Recruitment and Selection

Mastering the Art of Hiring: Unveiling the Power of Behavioural Selection Techniques and Competency-Based Questions

For business owners, crafting a team of dedicated individuals is akin to laying the cornerstone of a successful enterprise. Yet, the journey towards assembling such a team is often fraught with challenges. The task of sourcing and retaining top talent is one that demands attention, strategy, and finesse. In the dynamic landscape of small businesses, where every resource counts and each decision carries weight, the importance of effective recruitment and selection cannot be overstated.

When I started in the recruitment business, I would advertise a job in the national newspaper on a Thursday, or Fridays Irish Times – wait for 3–4 days for applications to come in (by post), call the candidates (usually on their home phone after work), ask them to post in a CV to me, and then once I got their CV, arrange a pre-screen interview with them and if they were suitable, I would then send out their CV to the client – and this was also done by post. I’m even tired just thinking about it now. It seems so slow and draconian now as I write this, but it was the norm, it was how we recruited in the 1980’ and 90s, and we did well.

But I’m glad to say, gone are the days when hiring was a mere formality, a perfunctory process conducted to fill vacant positions. In today’s competitive arena, talent acquisition transcends the realm of routine HR tasks; it emerges as a cornerstone of strategic advantage.

A well-designed recruitment process serves as a conduit for identifying individuals who not only possess the requisite skills but also resonate with the ethos and aspirations of the organisation. These individuals are not merely employees; they are torch-bearers of the company’s vision, catalysts of growth, and custodians of its culture.

Finding the right talent is akin to discovering a rare gem amidst a sea of contenders. To unravel the mystery of identifying top-notch candidates, the best recruiters employ a strategic blend of behavioural selection techniques and competency-based questions. As a Master Trainer in Behavioural Interviewing, I have not only taught Selection and Recruitment Workshops but have also sat on Selection Panels and can fully endorse the power and predictability assurance of using a combination of behavioural and competency strategies when recruiting.

This potent combination not only unveils a candidate’s experiences but also illuminates their potential for future success within the role.

Image of people around table with overlay text “identifying individuals who not only possess the requisite skills but also resonate with the ethos and aspirations of the organisation."

The Foundation of Competencies

Competencies serve as the cornerstone of effective hiring processes. They encapsulate the essential skills, knowledge, and attributes required to excel in a particular role. From communication skills to problem-solving acumen, competencies delineate the blueprint of an ideal candidate.

Unlocking Past Behaviour

Behavioural selection techniques harness the power of past behaviour to predict future performance. By delving into candidates’ previous experiences, recruiters gain invaluable insights into their ability to navigate challenges, collaborate effectively, and drive results. Through probing questions that begin with “Can you tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”, recruiters uncover the rich tapestry of a candidate’s professional journey.

The Marriage of Technique and Questioning

The synergy between behavioural selection techniques and competency-based questions forms the bedrock of a rigorous interview process. Each question serves as a targeted probe, aiming to unearth specific instances where candidates have demonstrated key competencies. From leadership to adaptability, these questions illuminate the candidate’s ability to thrive in the crucible of real-world scenarios.

Scoring Success

Armed with a scoring sheet, interviewers meticulously evaluate candidates’ responses. This structured approach ensures objectivity and legally defendable answers in assessing each candidate’s suitability for the role. By aligning responses with predefined competency criteria, recruiters can discern the diamonds from the rough with confidence and precision.

In the quest for talent, the fusion of behavioural selection techniques and competency-based questions emerges as a potent force. Like a masterful artisan shaping a masterpiece, recruiters wield these tools with finesse, sculpting a workforce poised for success.

What is a Behavioural Interview?

Behavioural interviewing is a technique used in job interviews to assess a candidate’s past behaviour in certain situations as an indicator of how they might behave in similar situations in the future. The core idea behind behavioural interviewing is that past behaviour is often a strong predictor of future behaviour. By asking candidates to describe real-life situations they have encountered and how they responded to them, interviewers can gain insights into their problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, decision-making processes, and overall suitability for the role.

Behavioural interviewing provides a structured and evidence-based approach to assessing candidates’ abilities and potential for success in a role, making it an essential tool for effective hiring decisions.

Why use Competencies?

Competencies are the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for successful job performance. Behavioural selection techniques aim to assess these competencies by analysing past behaviour as an indicator of future performance. Using competencies in the selection interview is important for several reasons:

Linking Behaviour to Competencies: During the interview, candidates are asked to describe real-life situations or experiences where they have       demonstrated certain behaviours relevant to the job. Interviewers then analyse these responses to assess whether candidates possess the necessary               competencies required for the role.

Objectivity: Competencies provide a structured framework for assessing candidates. By defining the key skills, behaviours, and attributes required for       success in a role, interviewers can objectively evaluate candidates based on these criteria rather than personal biases or subjective impressions.

Job Relevance: Competencies are directly tied to the requirements of the job. By focusing on the specific competencies essential for success in the role, interviewers ensure that they are selecting candidates who possess the necessary skills and qualities to excel in the position.

Predictive Validity: Research has shown that using competencies in the selection process improves the predictive validity of hiring decisions.   Candidates who demonstrate the required competencies during the interview are more likely to perform well in the role and contribute effectively to the               organisation.

Structured Interviewing: Incorporating competencies into the interview process helps to standardise the evaluation criteria across all candidates. This ensures consistency and fairness in the assessment process and allows for easier comparison of candidates’ performances.


Competency-based or behavioural interview questions are designed to elicit specific examples of past behaviour from candidates. These questions typically start with phrases like “Can you tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of a situation where…”. They are structured to gather information about how candidates have demonstrated key competencies in previous roles or situations.

Behavioural selection techniques and competency-based questions are interconnected elements of an effective interview and selection process. By focusing on past behaviour as an indicator of future performance and assessing specific competencies relevant to the job, employers can make more informed hiring decisions and select candidates who are best suited to succeed in the role.

If you have a question about this article/blog or are interested in designing a recruitment and selection process for your company, get in touch: