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Competency-Based Recruitment: Why Is It Important?

eye 59 Published on 28 May. 2024
tag #Soft-skills

You are recruiting a marketing manager. Would you prefer to choose the candidate from a prestigious business school with relevant experience in your sector, or the one with less experience but who is highly creative, curious, eager to learn, analytically sharp, and a great team player?

If you chose the second option, you are ready to embrace competency-based recruitment and let go of criteria that, while reassuring to recruiters, ultimately do a disservice. Today, more than ever, securing successful hires requires a competency-based approach. Let's explore the why and how of this method.

Why Shift to Competency-Based Recruitment?

In the traditional recruitment approach, the goal is to validate a candidate's fit for the job based on their education and professional experience. This means attributing a candidate's worth to the school they attended and focusing on their technical knowledge.

However, the statistics are clear: 89% of recruitment failures are due not to a lack of technical knowledge, but to deficiencies in skills such as soft skills and cognitive abilities.

Despite this, recruiters continue to cling to the traditional method. This is understandable, as a diploma, a couple of additional courses, and a few years in the same position are concrete criteria and familiar benchmarks for recruiters.

What Is Competency-Based Recruitment?

Instead of focusing on diplomas, experience, and technical knowledge, competency-based recruitment emphasises the skills needed to succeed in a position, integrate effectively into a team, and progress within an organisation.

For recruiters, this means evaluating a candidate's ability to mobilise these skills and determining which skills they can further develop. These skills, whether socio-emotional or cognitive, are considered transferable as they apply across a multitude of professional contexts. They even surpass technical knowledge, as the ability to use knowledge appropriately in the right context and to unlearn and relearn when necessary is more critical than merely possessing technical knowledge.

Competency-based recruitment is feasible for most positions and is particularly effective in candidate-shortage situations or fields where knowledge evolves rapidly, such as the digital sector. Beyond these challenges, this approach is highly relevant in today's VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment, where adaptability, learning agility, tolerance for ambiguity, and human qualities are success criteria.

How to Implement Competency-Based Recruitment?

Step 1: Identify the Necessary Competencies
This step may seem tedious as it involves identifying the competencies needed for success in each position. However, various standard frameworks now exist to facilitate this task. A comprehensive framework includes about 45 to 60 competencies, covering both soft skills and cognitive abilities, such as a sense of responsibility, relational skills, learning agility, and decision-making. For instance, Central Test's predictive model recommends the most relevant competencies for defined criteria with five levels of affinity. You can further refine and adjust these competencies based on your needs. These defined competencies will become your new criteria for evaluating candidates.

Step 2: Revise Job Descriptions
Job descriptions will need to be updated to reflect the new expectations. These descriptions will also serve to draft job advertisements. The shift in approach should be communicated clearly to potential candidates, highlighting these new recruitment criteria in the job postings.

Step 3: Accurately Measure Competencies
Reliable psychometric tools are valuable allies in competency-based recruitment. They allow for precise evaluation of a candidate's competency level and estimate their potential for growth. Personality tests, combined with assessments of cognitive abilities and soft skills, are typically used to identify a candidate's competency foundation. By using a predictive matching tool, you can quickly identify the alignment between a candidate's skills and the success criteria for the defined position, while also highlighting areas for improvement.

Structured interviews will complement this analysis. The goal is to validate the presence of key competencies in the candidate and their ability to apply them in your work environment. Prioritise concrete scenarios and practical exercises for this purpose. The candidate's professional experience remains relevant as it demonstrates how their acquired skills are transferable to your work environment.

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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