The Competency Model: Evaluating More Than Just Candidates

I’ve just reviewed a variety of competency models ó from sales rep to engineer to camp counselor to recruiter. Surprisingly, aside from the technical skills required, competent people in most fields are pretty much the same. First on the list of similarities is self-motivation. Second is team skills. Understanding how the best use their personal energy and team skills to achieve success is invaluable ó not only for evaluating candidates, but also for evaluating those that do the hiring. The best simply are much more proactive than the rest. They don’t quit, they make it happen, and they take on more work than required. At the team level, the best do more than cooperate ó they inspire. I use similar measures to judge a company’s sourcing programs. The best systems are more proactive in finding and hiring top candidates. The less effective hiring systems, like their human counterparts, are more passive: they just wait for candidates to apply. As the economy recovers, it will be vitally important that your sourcing programs become more proactive if you want to hire your fair share of top candidates. Let me give you a quick overview of competency models. In most cases, you can break competencies into three broad categories:

  1. The ability to do the work
  2. The motivation to do the work
  3. The ability to interface with others while doing the work

There are others, but these are the core competencies. Good competency models rank performance from weak to strong. Successful completion of most objectives ó like developing software, selling a product, leading a bunch of 12-year-olds, and finding candidates ó requires an effective combination of these three core competencies. For example, sometimes lack of ability can be offset by extra effort. One the other hand, a hard-working techno-wizard can fail without the ability to work effectively with others. As you evaluate a candidate’s accomplishments, break them into these three factors to better understand how each accomplishment was achieved. The following table should help to clarify this. It shows how ability, motivation, and team skills can be ranked from weak to strong.

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Ability (none to all) Motivation (passive to active) People (uncooperative to inspirational)
1 Little or none Lazy, takes shortcuts, is passive, uninvolved, makes excuses Uncooperative, individualistic, demotivating
2 Adequate, or can learn Meets needs with urging Cooperative. Will help others if asked.
3 Very adequate, and/or ability to learn quickly Motivated, takes initiative without prompting Goes out of way to help others.
4 Has it all! Ability and up-side potential Committed, makes it happen Persuades and motivates others to takes action
5 Has it all, and applies it with creativity to expand skill set Passionate. Proactive. Always gives 110%. Won’t lose. Takes on more. Builds team, inspires others to excel. Expands impact through others.

When I examine a candidate’s accomplishments, I evaluate all three of these factors to see how the mix affects the results. I focus first on results, to see if they’re comparable to my client’s needs. Then I break down the process used to achieve the results into these subsets. You can also use this table to evaluate yourself and your recruiting team. How many of the recruiters on your team effectively combine ability with personal motivation and team skills? I’ve seen many competent recruiters who suffer on the motivation side. They’ll go only so far on a search, then give up and make excuses. As the economy strengthens, are you and your recruiters willing to put in the extra effort to locate those tough-to-find candidates? It will soon be more difficult to find strong candidates on job boards. Posting ads on Monster can no longer be a primary sourcing strategy. Instead, you’ll need to substitute a combination of tactics ó including more targeted advertising, aggressive networking, and direct sourcing. This will involve less time on the PC, and more time on the phones. Four to six hours every day is about right. Changing your recruiting tactics from passive to active will help you stay ahead of the power curve. The more active the better. Now examine each of the sourcing systems and tactics you use in the same light. Think about the three most common forms of sourcing ó advertising, career fairs, and employee referrals. First off, how good are yours? Give yourself a “5” if you get more than enough top candidates from the strategy, and a “1” or a “2” if they barely pay for themselves. Now look at the effort component. Are you waiting for candidates to drop by, or are you aggressively going out and finding them? Advertising is okay if it’s active rather than passive. That’s why targeted advertising still works. Are you placing ads in small urban newsletters to attract top diversity candidates? There are 10 great advertising techniques to find any candidate you need. Do you know which ones are best for you, and are you using them? Most will say it takes too much work. That’s both the problem and the opportunity. Monster doesn’t take any work: that’s why it’s not on the list of 10 best. It takes effort to find the best advertising approach, effort to write compelling ads, effort to post all the ads, and effort to manage the results. Proactive, targeted advertising is the first step. If this doesn’t get you enough top candidates, you need to apply more effort to other sourcing techniques. At your career fairs, are you corralling candidates into your booth ó or simply hoping they’ll magically stop by? Did you figure out which are the best career fairs to attend to meet your needs? The best recruiters send invitations to the top 100 candidates in their pipeline, and then call them to ask them to invite their associates. This is all level “4” and “5” stuff. That’s why most people won’t do them ó but those that do achieve success. How many diversity luncheons for the Hispanic engineers or the African-American sales group did you sponsor and attend at the local state university this past six months? Which luncheons should you sponsor ó or don’t you have anyone to handle the work? The best get someone to handle it, or fight for more resources. Are you working your employee referral program for maximum results, or complaining that nobody is referring anybody? The best go out and get names and then network with these people to get even more names. Systems and teams exhibit the same behaviors and competencies as people. Look at every aspect of every one of your sourcing programs in this light. You’ll discover some great opportunities waiting for someone to take the initiative, to go the extra mile, to not give up. And don’t make any excuses about why you can’t do it. The best sales people, the best engineers, the best managers, the best recruiters, even the best camp counselors, all make it happen. They don’t make excuses. They just do it. The great benefit of good competency models is that they provide everyone on the team with a vision for success. Hopefully, you’ve just had a small glimpse of one for great recruiting and hiring systems.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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