By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been fooled by a job candidate’s interviewing performance.

Now, notice you’re not the only one with your hand in the air.

Hiring good talent in the business valuation world is tough.  So much is at stake.  One bad hire can set you and your team back significantly.  What you need is a way to get a real-life view of how your candidate will actually perform on the job.  Perhaps the tool you need is Competency Based Behavioral Interviewing.

For years, employers have relied on a ‘traditional interview’ that can include questions like:

  • What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • How would you describe yourself as a person?
  • Where do you want to be in five years?
  • How would your co-workers/supervisor describe you?
  • Walk me through your work history.

The problem, of course, is that most candidates can sleep-walk through the answers.  And, what did you learn?  Really??

Other employers are found of the ‘scenario-based’ interviewing that relies on “what-if” questions, like:

What would you do if your supervisor instructed you to do something unethical/illegal?

How would you handle an employee who was not performing up to expectations?

How do you go about making a decision when you have conflicting information?

The problem, here, is the assumption that people actually do as they say they will.  And, if you believe that, well … [insert reference to bridge or swamp land].

Competency Based Behavioral Interviewing (CBBI), on the other hand, gives you a way to focus on actual past behavior – behavior that your candidate is highly likely to repeat – allowing you to increase the likelihood of a successful hire.

The key to using CBBI is to start with a careful examination of the competencies required for a given position.  Some may be common to every position in the hierarchy because they are related to the overall mission, or goal, of the firm.  Others will be unique to a particular functional level in the hierarchy.  You have different expectations of your senior level people than you do of your junior analysts.

At the lower level, competencies might include:

  • Knowledge acquisition and application
  • Functional/technical/job skills
  • Problem solving
  • Initiative
  • At a more senior level, competencies might include:
  • Client focus
  • Developing direct reports
  • Managing and measuring work performance
  • Resource management

The most complete – and most time-consuming – approach is to establish competencies for each individual position.  However, there is no one “best” way to develop competencies.  Keep in mind that they should be defined independently of either your current employees or potential future candidates.  As challenging as it may be, this process is one that will give you great strategic insight about how you want to run your practice.

Once you have articulated the competencies, your next step is to develop the interview questions that enable you to judge real-life performance relative to that competency.  For example:

  • If the competency is knowledge acquisition and application, your question might be: Give me an example of something difficult you had to learn that you did end up learning.
  • If the competency is initiative, your question might be: Describe a time where you took the initiative to act rather than waiting to be told what to do.
  • If the competency is client focus, your question might be: Tell me about a time where you had to resist the client’s pressure to conform your opinion value to his preconceived notion of value.  What happened?
  • If the competency is resource management, your question might be: Give me an example of where you underestimated a resource you needed to get a task or project done, but managed to overcome the shortage and be successful.

Obviously, implementing CBBI isn’t as easy as all that.  It’s going to require time and energy that are already in short supply.  When the process is complete, though, it will last until the competencies, themselves, change.

Research shows that CBBI is three to five times more accurate at predicting a candidate’s potential than traditional interviews.  Because CBBI is a structured process, it helps interviewers stay on track and conduct interviews that are consistent from one candidate to the next.  Finally, when you do it properly, it provides you with a legally defensible interview process.

For a more in-depth look at Competency Based Behavioral Interviewing, and helpful suggestions on how to implement it, we recommend:

High-Impact Interview Questions: 701 Behavior-Based Questions to Find the Right Person for Every Job, by Victoria A. Hoevemeyer

Behavior-Based Interviewing: Selecting the Right Person for the Job, by Terry L. Fitzwater

Both books are available through on-line booksellers.

John Borrowman