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Competency based interviews. A greater indication of past performance or future potential?

Competency-based interviews are increasingly becoming one of the most common interview methods employers are using. With HR becoming increasingly recognised as fundamental to business development, this format of interview gives employers the ability to assess how candidates have previously performed in relation to the job specification at hand (1). They allow employers the ability to assess the candidate’s skills which are grounded in contextual examples. Phrases such as “Tell me about a time…” and “Give an example of…” are becoming increasingly ingrained in these more structured interviews.

Through the form of a competency framework, this form of interviews gives employers a clearer picture of the interviewees Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes (2). The three are intertwined and are often all needed to be shown in line with the scope of the job description, to demonstrate your ability to undertake the designated tasks the role requires. While being knowledgeable about the benefits of maintaining relationships with stakeholders is of course a requirement for Senior positions, if interpersonal skills are lacking, then this does not make a candidate suitable for a position. Competency based interviews allow the employers to assess these three areas in tandem.

However, although this form of interview, if done successfully, allows the candidate to display past examples of how they have demonstrated skills which are fundamental to succeed in that role, they arguably do not give an indication of the candidate’s future potential, which is an important aspect of HR. Although the candidate has stated that they have achieved something in the past, where is the concrete evidence to suggest this could be replicated in the present or future?

With this in mind, other forms of assessment are increasingly being used in conjunction with competency-based interviews. Verbal presentations and written assessments often are the methods chosen to complement the more typical interview format (3).

Increasingly employers within the charity sector have been setting either verbal or written tasks in which candidates must demonstrate how they would adapt or maximise their current strategies for example or how they can develop as an organisation in consideration of recent global events. This form of assessment therefore fulfils the competency framework even further in that it not only can assess Knowledge, Skills and Attributes of a candidate, but it also gives a good indication of their ability to perform in the future in terms of bringing new ideas to the table and their capability to adapt to adverse situation outside the organisations control.

To summarise what has been discussed, although most commonly used and beneficial as a form of assessment, competency-based interviews do not always give a clear indication of a candidate’s future potential. While they can assess Knowledge, Skills and Attributes of a person in the past, they do not always display how a candidate will perform in the present or the future. Other forms of more practical assessments including verbal presentations and written assessments often give a clearer indication of this and need to be given just as much consideration and preparation by both employers and candidates.