Competency-based interviews are used as part of a competency-based selection procedure. This involves candidates providing anecdotal evidence about their experience. First in the form of either a CV or application form, and then at interview.

Competency based selection starts off with shortlisting. This is entails going through all of the CV’s or application forms to check that the applicants have met the essential requirements for the job. This is an extremely efficient way of quickly eliminating candidates who have:

  • Read the job description and realised that they do not meet the criteria. However, the candidate then decides to apply anyway.
  • Not read the job description and have assumed based on the job title that they meet the criteria.
  • Possibly read the job description, but have not realised that they must detail in their CV/Application form that they meet the criteria specified on the job description (yes, even being able to use Microsoft Office or having a valid driving licence) that they are not likely to make it to the next stage in the selection process.Nervous Candidate competency-based interview

This is usually followed by a competency-based interview. These are popular among employers, especially in the public sector because most people perceive them as a fair way to select employees. However, the focus on the candidate’s ability to tell stories and sell themselves in order to indicate the required competencies might not be the most predictive way to assess candidates. Some candidates are very able to sell themselves at the interview and therefore, exaggerate their competence.  With the growth of  ‘coaching’ many individuals can present a very polished image of themselves and this is something that interviewers need to be aware of.  In addition shy or more modest candidates could end up underselling themselves.


So how do we find out what we need to know, but can’t get from a competency-based interview?

In 2010, the Cut-e Assessment Barometer Report found that under 40% of employers use assessment centres. In 2016 the same survey found that over 80% of employers are now using assessment centres.

Assessment Centres allow an employer to assess the candidate’s competencies through a number of different means. Examples include, Group Exercises, Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs), Ability Tests in addition to an interview. This means that competencies are not measured by an interview alone. Each competency is measured by two or more different means. This can give a more comprehensive overview of whether or not the candidate is suitable for the job.

Personality Testing is done before a candidate comes to an assessment centre or interview. Trait-based Personality Questionnaires can be administered remotely without candidate supervision. Many Personality Profiles now contain measures that allow trained test users to immediately spot candidates who have answered in a socially desirable manner.

The purpose of a personality profile is to assist the interviewer. Best done before an interview, trait-based personality profiles can give an interviewer a deep insight into the personality of the individual they are interviewing. Imagine knowing how outgoing, ambitious, anxious, conscientious, performance driven, team oriented, assertive or impulsive an individual is before you have even met them?

What do the statistics say?

According to the Cut-e Assessment Barometer report, China, UK and Ireland are the top users of personality questionnaires globally.

  • In Ireland, 99% of the organisations who use psychometric tests used some form of psychometric testing for their graduate intake.
  • Psychometric assessment is often used with apprentices. In the UK 53% of apprentices undergo psychometric testing.
  • At least two thirds of Senior Managers received some form of psychometric assessment in every country surveyed for the report.

This allows interviewers to probe a candidate’s responses in a competency-based interview much more effectively so they can find out what they want to know. It also helps remove some of the subjectivity from an interview, as Forbes so aptly put it, “you can’t charm a personality test.”