. A competency represents behaviours that employees must have to achieve high levels of performance. Since competencies are behavioural descriptions they must be measured in behavioural terms and questions in the interview must reflect this. It is important, therefore, that questions asked of candidates should be about their behaviours in previous positions or elsewhere. This will help determine how competent the applicant is in a particular competency which the company needs in the new recruit in order to do the job well. Questions should be derived from the job description (JR) which lists the competencies required for the job. A good job description results from the analysis of the position and all the work it entails. It shows the essential and desirable criteria of the job. The JD should always be specific, measurable and behavioural (you can measure it in behavioural terms and you can also measure it in an activity). The job description should always be relevant to the job requirements. Interview questions should be competency-based in their formulation. Ensure that they are as specific as possible – you want clear examples of behaviours experienced. Always focus on open questions and stick with the situation. Questions which elicit behavioural responses are most useful to generating a picture of the abilities of the candidate.PBDI – The One approach in competency-based interviews is the Patterned BehaviouralPatterned Description Interviewing approach (PBDI). It is an effective approach in delivering aBehavioural lot of useful information on the competencies of the applicant. The PBDI approach isDescription a structured-based method of handling interviews and is based on the premise that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. Applicants are asked to recall a time whenInterviewing they demonstrated behaviour that exemplifies a core competency identified in theApproach job description of the position being applied for. Next they are asked to describe exactly what they did in that situation and the resulting outcome. Further probing questions should be asked of the interviewee on his/her example to address issues such as impact, self-reflection abilities, alternative approaches and how the candidates developed their skills on the basis of the experience gained. Page 2 of 4
  4. 4. USP-D enhancing effectiveness Increasingly, PBDI-based interview questions are being used to separate out the good candidates from those who are simply trying to bluff their way into the job without the right skills or experience. When interviewers ask PBDI-based questions, they want applicants to talk about how they have actually tackled real problems in the past. From this, managers try to infer how effectively the applicants would tackle future problems if they were to be hired for the job. In responding to a competency-based question, the most important principle for candidates is to give a real example that actually happened. Interviewers should watch out for interviewees talking in broad terms about how they ‘generally’ tackle those sorts of situations and they must be firm in getting them to talk about a real specific example. The interviewer will then need to ask further questions to get a deeper understanding of what the interviewer did.PBDI sample The PBDI approach is most suitable for applicants who have experience fromquestions previous employment. Managers should ensure specificity in their questions. They want to hear specific examples of behavioural experiences. The following is a short list of some typical PBDI questions: - Give me a specific example of a time when your production results for the year were projected to be down? - Can you tell me about a time recently when you had to organize a major marketing event? - Can you give me an example of a recent situation where you had to put your communication skills to good use in order to solve a difficult problem? - Can you name one initiative you have taken in a team in order to build up the team spirit? - Can you give us an example from your last job of when you had to deal with a difficult client? - Can you tell me about a time when you worked on something which was entirely on your own initiative? - Please describe to me a situation when you have helped a colleague who was in trouble. What was the situation and how did you try to tackle it? Once candidates identify a relevant specific example get them to briefly describe exactly what happened and, in particular, what their role was in the situation. Once this has been established it is essential to then ask a number of rolling ‘why?’ (probing) questions: - Why did you take this approach? - What was the (dis)advantage of doing this? - What difference did you make to the situation? - What would you do differently if you had the chance? - How did you handle this situation on your own and what was the result? - What was the impact of your actions on others? - Who was affected by this approach? - What did you learn from the experience? - How were you supportive? - Tell me a bit more about what you did on these site visits? Page 3 of 4
  5. 5. USP-D enhancing effectivenessBear in mind All candidates sitting interviews for the same position must be asked the same questions throughout. This will then help managers to compare candidates and determine who is the strongest in each of the competency fields of the job. Interviewers should use as much active listening and reflective summarizing (paraphrasing) as possible to keep the conversation flowing and on track and to encourage the candidate to go more in-depth on their competencies. Interviewers should always avoid leading or suggestive questions and to use as few closed (yes or no) questions as possible. By all means the unstructured questions referred to earlier (on previous experience, strengths and weaknesses of applicants, why they should be chosen for the job, etc.) should be asked towards the beginning to the interview. These can help to settle the candidate into the interview and make them feel at ease before the more in-depth competency questions come along. Interviewers should keep assertive control of the interview but should not over- dominate. The candidates should be doing most of the talking. It is often the experience of many interviewers that with the PBDI approach applicants tend to avoid coming up with specific examples. They then attempt to answer questions around what they ‘would do’ in that type of situation. Interviewers should remain firm and press the candidate to come up with their own examples.Conclusion For competency-based interviewing to succeed it is imperative that a detailed job description is drawn up when the position either becomes free or is being created for the first time. The description must highlight the core competencies and the minimum requirements of the job. It should depict a thorough knowledge of the requirements of the job. Questions can then be formulated on those particular competencies. The theory behind competency-based interviewing is that past behaviour is a good predictor of future job performance. Finding out how applicants ‘behaved’ in past positions, how they handled problems and challenges, how they used their communication and inter-personal skills, etc. can generate the most valuable information about the capacity of the potential staff member to carry out the functions of the job being filled.Bibliography - Holstein & Gubrium. ‘Handbook of Interview Research’. 2001 Sage - Holstein & Gubrium. ‘Inside Interviewing, New Lenses, New Concerns’. 2003 Sage - Stephen Taylor. ‘People Resourcing’ 2002 Cromwell PressFurther For further information on this theme and other related subjects please feel free toInformation get in touch: Gerard Mc Donnell gmd(at) You are also welcome to log on to our website and have our white papers forwarded to you. Page 4 of 4