Competency-Based Interview vs Traditional: Which is Better for Executive Recruitment?

Competency-Based Interview vs Traditional: Which is Better for Executive Recruitment?

Executive recruitment is a critical process for organisations seeking to fill strategically significant positions with individuals who possess the skills, experience, and leadership qualities necessary to drive the company’s success.

As companies evolve, so too do their approaches to hiring executives. One of the key debates in executive recruitment revolves around the choice between a competency-based interview vs traditional interview. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of each approach and analyse which might be more effective for senior leadership roles.

Competency-Based Interviews

Competency-based interviews are designed to assess a candidate’s specific skills and abilities that are directly related to the job they are applying for. These interviews typically involve asking candidates to provide specific examples of when they have demonstrated certain competencies in their previous roles.

The advantages of competency-based interviews include;

  1. Relevance to the Role: Competency-based interviews focus on the skills and behaviours directly related to the role, ensuring that the candidate’s experiences are highly relevant to the position’s requirements.
  2. Predictive Validity: Studies have shown that competency-based interviews have higher predictive validity, meaning they are better at forecasting a candidate’s future job performance based on their past behaviour.
  3. Objective Evaluation: The structured nature of competency-based interviews allows for more objective evaluation, as interviewers assess specific competencies using predetermined criteria.

Traditional Interviews

Traditional interviews on the other hand are more open-ended and allow for a broader discussion of a candidate’s background, experience, and general fit for the organisation. These interviews often involve questions about a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, achievements, and aspirations. While traditional interviews offer flexibility, they may lack the specificity needed to assess whether a candidate possesses the precise competencies required for an executive role.

Advantages of traditional interviews include:

  1. Holistic Assessment: Traditional interviews provide a more comprehensive view of a candidate, allowing interviewers to evaluate factors such as cultural fit, leadership style, and overall compatibility with the organisation’s values.
  2. Adaptability: Traditional interviews allow for adaptability in questioning, enabling interviewers to explore unexpected areas that may reveal a candidate’s potential that might not be evident in a competency-based format.
  3. Rapport Building: The more informal nature of traditional interviews can help build rapport between the candidate and the interviewer, potentially providing deeper insights into the candidate’s personality and interpersonal skills.

Which One For Executive Roles?

While competency-based interviews offer a structured and objective approach, traditional interviews provide a more holistic view of the candidate. In reality, when it comes to executive search a combination of both methods is typically employed – in addition to psychometric assessments – to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of executive candidates.

Generally speaking, the early stages of the assessment and selection process will be more heavily geared towards competency-based interviews as this is the most objective and inclusive way to assess candidates through the longlisting process.

However, as the process reaches shortlisting and client interviews, a more holistic approach is often required. For this reason, we almost always advise clients to avoid too rigid of an approach when it comes to final client interviews and provide a more consultative interview structure. If you are working with an executive search partner, they will be able to design an interview process for shortlisted candidates which is optimal for the role, its function, seniority and the culture of your company.

Ultimately, however, the effectiveness of each approach hinges on the careful consideration of the role’s requirements and the organisation’s culture. Striking the right balance between competency-focused assessments and broader discussions is critical to ensuring that the selected individuals not only have the necessary skills but also align with the company’s values and long-term goals.

If you are looking for some top interview tips for a leadership or executive-level interview, you can see our top 10 interview tips for landing leadership roles here.

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