googleGoogle is well known for its tough interview process involving complicated brainteasers. And if you watch the new film The Internship, you’ll see Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson trying to work out how to get out of a blender during their video interview for the corporation. Of course, in the film, this scene provides real comic value as the two appear to misunderstand the question. But is there actually any value in these types of questions when it comes to finding the right talent?

Interestingly, Google doesn’t seem to think so anymore. It has recently decided to stop using brainteasers as part of its recruitment process, with Laszlo Bock – senior vice president of people operations – stating that they were a complete waste of time. He went on to say that they don’t predict anything and serve primarily to make the interviewer feel clever. Instead, Google is now focusing its efforts on structured, behavioural interviews in order to source the best people to fill its roles.

At a&dc, we agree that Competency-Based Interviews (CBIs) are extremely valuable when identifying candidates. Not only do the questions relate directly to the competencies needed in the role, but individuals’ responses are based on real experiences and behaviours. This means that the information collected is highly relevant and allows you to identify how the candidate will fit the position. On top of this, CBIs follow a systematic process which can be replicated by a number of interviewers, and the structured format reduces bias and stereotyping. This is probably why research has consistently shown that the CBI is almost twice as effective in predicting future performance as other less structured approaches.

So how can you successfully incorporate CBIs into your recruitment strategy? In order to define an effective CBI, it’s important that you select the right competencies in the first instance. A ‘competency’ refers to any combination of skills, knowledge, attitude or underlying motivation which can be applied in a way that delivers effective or superior performance on the job. And in order to develop a framework, in depth job analysis needs to be carried out to determine the competencies that are critical to success.

Job analysis initially involves reviewing job descriptions and other relevant documentation. Further research is then needed – usually in the form of interviews – involving current job incumbents, line managers and other key stakeholders. This way you will be able to clearly determine the key skills and competencies which are required in the role. It’s worth taking the time at this stage to really get it right, otherwise you may find that you end up wasting resources measuring irrelevant qualities.

After you’ve defined your competencies, you then need to design the CBI. In order to get the most out of it, it’s useful to cover a maximum of four competencies, spending an average of 15 minutes on each. Preparation is key at this stage. You should try to plan at least three opening questions per competency, and it’s always useful to have a ‘spare’ question in case a candidate cannot provide evidence or gives a poor example.

The actual questions themselves should be open ended, at least in the first instance so that candidates have the opportunity to go into detail. And how you word them is really important – you should ask behavioural rather than theoretical questions. This means using words like ‘did,’ ‘have done’ or ‘currently doing,’ rather than ‘would do’ or ‘going to’ to encourage candidates to draw from past experiences. Effective competency based questions often begin with phrases such as ‘Please give me an example of when you have…’ or ‘Tell me about an occasion when…’. You can then follow this up with ‘What did you do?’, and then ask additional questions to qualify information.

Most importantly how do you know whether the candidate’s responses are any good? Arguably this is one of the greatest advantages of using the CBI approach, as each competency has a set of ‘behavioural indicators’ that tells you what good really looks like. This interviewer can then benchmark the candidate’s performance in a consistent and systematic way. Therefore, unlike other approaches, the CBI enables you to really focus and understand the key skills, attitudes and behaviours that you are looking for. Designing these types of interviews isn’t always easy though, and it’s clear that there’s a lot to think about when it comes to implementing a CBI. This is why a&dc offers CBI-Smart™, an online tool that allows interviewers to create their own interview guides from a comprehensive set of competencies and CBI questions.

It’s important to remember that your current methods of assessment may not be the most reliable when it comes to sourcing the talent that you need in the future. Just as Google has done, it’s important to review your assessment processes in order to find the best talent.

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