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A behavioral competency can be defined as an individual’s cumulative knowledge, skills and personal attitude in completing the assigned tasks in a given period of time. Every person possesses different traits that enable him or her to work effectively. The collective competencies of every employee form the human capital, which gives impetus to achieving organizational mission and objectives.Behavioral-based interviews prove to be an efficient talent acquisition means as they assess the personality of job prospects and ensures if he or she is fit for the role.
Honestly, measuring competencies is no rocket science. Recruiters can easily gauge a person’s traits using a competency-based interview, which is an effective way of structuring your hiring process. Such interviews aim at testing individuals on one or more specific behavioral traits. A majority of behavioral competencies are inherent in everyone, which is what aids in personality building. While some may be built over time with years of experience.
It is on this principle that competency-based interviews stand on. One of the people to explore this idea in depth was American psychologist Paul Meehl. He wrote, “…behavior science research itself shows that, by and large, the best way to predict anybody’s behavior is his behavior in the past…”
The criteria of past work performance are used by a majority of employers, especially mass campus recruiters, who often use the principle as the core of their assessment centre. And you thought, your previous mess won’t affect new prospects? Bad News! It will.
While competency-based interviewing, do you ask questions like: “What makes you an ideal employee?”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “How can you contribute to the organization?”? If the answer is yes, it is time to structure the way you take interviews.
The traditional style of interviewing splurges on open-end questions where a candidate can easily fool the recruiter if the recruiter does not have clarity regarding the kind of questions to be asked. The randomness of questions and final selection based on the overall impression of the candidate leads to wrong hiring decisions. Whereas, competency-based interview questions target behavioral traits that help in determining if the candidate is culturally fit. Additionally, the situation-based questions, candidate’s response to them and further cross-questioning to deep dive into the candidate’s behavior leave no scope of bluffing. This is why traditional practices need to be done away with.
The world is evolving, and so are the business needs. To maintain pace with the times, one needs to adopt effective, cost and time-efficient techniques to create a structured hiring process. The traditional recruitment process can be eliminated by adopting a 3-way approach.
The initial step involves gathering relevant information regarding the organizational requirement. This requires collecting job-specific data within the organization. Care must be taken not to leave aside any job role. This ensures that competencies are mapped not only as per job level but as per job role also. This exercise will also unveil current skill gaps. To test those skill gaps, you can then determine work behavior indicators that you are looking for in a candidate. This will give you a direction in asking relevant questions.
It is to be noted that all the requirements should fall within the periphery of your short and long-term organization’s vision. Only then will the new hires could be assessed on the listed parameters. This aids in raising the bar of your recruitment filter. After all, you do not want candidates who leave you unawares in the midst of crisis.
The competency framework is the building block for a recruitment cycle and the first step of structured hiring. Once organizations have a framework in place, they can easily map and select candidates who align with their vision and mission.
No matter how complex your workflows are, strive towards simplicity. Instead of having multiple dishes on the platter, take one thing at a time. If you try to incorporate a lot of things in a single framework, the model is bound to stumble. Too many cooks spoil the broth, remember?
An easy way to develop a competency model is to divide competencies on job-levels like entry-level, mid-senior level, and senior level. Further, they can be sub-categorized into personality attributes, analytical ability, interpersonal skills, and leadership. Additionally, domain expertise stands alone since domain knowledge varies as per job role.
The major chunk of research work winds up in the first two steps after which comes an equally important step, i.e. executing the competency framework effectively. All the backend work and time would become futile if the framework does not fulfill its function. Even before you start using the framework in interviews, make sure to roll out an in-house survey at various job levels, train Human Resources to use the informative piece and set privacy standards to contain sensitive information. You might not hit the target in the first attempt, so have an open mind and keep incorporating necessary changes in the model as and when required. Your competency framework would be good to go when you start getting favorable outcomes through HR and staff training.
Once the competency framework is in place, HRs can now ask questions pertaining to inherent abilities, skills, and experience gained through experience in the form of contextual events. The events may or not be realistic. The aim is to take candidates to a point where they put their guard down.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some common competencies:
Situations and questions tend to catch candidates unawares, who would have prepared for a generic interview. As unexpected questions and hypothetical situations are thrown at them, candidates remember past experiences or become thoughtful by imagining themselves in those situations. Such a process increases the probability of answering honestly because no answer would be right or wrong. What matters is how a candidate reacts when placed in an untoward scenario. Thus, the competency-based interview puts Human Resources in a position where they can closely observe human behavior and its impact on the organization as a whole.
By incorporating competency-based interviews into the recruitment process, employers can identify candidates who possess certain behavioral characteristics that will help in smooth transitioning and hence, be culturally fit. Currently, these interviews are empowering recruiters with the information needed to make smarter hiring decisions and would continue to serve as a benchmark in the hiring process.
Originally published July 31 2018, Updated June 22 2020
A writer at heart, Megha has been in the content industry for 4 years. Starting her career from print, her journey spans across IT, legal and consulting industries. She has been associated with Mercer | Mettl as Assistant Manager, Content Marketing for 2 years.