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Not All of Your Competencies Are Created Equal

March 2, 2017

The main goal of a hiring process is to determine which applicant in your pool is going to be the best candidate for the job.  This candidate can be found by searching through applicants that are qualified in experience, technical knowledge, personality, and fit.

Determining what factors are most important in a hiring decision is usually uncovered with a job analysis. However, not all qualifications are created equal when considering them in a hiring process context. For example, Positive Attitude may be a nice-to-have competency, but it may not carry the same importance or weight as something like Work Ethic. While many positions have a checklist of criteria that are needed to be considered eligible for the job, it is important to determine which factors are most critical for successful job performance.

IDENTIFYING These Competencies

Let's briefly walk through the basics of identifying the right competencies:

  • One of the very first steps is to conduct a job analysis, which is a deep dive into the position to figure out what qualifications are needed to perform the job successfully. At the conclusion of your job analysis, you have objective data in the form of a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities (competencies) that are required to perform the duties of the job.

  • In addition, a thorough job analysis will provide insight into how critical or how important each competency is in terms of the extent of proficiency needed for that given area. For example, during your job analysis you may have discovered that both Quantitative Problem Solving and Safety Orientation emerged as competencies required on the job. However, the extent to which basic math skills are used or needed on the job isn’t as frequent or critical as the extent to which safety practices and behaviors are. In other words, while you do want to hire someone with basic math ability, it’s more important that they prioritize safety in their day to day responsibilities. You wouldn’t want to hire someone with very high math knowledge and ability but low safety awareness.

  • These competencies can also be identified via the organization itself. Frequently, organizations will try to align hiring criteria to match the mission statement, company values, and new initiatives. Looking to these sources can help affirm the information found throughout the job analysis.

MEASURING These Competencies

Now that you know what competencies are more crucial to performing the job successfully, you can begin to include that information in your hiring process. Making sure to keep your process as streamlined as possible, you need to also ensure that each competency, that is relevant and important to the job, is measured at least once in the hiring process, such as during the application, the interview, or the assessment. However, your most important competencies will need to be measured either more than once, or at a deeper level than the others.

For example, you include a pre-hire assessment that, among others, measures Quantitative Problem Solving (QPS) and Safety Orientation.

  • Because QPS wasn’t found to be as critical to performing the job as Safety Orientation was, measuring QPS just once, through an assessment, will likely be an adequate amount of information for that competency.

  • On the other hand, the information provided around Safety Orientation by the assessment, while useful, may not be thorough enough. To gather additional information around Safety Orientation, it will be important to ask about the individual’s safety practices and behaviors at other stages of the process, such as during the interview.

  • Even applicants with high scores on measures of these ultra-important competencies earlier in the hiring process should not be exempt from additional probing into those areas. A structured approach is the most effective way to hire quality candidates.

Once you find out which competencies are the most crucial for success in a particular position, it is essential that they are examined during the hiring process. Therefore, your hiring process should reflect this, measuring these ultra-important competencies repeatedly and in a very thorough manner, and placing less emphasis on the less critical areas. This will ensure that your overall hiring process will determine the best standard for success in your positions.

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Rachel Reid Rachel Reid is a Consulting Associate at PSI. She works with clients in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare helping to implement assessments into the hiring process. Rachel’s areas of knowledge include interviewing, human resource development, and developing training materials.