How to conduct a competency-based interview

The competency-based interview is gaining momentum. Increasingly, HR professionals are focusing on candidates’ skills – as opposed to their qualifications or work experience – to determine suitability for specific roles. For a quick reminder of the nature and purpose of competency-based interviewing, and a review of four best practices named by HR Management, please read on.


The reasoning behind competency-based interviews

In a competency-based interview, questions are designed to assess a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in the key competencies required by the role, such as teamwork, leadership, and decision-making. Their responses are scored against specific criteria to build up an objective picture of candidate suitability and ensure that all interviewees are judged fairly.

This approach helps to avoid the eye-wateringly high costs of bad hiring decisions based exclusively on likeability. It also enables organisations to tap into a larger pool of candidates, speed up their time-to-hire and achieve greater diversity.


Four best practices for competency-based interviewing

  1. Make a list of the hard and soft skills, personality attributes, and knowledge required from day one of the job. Make a second list of skills and know-how that can be developed with training. Determine how candidates can prove their competency for each item (on both lists) in a measurable way.
  2. Write job descriptions with a focus on the skill competencies identified in Step One. Be clear about which skills are essential and which are desirable (but not vital). As long as candidates are happy to upskill to develop those nice-to-have skills, they are still worthy of your consideration.
  3. Include skills-related questions, tasks, tests, and/or certifications at the pre-screening/early stages of the process. Prepare questions using the STAR Technique to explore the essential skills identified in Step One. Each question should prompt the candidate to provide specific, real-life examples of each competency. Keep asking questions until the candidate has covered all four areas of the STAR technique, namely the Situation, the Task, the Action, and the Result.


Competency-based questions are rarely enough on their own to secure a solid hiring decision. How well a candidate is expected to gel with their potential new team plays an equally important role in the decision. There’s a lot at stake and the likeability element also requires serious consideration.


If you’d like any help finding best-fit candidates – in terms of skills, work experience, personality traits, qualifications, and more – ABL Recruitment is the multilingual recruitment agency that will save you lots of time and energy. We pre-screen all our candidates so you can be confident that they will meet your exact requirements from the outset. Please get in touch at or 020 7092 3911 to find out more.