How to Make Sound Hiring Decisions with Competency-Based Recruitment

Bev CouzensStandard

Choosing the right people for the job is essential to organisational success. Hire appropriately and we not only move efficient, hard-working team members with relevant skills and abilities into role, we also reduce staff turnover, improve employee satisfaction and increase profitability. Sounds good, right? So, how do we design your recruitment process to make sound hiring decisions more likely?

Traditional Recruitment Methods

Let’s begin by looking at traditional hiring practices, so that we can compare these with the competency-based methods that we offer at Executive Edge Coaching. Traditional recruitment usually features:

· Job descriptions that detail any formal qualifications deemed necessary and the various tasks that will be performed in role.

· Application forms that ask the candidate to demonstrate that they possess the necessary qualifications and have previously performed the tasks outlined in the job description.

· One-on-one or panel interviews featuring stock questions, such as ‘What strengths will you bring to our company?’ ‘What are your weaknesses?’ ‘Why should we hire you?’

We’ve all been through a recruitment process like this at some point in our lives and it can be easy to think that this is the only way to hire. There are though, problems with these traditional practices that might lead us to question their efficacy.

Problems with Traditional Recruitment Methods

Unfortunately, traditional hiring techniques are often time-consuming, expensive and inconsistent. If the job pool is large, they can rely on multiple individuals screening forms and sitting in interview rooms for weeks on end. That’s a lot of costly people hours – and it’s not necessarily time spent wisely! Without a definition of what constitutes a good answer to the various recruitment questions, and with more than one-person screening candidates, we cannot be sure that the

same criteria are being applied evenly across the board. As well as being unfair, systems like this can allow some of the better candidates to slip through the net.

Matching a candidate to a traditional job description can also be problematic. It can make hiring committees more likely to give jobs to people who have experience of performing the required tasks before and already have the relevant qualifications. This can mean missing out on candidates with better aptitude for the position, who are a better fit for the organisation and are motivated enough to be, say, working towards the relevant qualifications in their own time. We need practices that enable us to hire individuals based on demonstrative potential for doing well in role going forwards and not just on their past performance.

Traditional practices also result in subjective hiring decisions based on factors that are irrelevant to a person’s ability to do the job. Stock interview questions, for example, are notorious for identifying candidates who are good at answering interview questions—a skill which bears no relationship to how good they will be in role. Recent research also shows that interviewers are likely to be impressed by confidence and charisma, whether or not an individual is genuinely competent to perform the job (see Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Harvard Business Review Press, 2019). Lastly, bias against minority groups can creep into traditional practices as interviewers unconsciously make decisions based on stereotypes rather than hard evidence. All these factors can result in a rejection of the candidate who would really be the best fit for the role.

If we are to make smart hiring choices, we need practices that minimise all of these effects. So, what’s the alternative?

Competency-Based Recruitment

The answer is competency-based hiring practices. To begin to find the right candidate for the job, we need first to look at the job in detail to identify the key attitudes, skills and abilities that are required for performing that job well. This enables us to construct a competency-based job description that focuses on what will make an individual a success in performing the necessary responsibilities, rather than simply outlining the responsibilities themselves.

So, for example, some jobs may require high levels of numerical ability; others, large amounts of technical knowledge, and yet others, excellent verbal reasoning

ability. In many cases, different jobs will require similar competencies, but at different levels. For example, high-level executives will need to be more independent than middle managers, and able to make effective decisions in a short timespan with the available data.

For this reason, it is advisable to create, not just a list of competencies required for the position, but a scale that shows the level at which that competency is required. At Executive Edge Coaching, we find a rating out of ten for each competency works well for most positions.

Once this groundwork is done, every aspect of the hiring process can be designed to find candidates with the right competencies at the right levels, whether or not they have performed the exact set of tasks that will be performed in this role before. Application forms and interviews can incorporate competency-based questions that enable candidates to be numerically scored for each of the required competencies. This enables them to be fairly assessed as the same questions are assessed in the same way and scores can be objectively compared.

At Executive Edge we use a psychometric assessment to support clients in hiring the right people at middle and senior management levels, providing a detailed report for each candidate which includes relevant questions to probe specific areas during interview. Given the costly process of recruitment, this means clients are more likely to get it right first time.

The Benefits of Competency-Based Hiring Practices

Competency-based hiring procedures can speed up the recruitment process, since they make clear exactly how candidates should be screened, eliminating guesswork and confusion. So too, they impose a consistent system of assessment on multiple candidates, even with a variety of people assessing a large pool of individuals, and thus deliver fairness and consistency, while eliminating bias.

By matching individuals with the competencies required to perform the job well, competency-based hiring practices deliver candidates who will perform well in role, rather than simply identifying candidates who have performed a similar job before. As such, it is a great way to deliver high-quality candidates that might otherwise slip through the net of traditional recruitment methods.

If you’d like to find out more about how competency-based hiring practices can benefit your organisation, simply call 01594 564803 or email