Have you ever heard of a critical incident interview? Within an HR Department, this technique is sometimes used by the people responsible for the recruitment process as it enables them to gather different information from that provided by a traditional job interview based on short and isolated questions.

What are the differences? A critical incident interview uses a structured exploration strategy that provides information on what the candidate did, how they did it and what they felt about a real situation they experienced in the past and that is relevant to the position being applied for.

The interviewer will ask the candidate to explain how they tackled a certain situation in the past.
For example: Tell me about a situation you experienced in the past that involved a conflict of interests within your department and how you prioritised the various objectives.

It is important for the interviewer to reorientate the candidate if they start to recount a situation using a form of speech other than the first person.

For example: Last year, we increased turnover in the department by…

The goal is to identify specific behaviour and attitudes of the candidate that actually happened. This information will enable the suitability of a specific professional for a specific job to be assessed.


1. It identifies specific behaviour that took place in the past: more reliable than any information you may obtain on possible future scenarios, such as: How would you act when faced with a certain problem?

2. It seeks to compare those skills needed for the job with the real skills that the candidate has developed in the past.

3. It tends to eliminate subjective bias: what the candidate did is more important than the perception of how they did it.
It is therefore important to know about this type of technique if you ever find yourself actively seeking employment.


Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Molina
Corporate Training Department
ACCIONA Human Resources