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INTERVIEW GUIDE for Human Resource Professionals and Department Managers - How to Determine 13 Professional Competencies

Updated on May 6, 2013

Why this photo? Because inept interviewers often hire "dogs."

My strength? I retrieve lost balls. My weakness? I also retrieve balls that are not lost.
My strength? I retrieve lost balls. My weakness? I also retrieve balls that are not lost.

Now that you have asked the inane and almost meaningless traditional interviewing questions such as: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why should I hire you? Tell me about yourself? what have you really learned? Intelligent applicants practice answers to those types of questions beforehand and spew them out at the appropriate moment.

If you want to learn whether a candidate has the competencies the position requires, then you need to ask these meaningful behavioral questions that will help you determine whether the individual is the best fit for the job.

Here is a tried and true Interview Guide I have used with success during a 34+-year career interviewing and hiring exceptional managers and executives.

1) Competency: Positive Attitude

Does the candidate demonstrate a positive mental attitude in performance, interactions with customers and co-workers, problem solving, decision making, and overall general behavior?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Tell me how you created a positive climate and “motivated” others so that people wanted to do their best.

b) How have you kept yourself in a positive frame of mind in order to cope with stress?

c) Tell me at least one story about what others have told you about the positive impact you had on them?

2) Competency: Team Player

Is the candidate committed to working with and for the team to achieve team goals? Does he or she understand the importance of building strong team relationships? Of displaying cooperative behavior?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Describe a time when someone on your team saw things differently than you did. What did you do?

b) Describe a successful project that you were involved in as a team member.

c) Were you ever involved in an unsuccessful project, and why was it unsuccessful?

d) What kind of people have you found it difficult to work with? Why?

3) Competency: Loyalty, Honesty, Integrity

Does the candidate possess high moral and ethical principles? Does he or she display honesty by keeping promises, telling the truth and following through on commitments?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Give me some examples that clearly demonstrate your values? Your loyalty? Your honesty? Your ethics and integrity?

b) How would your last boss describe your work ethic?

c) Describe a situation where you were in the wrong and others knew it. What did you do?

4) Competency: Interpersonal Effectiveness

Does the candidate have the ability to consistently consider and respond to the needs and ideas of others? Does he or she demonstrate excellent listening and communication skills and the ability to interact with customers and co-workers in a professional, courteous and respectful manner?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Describe the type of people and personality styles you have to work harder at getting along with. What do you do?

b) Describe a situation where you found yourself in the middle of having to mediate a dispute. What was the problem? How did you resolve it?

c) Tell me about an instance where you had to work with an angry customer or client. What was the problem? How did you resolve it?

5) Competency: Enthusiasm / High Energy Level

Does the candidate demonstrate an internal drive to excel and exhibit a high energy level and positivism?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) What five words would you say describe you best?

b) What task(s) were you most enthusiastic about in your last job?

c) What tasks did you enjoy the least?

6) Competency: Adaptability / Flexibility

Does the candidate adjust quickly and positively to new situations and work reasonably well under pressure? Is he or she eager to learn new things?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Tell me about some changes in your last position and how you responded to them.

b) What has caused the most pressure for you in a work situation? What was the result?

c) Tell me about something new you learned in the last year.

7) Competency: Initiative / Creativity

Does the candidate have the ability to make constructive suggestions, and continually seek ways to improve performance?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Describe a situation where you took creative action to make something happen. What were the results?

b) Tell me about some new and unique ideas you have used in your last jobs.

c) Tell me about a time when you used brainstorming with your team to solve a problem or meet a challenge.

8) Competency: Customer Service / Hospitality Skills

Is the candidate able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the customer’s expectations? Does he or she understand the importance of assessing and anticipating customer’s needs as soon as possible?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Tell me about written and verbal commendations you have received.

b) What have you done to improve customer service in your past positions?

c) Give me an example of how you have put yourself in your client or customer’s shoes?

d) How would your customers describe you?

e) Do you really believe that the customer or client is always right? Why?

f) Tell me about a time when you exceeded your customer’s expectations?

g) Do you want your customers and clients to become your friends? (An excellent answer would be: “My customers often become my friends.”)

9) Competency: Quality of Work

Does the candidate strive for top quality work and understand the importance of superior effort?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) What systems have you put in place in previous jobs to improve the quality of services or products?

b) What have you done to improve operational capabilities?

c) How have you improved your personal work habits?

10) Competency: Operational Skills

Candidate demonstrates a reasonable understanding of the organization and industry, and possesses the required technical skills for the position.

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Give me an example of how you have prioritized your work in past jobs.

b) Tell me how you have . . . (ask specific technical questions).

c) Describe a time when you may have demonstrated poor judgment in a previous job, and what you learned from it?

11) Competency: Judgment and Decision Making

Has the candidate demonstrated intuitive business and leadership sense? Does he or she possess the ability to develop creative and innovative business plans, goals and objectives and solutions to problems?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) Describe a situation where you had to be creative and flexible to changing circumstances. How did you handle it?

b) Tell me about a time when you handled a tough employee situation.

c) What additional skills do you bring to the table in addition to those required for the job?

12) Competency: Leadership Qualities

Does the candidate include, motivate and recognize team members in a positive manner to achieve business objectives?

To find out, ask these questions:

a) How have you “motivated” your employees in the past?

(An effective answer indicates that the candidate understands that effective leaders create an environment for employees to motivate themselves).

b) Would you label yourself as a leader? Why?

c) How would you describe your management style? (Democratic, Participative, Consensus Builder, or similar terms).

d) Describe the most effective leader/manager you have ever worked for. (Does the word, “profits,” enter the picture)?

13) Competency: Managerial Skills:

Candidate has the ability to consistently oversee, direct and provide feedback to ensure policies and procedures are followed. He or she appears to possess a professional and encouraging style of supervision.

To find out, ask these questions:

a) What have you said to employees when they were not performing well? (Does answer include constructive feedback)?

b) What are your favorite questions to ask candidates in an interview? (Does candidate appear to use behavioral interviewing techniques)?

c) What style of manager do you prefer to work for? (The answer may reveal candidate’s preference for own style).

Ask your candidates these behavioral questions and you will have little difficulty separating the "dogs" from the thoroughbreds.

Excerpt from “Interview Guide” © Copyright 2011 by B. J. Rakow

B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." A serious, enlightening book about job searh strategies written with a light-hearted approach.


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