Interviewers: Act like a child to be the best at competency – based interviews!


It’s funny isn’t it, when new additions arrive in your family, soon after it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t there. My Nephew Ethan is a great example of that. He’s a brilliant lad, full of kindness and fun and I already have some great memories that include him. A recent car journey with Ethan and my niece Chloe got me thinking that I should charge them out on a day rate to some hiring managers to help with Competency Based Interviewing (CBI).

You see, my brother has a clever trick to ensuring a 3 hour car ride can be broken down in stages. Instead of telling them we’re two hours away (that felt like a decade at that age right!) he tells them how many long roads we have left.

Picture the scene:

Ethan – How many roads left?

Brother – 4

Ethan – Why?

Brother – Because there are.

Ethan – Why are we going this way?

Ethan – Why is that lorry so big?

Ethan – How many roads?

Brother – 4

Ethan – Did you bring my drink? I’m thirsty.

Ethan – Why did you bring that one?

I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation at some point! The relentless questioning. I’ll let you in to a secret, I find it hilarious and will sometimes give half an answer so that it leads to another question, just don’t tell my brother or next time I’ll have to get the train.

So, how does this link to CBI? Well, it could just be that you’re doing it slightly wrong and need to be a bit more like Ethan. The point of them is to learn how people work in certain situations. Years ago, interviews would look something like this:

Kwame the interviewer – Are you a good team player?

Carla the interviewee – Yes I am.

With no real information to back that up, Kwame will have to keep his fingers crossed that Carla was telling the truth and that she didn’t arrive on her first day and antagonise everybody. Hence the birth of CBI and ‘Give me an example of when you’ve worked effectively as part of a team’.

The trouble is, if you wait for the pre-rehearsed answer in the STAR format and then move on, you’ll still be keeping your fingers crossed on Carla’s first day. So, going back to young Ethan, continue the questioning! Once they have given the rehearsed answer – probe! Ask more until you have a rounded answer and a true feel for how the person works, such as:

‘So how would that have gone if you weren’t in the team?’

‘How did you feel during that process?’

‘Why did you do that?’

‘What did you do to ensure the team worked together?’

The key is, only stop questioning when you feel satisfied you know fully how Carla will work in your team, the one you work hard to motivate to achieve their goals. You may only be able to ask two or three instead of the usual five or six, however, as we all know, quality is better than quantity.

Next time you’re interviewing somebody, think like Ethan. Just don’t ask to stop every 5 minutes because you need the bathroom, that won’t impress anyone!

Written by Paul Miller.

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