Competency-Based Questions

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CHAPTER 7 Competency-Based Questions

I’ve conducted hundreds of interviewing workshops, with some being more memorable than others. A particular session stands out because one of the participants, a manager named Dan, proved the merits of competency-based questions to himself. Toward the end of the first day Dan firmly stated, “It really doesn’t matter what people have done in the past—all that matters is what they’re willing to do.”

He was taken aback when I told him that I agreed. He said, “You just stated that competency-based questions make the most effective types of questions since they assess an applicant’s demonstrated abilities as they relate to the requirements and responsibilities of a particular job. How can you say you agree with me when I say all that matters is what a person is willing to do?”

“That’s simple,” I replied. “But before I answer, let me ask you a question. How can you determine what a person is willing to do?”

Dan thought briefly and then replied, “This is probably a trick question because the answer is so obvious, but here goes: you ask them!”

I smiled. That was exactly what I thought he would say. “Dan,” I continued, “suppose you have an opening for a project manager. One of the key qualities is teamwork. What are you going to ask your applicants?”

Dan responded, “Well, I could ask them to describe how they work with other members of a team.”

“And what do you think they’ll say?” I asked. “I guess they’ll say they work well with other members of a team,” Dan replied. “Right,” I said. “What have you learned about how they work with other members of a

team?” “Not much,” Dan confessed. “All right, then I would ask a specific question, like ‘suppose

you’re working as a member of a team and you hit a snag because one of your coworkers isn’t doing her share of the work; what are you going to do?’”

“Much better,” I said. “But don’t you think she’s likely to tell you what you want to hear?” Dan was becoming frustrated, so I decided to return to his original question. “Dan, the

reason I can agree that all that matters is what a person is willing to do and also maintain that competency-based questions should form the foundation of any interview is that competency- based questions allow you to project, with a high degree of certainty, just what a person is willing or likely to do. Let me illustrate with teamwork. The last question you posed is excellent, but it’s incomplete; you still don’t know if what the applicant says is what she really will do or if she’s just saying what she anticipates is the ‘correct’ answer. Imagine, however, continuing with, ‘tell me about a time at your last job when that happened?’ Her response is going to entail a specific, job-related experience involving teamwork. Since we’re all creatures of habit, it’s likely she’ll approach a similar teamwork challenge the same way in the

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:19:08.

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