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Here's How to Make Your Interview Questions Competency Based

By 2025, the engineering industry will need 1.8 million new engineers, leading to countless recruitment opportunities. This provides a new challenge for hiring managers as they set out to look for candidates with the right technical, design knowledge, and aptitude. However, finding the right candidate is not just about technical skills, there are also numerous other factors to be considered. This is where competency-based interviewing comes to the fore. 

A competency-based interview or CBI provides employers with detailed insight into how a candidate might perform any given task and whether they possess the necessary skills and/or experience required for a specific role.

If you ask a recruitment expert, they will tell you that a good interview starts with good questions, and we agree. For an interview question to be classed as good, it needs to be worded in a way that means answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is not an option for the candidate. Open-ended questions aim to assess a candidate’s previous experience and gauge how it would affect their performance in the prospective position.

But what does a CBI look like?

Competency-based interviews target specific areas, called competencies, that are made of the soft skills a candidate would need to succeed in a specific role. The most common competencies required for high-tech roles include the ability to work in a team, organisational skills, a methodical approach, and problem-solving know-how. These can be targeted by asking the right kind of questions that will ensure a candidate recounts relevant experiences. 

Below, we have listed five common interview questions that are more likely to get a candidate talking.

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What does success mean to you?
  3. How would your colleagues describe you?
  4. What motivates you?
  5. What are you passionate about outside of the workplace?

When you are choosing questions, select those that reveal something about the candidate in relation to the role itself. This doesn’t mean asking an overly specific question, it means asking a question that encourages the interviewee to talk about their relevant skills and capabilities. For example, asking about their passions outside of work could highlight if they are likely to thrive in a high-pressure workplace or their team working skills.

STAR Technique Interview Questions

A popular and useful model to follow while drafting behavioural questions is the STAR model. It requires an individual to describe the Situation, explain the Task, give details on the Action they took and talk about the Results they achieved. By asking a question that needs a STAR answer, the candidate is unable to answer the question in one word.

Questions following the STAR model could look like this:

  • Tell me about a difficult moment you faced at work, how did you solve the problem?
  • Describe a time when you were under a lot of pressure at work, and how you managed the situation?
  • Talk about a mistake you have made at work, what did you do to rectify it?
  • Tell me about a situation where you used data to make a recommendation at work?
  • Describe a time when you had to make a tough decision at work, how did you make it and what were the implications?
  • Explain a critical situation where you had to make a split-second decision?
  • Describe a time you set a goal and then went on to achieve it, how did you do this?

All of these questions encourage the interviewee to reply with a narrative. The questions are worded in a way that makes detail necessary. These types of answers are perfect for a hiring manager, as they provide insight into the candidate’s past experiences in the workplace. 

These questions also allow the candidate to explain when something went wrong at work and how they overcame the problem. For example, they could explain a mistake made, and then go on to highlight the actions taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Don’t be afraid of asking uncomfortable questions

It is important for HR professionals or hiring managers to be confident asking uncomfortable questions, as this helps to separate candidates who can handle them and those that are not. However, you need to find a good balance. There is a fine line between engaging and discouraging a potential candidate. 

You could also consider asking candidates a brain teaser, not to assess their cognitive abilities, but to see how they handle the problem-solving side. 

How can competency-based interviewing benefit you in engineering?

85% of HR decision makers admitted to making bad hiring decisions. In financial terms, a bad hire at a mid-manager level could end up costing organisations upwards of £132,000.

A study by the CIPD showed that competency-based interviews were one of the most popular methods of selection with employers, reporting an 80% success rate. On average, CBIs help to create a consistent hiring process, improve staff retention, hiring employees who are the ‘best fit’ for the business, and improve team dynamic.

“How much time and resources could an organisation save if they knew ahead of time that the employee was not the right fit? Or how much more investments could be made in an individual via training, technical development, etc. who today, may not have all the relevant skills but has the competencies to grow within an organisation.” Says Adam Walker, Director at Redline Group.  If you need assistance developing a competency-framed interview process, please contact us about our CBI For Engineers training program and associated collateral.

Redline Group’s mission is to enable high-technology companies to build world-class teams through knowledge-led recruitment. For more information from a trusted partner with over four decades of experience, contact us at 01582 450054 or email or view our latest Google reviews by clicking here.



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