Competency based interviews
‘Collins English Dictionary’ (third edition) sets out its interpretation of ‘Competence’ and ‘Competent’ as follows; Competence; (1) the condition of being capable; ability (2) a sufficient income (3) the state of being legally competent or qualified Competent (1) having sufficient skill, knowledge, etc. capable. Suitable or sufficient for the purpose
Both have similar meanings and refer in each quote in short to a person’s capability, skill and knowledge
While the word Competence and Competent have additional legal relevance, in this instance reference will relate to recruitment and employment issues.
Why, a requirement for such competencies in the interview selection process?
Competency based interviews can be a specific on their requirements for suitable candidates, for recruitment, internal appointments and promotions. Organisations in general have analysed job and position requirements to establish what skills are required to meet the criteria of the specific appointments. Invariably such positions will require a number of skills, qualifications and knowledge suitable for the position or otherwise known as competencies.
How then does one measure or present one’s own competencies. Competencies in general refer to the past, as to how one dealt with specific tasks or incidents. We often take for granted what we do every day and how we perform everyday tasks and hopefully seek a successful outcome of what we did. Therefore we are performing tasks, participating in events, taking control of our actions to achieve specific outcomes daily, meeting competency requirements without realizing our own abilities.
Applicants to An Garda Siochana
For example, where a prospective applicant has applied to join an Garda Siochana they are requested to give evidence of a number of competencies in their private lives so as to assist An Garda Siochana if a prospective candidate has the necessary trait, experience, ability to be considered as a suitable person for membership of An Garda Siochana.
For example ‘Resilience’, ‘Collins English dictionary’ defines resilient as “1. (an object or material) capable of regaining its original shape or position after bending, stretching, compression, or other deformation (2) of a person) recovering easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship etc.”
Therefore if a person (for example), is knocked back physiologically though verbal abuse, that, they have the ability to regain their composure quickly and respond effectively to the situation that they find themselves in. Similarly, if a person was part of a team and failed to reach their ability on occasion, that they evaluated their actions, and refocused on their abilities, leading to notable outcome.
Similarly ‘Interpersonal skills’; As a member of An Garda Siochana, Gardai are public servants, who are employed to serve the public and have to deal with human interaction from children to adults with varying traits in varying circumstances on a regular basis. Interpersonal skills are crucial in dealing with many such issues, being in a position to communicate emphasis, support and take difficult decisions at times in such interactions.
The Competency based Interview Process
During the Interview process, the interview board will examine the candidate written form outlining their strengths in each of the individual identified competencies. The interviewers will seek oral evidence of each competency criteria from the candidate and may ask probing questions to clarify and verify such evidence. Therefore it is important that each candidate is fully aware of the competency criteria and that both written and oral evidence and be in a position to reflect their ability to meet such criteria to the interview board.
The use of ‘I’
While An Garda Siochana is a large public service organization with a high dependence on teamwork, Competencies are based on historical individual experience and ability. Therefore the emphasis is on what ‘I’ did, how I dealt with the situation, evidence of how I implemented the relevant competencies in the situation that I found myself in, is essential, within the specific candidates remit. Therefore, in essence, what was the situation the candidate found themselves in? How they dealt with it? And what was the outcome?
Applicant seeking Promotion
Candidates seeking promotions will be required to present evidence of their experiences preferably in the working environment. Promotion applications to the rank of Sergeant, in An Garda Siochana, include the following competencies;
- Organising, Co-ordinating and implementation skills
- Assessing, Evaluating and Analyzing Information
- Sound and Timely Decision Making
- Team Leading and Standard Setting
- People Handling Skills
- Two-way communication Skills
- Personal Drive and commitment
- Procedural and functional Policing Knowledge.
The above competencies are further refined to give exact organizational definition; requirements for the position, i.e. No 1 Organises, Co- Coordinating, and implementation Skills Definition; Organises resources to implement given tasks /plans mainly on a daily or fairly immediate basis
Similarly on seeking promotion to higher ranks, the level of responsibility will increase and accordingly the required identified competencies will alter in recognition of increased responsibility and supervision.
Benefits of Competency Based interview coaching
Benefits accruing from competency based interview coaching, can be viewed from two different prospective;
- The Candidate; The candidate can be coached on the completion of their application form to their competency evidence and interview skills at their formal competency based interview.
All through the process, the candidate mindset is guided towards the organizations required criteria for the advertised position. Written and oral examples are walked through and analysed to establish where and if such examples meet the required definitions and criteria. Candidates minds become focused on the organisations identified competency requirements and why such criteria are required for the position applied for.
- The Organisation; while the organization has identified specific competency criteria requirements for the advertised position. Their applicant’s mindset is further focused in an informal environment on the organisations needs and requirements which should only be of benefit to the organization going forward into the future.
Whether success or failure follows for individual candidates, they will have availed of an improved understanding of the required competencies in their new role and responsibly. This improved understanding should lead to improved service and reduction in previous unknowns, or misinterpretations. Unsuccessful candidates will be aware of the required criteria and in turn may seek to put themselves in positions or adopt different approaches which would be more conducive to meeting such required criteria for future promotion, appointment prospects.
Completion of Competency Based Application Form
The completion of a competency based application form is the first step for a qualified candidate seeking a promotion or appointment. The ability to outline concise experiences in line with the required competency criteria is required in the completion of such application forms.
Form completion can be daunting from the outset. Advertisement notifications are circulated to all qualified personnel. Questions arise should I put my name forward or not. Existing positions, competing collogues, private and family lives come into consideration. Decisions are made, time has passed, closing dates are looming, work pressures intervene, and completion of application forms may take second place. Inevitably the question of how to match required competencies and criteria, to one’s experience may cause confusion and may lead to disillusionment among applicants.
In assisting in the completion of such competency based application forms, experiences are studied and analysed on a one to one basis in conjunction with the applicant and suggestions put forward on meeting the required criteria and form completion.