Assessment mode

Traditional interview questions

MSD Competency Framework

Traditional interview questions are the most common evaluation tool, particularly for hiring practitioners. Interviewing is a complex skill set. It involves the ability to ask short open-ended questions, listen carefully and probe at key moments to learn more about a practitioner’s thinking.

Using this mode

Traditional questions can be used in hiring processes and for help with decisions on promotions.

Guidance for assessors

  • Clarify the most important competencies for each role before constructing the interview question guide. 
  • Select one or two scenario or case-based questions. Where appropriate send practitioners a short one-page summary of a scenario in advance to assess their ability to prepare in advance.
  • Much of the guidance for particular competencies relies on probing. Listen carefully, ask follow-up questions and push people to give examples and to explain what they mean. 
  • Conduct interviews in teams, or at least pairs, and rotate who asks which question.

Example competencies for interview questions

Systems analysis for economic inclusion: competency A1
Probe past experiences with multiple interacting actors, working on complex problems in past jobs or education. Ask participants to draw out dynamics of a system.

Integrating sectoral knowledge: competency A4
Present practitioners with short prompts where they are required to discuss a specific issue area that they may be unfamiliar with. Probe for the process they’d take in answering the question if given more time. Assess for recognition of the limits of their knowledge and the specifics of how they would seek input from others.

Knowledge synthesis: competency A5
In a traditional interview present the interviewee with a dense two-page summary of an issue or sector. Give them 5-10 minutes to read and summarise. Observe their reading process. In their answer look for what they emphasise and what they omit - probe these decisions in follow-up questions.

Critical thinking, foresight & vision: competency A6
Present interviewee with a simple scenario of a key geography or market sector (e.g. vegetable farming in a remote mountainous village) where the programme is considering intervening. Ask them to walk through the assumptions they would make if they were to analyse or intervene in that system with two very different operational goals. For example improve the income of local villagers regardless of sector vs improve the efficiency of the transportation sector for people and goods. Pay attention to how they reframe the system boundaries based on the goal in each case.

Innovative thinking: competency A7
Present the interviewee with a real, current challenge being faced by the programme - it could be strategic or operational. Ask them to generate as many alternatives as possible and make it clear they are being assessed on the breadth/range of options. After 5-10 minutes select the best idea and ask them to talk through the possible downstream consequences of implementing it, both positive (intended) and negative (unintended).

Intervention design: competency B2
Ask participants about a time they managed a partnership. Probe about strategic choices about how to share roles, measure performance. Ask about examples where partnership was failing and how they handled it.

Coordinating multiple interventions: competency B3
Probe for the ability to analyse a situation (from past experience or a current event) from different angles. Push for practitioners to generate different ideas of how they might intervene to shift dynamics in the situation.

Monitoring and learning: competency B4
Probe for an approach to problem-solving that is guided by hypotheses. Watch out for absolute statements. Assess how self-aware the practitioner is about their assumptions and what evidence they’d look for to change them.

Relationship building: competency C1
Ask candidates to talk about challenging past relationships and how they handled different perspectives. Probe for their ability to compromise and to see other people's’ points of view.

Influence: competency C4
Use a mundane everyday object (e.g. pen, paper, item of clothing) and ask the interviewee to sell it to you. After a few minutes stop the exercise and ask them to analyse their approach. Use this to unpack their ability to consciously apply different tactics – paying attention to the thought process rather than the result.

Self-learning: competency C5
Ask interviewees for an example of when they had to change their approach to a work task significantly based on feedback they received. Probe to understand the context around the incident. Ask follow-up questions to understand what new learning the practitioner incorporated into future work.

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