Should Recruitment Business Owners Use Key Competency Questions?

Candidates sometimes exaggerate on their CVs.

This comes as no surprise.

There are plenty of people that are 100% honest about every element of their job history, but we all know that some people are prone to a little embellishment.

A slightly massaged job title. A couple of years added to a role. The seniority of a post elevated.

But then there are the people that flat out lie about the extent of their abilities. Even to the point of fabricating roles and qualifications.

Part of a recruiter's job is to weed out these bad actors, and chief among their tools for this purpose is the key competency questionnaire or competency-based interview. Additionally, these questionnaires can be a useful guide to establish the depth of a candidate's knowledge.

But do competency-based questions really work? And more importantly to the recruitment business owner, do the time and funds spent on this tool provide a return on investment?

Recruitment Business Owners Dream About Cash Flow

This is a the third article in a series about recruitment tech (both Hi and Low) and whether the tools on offer really add value to recruitment services (click if you want to read the previous articles on Video Interviewing or Behavioural Assessments).

For recruitment business owners who have to keep a close eye on the bottom line it's important to know whether the resources you spend money on are adding to your profits or cutting into them.

Spoiler Alert! If we've written an article about it, then the tech in question DOES provide a return on investment (if it didn't we wouldn’t be wasting your time talking about it). But in every case – and competency questionnaires are no exception – maximising profitability requires judicious use of the tool in question.

How do Recruitment Business Owners Use Key Competency Questionnaires?

Sometimes the competency-based questions can be delivered as part of a face-to-face job interview, but they're more commonly deployed in a written questionnaire form as part of the application process.

The results are then shared with the employer to help them decide who to call to interview and, ultimately, who to hire.

Examples of General competency-based questions include:

  • Describe a situation in which you handled a disagreement with a team member.

  • Give an example of a challenging project you were asked to manage and how you handled the increased responsibility.

  • Relate an experience in which you had a setback in your role but found a way to overcome it.

Examples of more specific competency-based questions, for a sales role for instance, might include:

  • Describe a time when you closed an ambivalent prospect that had been in a funnel for an unusually long time.
  • Give an example in which you convinced an exiting client to stay.
  • Relate an experience in which you overcame a seemingly insurmountable objection to close the sale.

Why Should Recruiters Use Key Competency Questions?

It gives you and the employer an insight into each candidate that can't otherwise be easily obtained, improving decision-making around the construction of the shortlist and the eventual hire.

Asking these question during the face-to-face interview is always an option, but questionnaires give the candidate more time to consider their answer without the pressure of being put on the spot, while also allowing them more room to go into precise detail.

Is There a Wrong Way to Use Key Competency Questions?

Questions that are too broad invite cliched responses with minimal demonstration of the candidates' knowledge and experience.

Equally, questions that are too specific don't allow the candidates' room to express their personal style of approaching their work, and can even leave them floundering to find a good example to share.

There's a sweet spot in the middle that gives the candidates' room to be expressive without getting virtually identical answers from everyone.

What's the Most Effective Way to Use Key Competency Questions?

Make sure the candidates understand how important their answers to these questions are in terms of their likelihood of getting the role.

Not everyone likes or is skilled at answering questions in long-form, so if their answers are too short or lacking in detail, don't simply assume that they're unsuited to the role. Encourage them to add to or expand their responses.

It's also important that the candidates complete their competency questionnaires well before the interview stage. The results of these questionnaires can help you decide the front runners for the role and allow you to reduce the number of people who are called to meet the employer face-to-face. This avoids wasted trips for the unsuited candidates, and saves the employer considerable time.

How Else Can Recruitment Business Owners Use Key Competency Questionnaires?

At i-intro®, for many years, we've helped recruiters understand the best way to implement key competency questionnaires, especially for campaigns involving senior roles.

During interviews, several questions tend to be about an individual’s particular CV. Key competency questions help you standardise your questions so that you can make a direct comparison between candidates.  

Key competency questions can also remove any bias that might result from the candidate building rapport with the interviewer. Of course rapport is good, because we all want to work with people we like. However the outcome could be that you finish the interview with a positive impression and no true knowledge of whether the candidate is suitable for the role based on their skills or competencies.

While optional, we also recommend involving the employer in the selection of competency questions by giving them access to a database of relevant questions and inviting them to choose. This increases the likelihood of the client finding the exercise relevant, while also adding to the perceived value of the recruitment service being provided.

Do Key Competency Questionnaires Provide a True Return on Investment?

This is an easy and obvious "yes" because the financial cost is minimal (the main cost is one of time), but the advantages to all are clear.

The employer gets more information to aid their decision. The candidates get an opportunity to highlight the skills and experience they believe to be most important. And the recruiter gets to offer an enhanced service that helps to produce more accurate results in terms of placing the right person in the right role.

Do you want to add Key Competency Questionnaires to your recruitment service?

The i-intro® system includes an extensive database of common competency questions, both general and specific, so you don't need to spend time thinking up new questions for every campaign. 

In fact the employer, when initiating a campaign using the i-intro® system can be given the opportunity to review the database of questions and select the questions they’d like candidates to answer.

This is all build into the system, so recruiters can provide an enhanced service to their clients without the need to spend significant time on developing a key competency questionnaire program.

Training on the use of competency-based questions is also provided.

If you're a recruitment business owner and you'd like a free demonstration of our key competency questionnaire system, simply CLICK HERE and make an appointment with one of our specialists.