Technical Competence-Based Interview Questions

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Competency-based interviews for technical fields are more structured and objective.
Competency-based interviews for technical fields are more structured and objective. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Competency interviews are an increasing trend among human resource professionals, especially in technical industries and fields. Competency interviews focus on a highly structured set of questions that remove the objective, “touchy-feely” elements out of the interviewing process. Every interview is conducted the same for every candidate, as opposed to a free-form conversation. The goal is to get a clear sense of how a candidate meets the job requirements and if he has the knowledge and skill set to be successful. In technical competency-based interviews, interviewers deploy several types of questioning.

General Questions

The interview may begin with open-ended questions about the field in general, as well as current events within the field. This helps the interviewer gauge the candidate’s background knowledge of the field and to gauge his interest in the field overall. Getting opinions on these events also yields a sense of the candidate’s professional philosophy and viewpoint.

Technical Questions

Competency interviews may contain direct questions about technical facts and data related to the specific job posting. In lieu of a verbal quiz, an interviewer may choose to have a candidate reading a technical diagram, interpret a chart or report or identify components on a schematic. Either way, the interviewer will gain insight into how much the candidate knows and how strong her technical skills are.

How-to Questions

If there is a practical component to the job, an interviewer may ask for a “how-to” description of how to perform a function. This allows the interviewer to assess a candidate’s skills and determine where, if any, additional training is required. After this assessment, an interviewer will have a sense of how long it will take before the candidate is up to speed in the position.

Prior Experience Questions

Many interviewers will ask a candidate to discuss experiences or situations that allowed her to demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the job for which she is applying. A typical question may start with something along the lines of “Tell me about a situation where...” The goal of the question is to gain insight into how the candidate applied his technical skills to addresses a situation or solve a problem. That way the interviewer not only knows what a candidate knows but also how she has used that knowledge.

What-if Scenarios

A common tack in a technical competency interview is presenting “what-if” scenarios. The interviewer gives candidates hypothetical situations based on past events or realistic possibilities and asks them how they would handle those situations. Not only do candidates display their knowledge and application abilities during this line of questioning, but also show their ability to stretch themselves in problem-solving situations.

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