The Critical Incidents technique

The Critical Incidents technique

This technique used by Flanagan in 1954 has been innovated and used with some variants through the years and is one of the means which can be used to:

  • Carry out a personnel selection process.
  • Carry out an evaluation of the labor performance of the workers of an organization.
  • Carry out a diagnosis of training needs.
  • conduct a Insights competitions.

Identify competencies.

Since the preceding articles are aimed at the Identification of Competencies, we will ignore the comments regarding the other applications.


The incident technique critics It has two ways of use:

  • Questionnaire.
  • Critical Incident Interview.


The following questions can be included in the form to be used:

  • Description of the incident.
  • What were the general circumstances that led to that incident?
  • As accurate a description of what he did that he found so efficient.
  • When did it occur?
  • How long has the operator been in that job?
  • How long has that worker been in the company?

The questionnaire collects information about work efficiency, to collect inefficiency incidents, the questionnaire is written in negative.


Since the behavioral descriptions necessary to identify competencies are not a tangible expression that provides a solid base when managing human resources, it is necessary to take real-life examples of behaviors, this is carried out through a series of interviews from critical incidents (BEI: Behavioral Event Interview) to the representative sample selected by the panel of experts.

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This tool designed and used extensively by Dr. David Mc.Clelland and his team at Mc.Ber & Company, and which supports the business of competencies under the basic assumption that the best predictor of a person's future performance is their past performance.

The BEI consists of a highly structured, in-depth and detailed interview of the candidate's past performance, which allows to identify and measure the degree of recurrence, consistency and strength of the subject's competencies, evidenced in the repertoire of behaviors that he has displayed in his successful performance as the holder of a particular position. Research shows that the more recurrent and stronger the subject's competencies, the better and more successful is his professional and managerial performance.

Likewise, the less recurrent and solid the subject's competences, the less effective and competent their performance is, producing average or low results. quality. The key assumption of both conclusions documented in the literature is that there is a causal relationship between competencies and successful performance.

BEI protocols provide abundant data and information for identifying competencies, and very specific descriptions of critical work behaviors in specific situations. Using this, an estimate can be made of when, how, where, they acquired their key competencies.

Advantages offered by EIB interviews:

  • Empirical identification of competencies superior to or different from those generated by the panel of experts.
  • Accuracy about what competencies are and how they are expressed in specific jobs and organizations.
  • Non-existence of racial, sex, or cultural biases.
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In the critical incident interview, the interviewer through a series of open questions asks the interviewee to describe what he did, said, thought and felt during a specific experience. The interviewer must invite the interviewees to narrate the concrete actions that took place in the past. In this way, he manages to obtain the experiences of the interviewee as they were and how he lived them.

With critical incident interviews, interviewees are not allowed to draw conclusions about their past experiences. What matters is finding out the reasons, skills and knowledge that the interviewee really has and uses.

The critical incident interview uses the structured exploration strategy, looking for indications that this person has a series of key competencies, investigating whether they have previously performed them.

When evaluating a certain competence, we start from an open question, for example:

Tell me about a time when you did something new or in a different way that led to an improvement in your job, department or organization? DWhere the question is aimed at evaluating the interviewee's innovation.

As many times the interviewee usually provides very general answers to an open-ended question or tends to get lost describing irrelevant behaviors, and we must obtain sufficient data to know what he did, said, felt and thought during the specific situation he describes, it is also used the next questions:

  • What brought you to that situation?
  • Who intervened?
  • What did you think of that situation?
  • What was your role?
  • What did you do?
  • What result occurred?

These questions allow us to obtain more information from the interviewee (without suggesting words or directing his answers) so that he does not get lost in generalizations and narrate what happened as he lived it, and thus we can obtain the greatest amount of relevant information for an adequate Insights.

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Self appraisal

Whenever you finish conducting an interview, reflect on your assessments and meeting your goals, ask yourself:

  • Have I explored all the skills indicated in the profile and / or detected in the questionnaires?
  • Was I previously familiar with behavioral indicators for proper evaluation?
  • Have I observed the technique and structure?
  • Did I ask the right questions and avoid the directive questions?
  • Did I avoid generalizations and conduct the interview for relevant facts?

Article published by Humberto Quezada Martínez. Q + M Associate Consultants

I am a dreamer and in my dreams I believe that a better world is possible, that no one knows more than anyone, we all learn from everyone. I love gastronomy, numbers, teaching and sharing all the little I know, because by sharing I also learn. "Let's all go together from foundation to success"
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