Human Resources Department

Human Resources at MIT Logo
* Using CompQuick

* Downloads
* Learning More
* The MIT Selection Process











Step 4: Conduct the Interviews

  • Let the candidate know up front that you will be doing something "a bit different" toward the end of the interview. For example,

For the last part of the interview, we'll be doing a type of interviewing called competency interviewing. We'll be asking you to tell us some stories about work-related experiences in order to understand better how you approach your work.

  • Conduct the interview as you normally would, including

    • describing the job and organization for the candidate;

    • asking open-ended questions about interests, abilities, preferences and goals;

    • asking about work history, technical competencies and other qualifications.

  • Introduce the competency part of the interview. Here is some wording you could use:

We want to take the rest of the interview to do something called competency interviewing. We will ask you to tell us a couple of stories about work-related events or situations. We want to get some concrete examples of experiences so we can better understand how you approach your work and some of the skills and abilities you bring to it.

As you tell your stories, we will probably ask several questions to get at some of the details of the situations. We aren't probing for more information because you're giving the wrong answer. We are probing because we want to understand the situation fully–including what you did, said, thought and felt.

Try to stick to telling about your role in specific past events. We'll help you out.

I may take some notes to help me remember what you say.

  • For each competency you are probing for (in order of priority), ask a starting question from the CompQuick Interview Form to elicit a story about a past work-related event (e.g. "Tell me about a time when you tried to get someone to change his or her mind.")

Some tips:

    • Ask for an overview of the event so you can get a sense of what to follow up on. Get the background before you get into the details. What was the context of this event? How did you become involved? What was the end point? How did it turn out? The event may be a single meeting, a project spanning several months, or anything in between.

    • Ask for events within the past two years, if possible, in which the candidate played an active part. More recent is better, so the candidate can remember details. Give the candidate time to think of an event or situation that addresses your question.

    • Be patient and supportive. Most people are not used to this style of interviewing and it can be awkward.
  • After focusing in on each event or part of an event, follow up with probing questions to get more information about the candidate’s behavior in that event. See Competency Interviewing Tips for more details.
    • Take brief notes. If more than one person is conducting the interview, it can be helpful to have one person do the probing and another person do the note-taking.

    • Keep the focus on relevant stories. If the candidate starts into a story that clearly will not provide evidence of the competency you are interested in, remind him or her of the starting question, and restart with the same question (or an alternative starting question, if there is one). For example:

Remember that we are interested in a time that you needed to convince someone to change his or her mind. In the situation you started to tell about, it sounds like you weren’t directly involved in the convincing. Is that right? Can you tell me about another time you did that?

    • Budget your time. Move to the next story if you are running out of time, or if you are not getting useful information from the story the candidate has selected.


  • At the end of the interview, give the candidate a chance to ask any questions or add anything else relevant about his or her experience or qualifications.


Step 3: Prepare for Each Interview

Step 5: Assess What You Heard


Send comments to


Last updated January 2000


| What is CompQuick? | What are Competencies? |

| The MIT Administrative Staff Core Competency Model | Hiring for Competencies at MIT |

| Using CompQuick | Competency Interviewing Tips | Downloads |

| Learning More | The MIT Selection Process |