How to Win the War for Talent

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Companies recognized for producing top talent have, for years, used a competency-based (also referred to as a behavior-based) interviewing approach for assessing talent when recruiting new employees. A close examination of competency-based methodologies yields some interesting insights home builders should consider implementing as they seek new talent.

June 01, 2005

Companies recognized for producing top talent have, for years, used a competency-based (also referred to as a behavior-based) interviewing approach for assessing talent when recruiting new employees. A close examination of competency-based methodologies yields some interesting insights home builders should consider implementing as they seek new talent.

A Competency-Based Approach to Hiring

Interviewing candidates based on their behaviors provides better insight into demonstrated competencies. This interview style enables a company to gain a picture of how a candidate might succeed in the company's environment or culture. Asking a candidate for an example of how he or she achieved a past success provides higher predictive validity than the typical unstructured interview many companies still use.

Most hiring managers still use the chronological approach while interviewing potential candidates. While this remains a good method for understanding a candidate's background and career path, it does not accurately assess his or her potential for success in a specific company's environment.

Integrating behavior-based questions that help isolate what competencies that candidate has, or does not have, is key to maximizing the success of that person if hired. Studies have supported this supposition; competency-based interview techniques versus traditional interview processes increase an employee's long-term success. Unstructured interviews have a predictive validity in the 15–38 percent range verses a structured, competency-based interview having a 40–60 percent predictive validity.

How to Begin?

First, identify four or five core competencies that are required for someone in the company to be successful at his or her job. These core competencies can be found through a series of questions, such as:

  • Does the role require a strategic or a tactical skill set?
  • Does the role require someone with strong influencing skills or is it more of a project management type role?
  • What kind of leadership style works best in this role?
  • How do the successful people that are in the role behave to achieve the results they need?

After asking these questions, companies can apply what they've learned to various levels within the company.

Competency-Based Techniques by Level

Because entry-level candidates have little to no functional experience to isolate at this stage, it is best to focus on attitude and aptitude. There are a number of attributes that successful entry-level employees will demonstrate. You can find these attributes by asking appropriate questions. A perfect example of an entry-level question would be: What do successful entry-level employees have in common that make them successful?

Assessing an entry-level candidate's successful behavior will draw a clearer picture of the key competencies to seek out.

Experienced candidates will have more functional skills than their entry-level counterparts. Because an experienced candidate's skills are more advanced, it is important to not only assess for attitude and aptitude to match the company's culture, but also to isolate functional skills and the demonstrated behaviors to match. For example, in a marketing position, a successful person must demonstrate strategic thinking skills. When interviewing a candidate, it is important to look for examples of conceptual thinking, innovation, ability to express creative ideas effectively or analyze competitive trends.

For management positions, it should be expected that managers have not only built the required functional skill, but have also honed an ability to effectively lead a group of people. At the management level, the assessor might want to look closely at competencies like leadership skills, ability to influence others, ability to communicate a vision and ability to create buy-in across groups.

Consider "influencing." First define the behaviors of those who influence well in your company today. Perhaps it's because they listen well and have an ability to build consensus and support both inside and outside the company. Or perhaps they first gather research on what's been done in the past and develop new ways to deploy a strategy.

Rethink the Hiring Process

The competency model does not work unless an organization learns and fully commits to adopting the approach. It takes years to get an organization fully engaged with a competency-based methodology. Typically, this commitment must start at the top, with the CEO and head of Human Resources. The CEO and the head of Human Resources should communicate to the organization how managers should begin assessing talent. The CEO and the head of Human Resources should also consistently address the key competencies required at all levels of the organization. Whether they realize it or not, the common practice of leaders speaking about "culture" creates the mindset necessary to engage in a competency-based hiring process.

Culture is made up of the behaviors expected in a company, and these key behaviors (or competencies) are what potential hires should be judged on in the recruiting process. With this understanding a company will be able to more accurately predict how successful someone will be once hired. This will result in a more effective and satisfied employee and longer-term contributor.

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