Increasingly organizations are using competency models in their people management processes. Since selecting the best talent is an ongoing challenge for organization, let’s see how a competency model would help in the hiring process.

“By clarifying what specific behaviors and practices make for employee effectiveness, competency models increase the likelihood ….of placing the right people into the right jobs.” wrote Lucia and Lepsinger (1999)

Are competence and competency the same thing or can they be used interchangeably? I would go with the distinction made by Woodruffe (1991). “Competence” is defined as aspects of the job which an individual can perform while ” Competency” refers to a person’s behaviour underpinning competent performance.

In brief, competences are internal capabilities that people bring to their jobs. These are expressed as on-the-job behaviours. It is through the enactment of competencies that we achieve results or outputs. The results may be “enabling” in that they contribute to a end product or could be terminal or the final output. For example, an enabling result is preparation of data to draw up a balance sheet. The final result is the balance sheet itself.

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, two different kinds of core competencies: position-specific and organizational. The former are necessary for success in a particular job while the latter are considered necessary to be a contributing member of the organization.

Effective job performance (and conversely, job failure) is frequently a product of who the job holder is as a person; their values, work ethic, attitude toward service, openness to learning and willingness to grow and change with the organization. It’s not just what you know that matters, it’s who you are as a person.

We speak of “Threshold “Competencies and “Differentiating” Competencies. Threshold competencies are characteristics that any job holder needs to have to do that job effectively—but that do not distinguish the average from superior performer. For example, good salespersons must have adequate knowledge of their products, but this is not necessarily sufficient to ensure outstanding performance.

On the other hand,differentiating competencies are characteristics that superior performers have but average performers lack. For example, customer-focused and empathetic salespersons can put themselves in the shoes of potential clients to really understand which products are important to them and which are not.

Competencies become operational only if defined by behaviors, so interviewers, applicants, managers and employees can apply the model in the work setting.

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This is the 63 rd of the “A Step A Day “series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.