Introduction to Competency-Based Hiring with free ADA, FLMA and DOT Formatted Job Description downloadable
Over the past few years, there’s been a great deal of talk about utilizing core competencies in the hiring process. Like many a candidate, you may be wondering what exactly is meant by core competencies are and how they can help your organization make better hires.
According to SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management), the term core competency was originated in 1990 by the Harvard Business Review to describe the management concept of corporations possessing specialized expertise in a specific area. Corporations quickly adopted the concept of core competencies to communicate what they did “best” and to leverage the competitive advantages of their brands.
Since then, core competencies have been applied to other aspects of management and have become a key strategy in the hiring process. This article explores competency-based hiring and how nonprofit organizations can best use this technique in the hiring process.
What Is Competency-Based Hiring?
An individual’s core competencies are determined by two groups of factors: (1) skills, knowledge, and technical qualifications and (2) behavioral characteristics, personality attributes, and individual aptitudes. Although traditional hiring has focused primarily on evaluating a candidate’s skills and technical qualifications, a competency-based approach includes an analysis of a candidate’s behavioral characteristics as well.
Competency-based hiring is grounded in the identification of core competencies required for success and the subsequent evaluation of each candidate’s demonstration of those competencies in their past experiences. From a hiring perspective, there are two different kinds of core competencies: position-specific and organizational.
The following is a brief overview of each type:
Position-specific competencies refer to the abilities and behavioral characteristics required for success in a specific role. These characteristics may include attributes of an individual’s work style as well as personal qualities such as being analytical, resourceful, flexible, or creative.
Organizational competencies are the qualities and attributes that characterize success across an entire organization. These competencies include fit with the organization’s management style, risk tolerance, work pace and volume, type of culture, employee demographics, and physical environment.
Organizational competencies play a major role in determining what type of people will “fit” in an organization, regardless of their specific roles. For example, a bureaucratic, autonomous manager may not succeed in a management role at a highly entrepreneurial nonprofit where all decisions are made by consensus.
Core Competencies in Action
The first step in adopting a competency-based hiring model is to determine both the organizational and position-specific competencies required for each position. To figure out organizational competencies, I generally prefer convening a focus group or sending out a customized survey to identify the top three to five characteristics and traits that typically make someone successful within the organization. It’s critically important that whichever approach is taken that it includes all key stakeholders, managers, staff, board members, funders, and other constituents as appropriate.
In order to determine position-specific competencies, you can employ a similar process, focusing on those who know the position best. Depending on your organization, it may also be helpful to define department-specific competencies, particularly for highly specialized departments such as finance or development.
After you have determined the competencies for a given position, you can use this information to inform all subsequent stages of your recruitment and hiring process. For example, your job description should focus on the core competencies successful candidates will demonstrate, not just academic or technical qualifications. In terms of recruitment, a focus on core competencies will lead to a broader candidate pool because you will be seeking professionals who possess the desired competencies required for a position but may come from less traditional backgrounds.
Using core competencies to drive the screening and interviewing phases of the hiring process will provide more relevant information upon which to base hiring decisions than matching candidates against a list of requirements or assessing whether the hiring manager “likes” the candidate. The most accepted and reliable method currently being used in most organizations today is that of behavioral interviewing; this type of interview is focused on asking questions that require candidates to describe past experiences in which they were able to demonstrate specific competencies. Based in the premise that “past behavior predicts future behavior,” research and experience have found behavioral interviewing to be a more effective way of gauging how each candidate has performed in certain types of situations and therefore how successful each may be in a certain role.
Hiring and Beyond
Adopting a competency-based hiring model requires an investment of time and effort up front, but that investment is well worth the effort because it enables you to make more appropriate and sophisticated hiring decisions. After the new hire is onboard, core competencies continue to be useful in setting goals and positioning new hires for success, identifying areas for professional development, and making appropriate decisions about future promotions and raises. These factors lead to increased employee engagement and retention which are both essential to successful organizations.
Where to Start?
Once you’ve identified the core competencies, the best place to start is by re-writing/ editing your job descriptions to include each of the core competencies. At the same time, if your job descriptions don’t include the DOT’s (Dictionary of Occupational Titles) reference to working conditions and physical/exertional requirements, this would be an ideal time to add this information as well (it’s a requirement under ADA, the American’s With Disabilities Act). Below, please find a sample Job Description incorporating each of these aspects.
Mike also recommends the following resources:
- CompQuick: Focusing Interviews on MIT Core Competencies
- “Competency-Based Behavioral Interviewing“
- Hiring and Keeping the Best People
- How to Compete in the War for Talent
Sample ADA, FLMA and DOT Formatted Job Description
Call me and let’s discuss: 773-807-8437
Mike Russell is a seasoned professional with three decades of experience in the fields of HR and OD. In addition to having a career trajectory of HR Generalist to a VP within ten years, Mike also has a long and successful background as a Consultant/Business Partner to CEO’s, Presidents and Executive Directors in both the private and non-profit communities across a wide spectrum of industries.
As the sole-proprietor and owner of Organizational Development Solutions (ODS), Mike partners with business leaders committed to insulating their organization(s) from potential liability, increasing organizational effectiveness and adding shareholder value.