Understanding Competencies – The Secret to a Good Interview

Hiring the right people is a critical issue in any business. Employees are a reflection on us – our business priorities, customer service model, and values. Hiring the wrong person is not only inconvenient and frustrating, it directly impacts our bottom line. There is no other resource in our arsenal that has this much power to make or break a business; yet managers and business owners often don’t spend the necessary time or resources on the hiring process. I understand - it is tedious, time consuming, expensive and not really fun. If the right candidate would just magically appear and we could get on with operations, it would be a great day!

I'm sorry to report - There is no magic shortcut to hiring great people. Essentially, what we put into the recruiting and hiring process is exactly what we will get out of it. I will say that the benefits of establishing strong hiring practices far outweigh the initial effort that is required.

The key to hiring great people is knowing what we are looking for and providing an objective way to compare each candidate to those standards or requirements. One of the most effective methods of doing this is by establishing competency-based job descriptions. I heard you sigh and I know you rolled your eyes. Who has time to do that much work on job descriptions, after all! The end result is well worth the effort, though.

While a job description will often identify the primary duties of the position, the competency-based job description clearly identifies job-related knowledge, skills and abilities, motivations, and other requirements that are essential to success in that position. Basically, not just what needs to be done, but what it takes to be able to do it. This can be applied across a wide range of positions - from welders to accountants, from general labor to c-suite executives.

All things considered, if a competency-based job description is used for all candidates, and they are subject to the same requirements for applying and interviewing, the right person will stand out when asked carefully planned questions. Using structured behavioral interview questions that ask for specific examples of instances where candidates have demonstrated the competencies required for the job will assist in identifying candidates who have the relevant knowledge, skills and abilities for the job. By using the same standards for all candidates and focusing on their ability to perform the job being asked of them, we are also likely to avoid a number of legal pitfalls related to faulty hiring practices.

Hiring does not have to be the torturous process that it often appears to be. The secret is doing the legwork up front - put in the work to establish clear criteria before starting the selection process. Using a clearly written job description as a standard will help to eliminate unqualified candidates, allow hiring managers to objectively review resumes and application materials, and result in a more enjoyable and fruitful interview process.

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