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The Power of Competency Modeling to Make Informed Hiring Decisions

Article by Bill Schult found on LinkedIn discussion board “Psychometrics for Selection & Development
Using competency modeling (also known as behavioral based selection) is a proven selection method. There have been many books written on competency based selection and numerous selection training courses delivered on how to use them. In spite of all of this, in my discussions with organizations, I continue to be surprised by how many organizations still fail to apply competency modeling as part of their hiring process.
I thought it might be useful if I shared several thoughts on competency modeling and the logic behind competency based selection. Whether you and your organization actually choose to use the competency modeling process, I highly recommend that it be given significant consideration.

Main Advantages of Competency-based Selection

• Improved objectivity in the selection process, leading to the hiring of more talented employees
• Vastly improved reliability in making informed hiring decisions
• Legal protection for the employer
• Improved consensus on hires across multiple interviewers and/or departments

How it Works

The intent of competency-based assessments is to remove hiring decisions from the classic gut feeling/intuition-led process. It sounds a bit like this, “I feel that this person would be a great hire for us, I can just feel it in my gut.” The competency modeling process results in a greater level of objectivity in the selection process, replacing much of the subjectivity of traditional assessments and methods.
Candidates are routinely interviewed, rated or hired based upon their aspirations, opinions, or other non-job related related reasons. Competency modeling provides you with the ability to anticipate how a candidate will behave in a role in the future through an assessment of their behavioral traits directly related to the competency model.
Using a validated competency based selection assessment will give you the ability to compare each candidate against the competency model developed for the job. The assessment results should have a behavioral based interview built on the model with specific behavioral based questions for each competency to provide you with valuable insight into each candidate strengths and weaknesses based on the competency model.
These questions require the candidate to address specific events, problems or situations (example: “When was the last time you were overwhelmed by the work you were asked to complete?” “What did you do about it?”). Candidates cannot just give a canned answer when they are asked to focus on specific situations. By listening and probing into how a candidate actually approached real situations in the past, we can more accurately judge how they will act in similar circumstances in the future.
Another advantage of using an assessment is that it develops specific questions for each area that a candidate scored outside the desired range for the competency. These are questions that a candidate has not had an opportunity to prepare. These questions are most times not found in a book on how to win in the interview or a set of CD’s on interviewing or even a class on how to interview. Often the tone of the interview changes dramatically when these candidate specific questions are asked of the candidate. The candidate has no “recorded” or “pat” answer, so they must now reveal things about how they would do the job or handle a situation that you may never have learned in a standard interview.
Well-developed competency models give you a reasonable amount of objectivity. The major benefit of competency based selection is to provide valuable insight into each candidate compared to the competency model helping the organization make better hiring decisions.

Setting the Goal

In order to be able to make a judgment on a candidate’s capabilities, you need to have a frame of reference to measure them against. Candidates need to be assessed against defined personality traits (competencies) appropriate to the role in question. Typically these competencies will be developed from a competency modeling process. Organizations may have a core set of competencies that are important to all leadership positions within the organization. In addition, there may be competencies that are different for each leadership role. Different departments or jobs will most likely need different competencies as well.
Competencies tend to measure behaviors such as Team Leadership, Championing Change, Adaptability, Planning and Organizing, Customer Service, and so on. A candidate’s interview performance against each competency can be evaluated, along with other criteria that the employer has defined as belonging to the trait in question.

Rating the Candidate

By asking a series of specific questions of each candidate in a formal interview, customized for each role, business area and rating the capability the candidate has demonstrated in their answers against the chosen competencies, the interviewer has all they need to move into the process of evaluating other important information and make an informed hiring decision.
We’ve seen why a competency-based selection system can benefit businesses in a number of directions. By having a consistent and objective process in place, employers are not only being fair to candidates, but you are also greatly reducing corporate risk from litigation associated with decisions that can be challenged as unfair or discriminatory.
Perhaps most importantly, introducing competency models helps ensure that organizations are truly hiring the best talent, which is ultimately their goal.
Bill Schult is the founder of Maximum Potential Inc. and founder of Essential Insights LLC. He is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst, developer of Proception2 and Business Motivators.