Making Employee Recruitment and Selection Competency Based: Part 1



Posted by John Bestgen, Recruiting Practice Lead at Hula Partners


In considering a transition from a traditional to competency-based recruitment and selection process, one question is of uppermost importance: How can a competency-based approach improve the organization’s ability to predict successful job performance from prospective applicants?

The answer to this question is simple, but it does require some explanation. The success of a competency-based approach depends largely on whether or not the organization in question has clarified work performance requirements for their positions and kept them up-to-date. If, for instance, the organization’s managers have not accurately and comprehensively defined their desired work outcomes, then trying to match applicants to those ill-defined goals will not be easy or effective.

Competency-Based Recruitment

The traditional recruitment process must truly be reinvented if it is to become competency based.

Competency-based recruitment is made possible through the organization’s leaders identifying the key work roles, positions, or other work designations that are in need of recruitment efforts. This often involves setting priorities. Decision makers must also decide on the time span over which the recruitment process will take place and take into considerations the relevant market conditions and major business drivers affecting their organization during that period of time.

A competency-based approach to recruitment and selection places more demands on an organization, compared to the effort required for a traditional approach. What is to be done if sufficient resources are not available to adopt a competency-based system for the entire organization? In such a case, the organization should invest its available resources in a competency-based approach to recruiting and selecting for those jobs or positions that are most critical to the organization’s success. After key positions have been filled, leaders can evaluate the costs and benefits of extending the use of these methods to other areas.

After the organization’s leaders have identified their recruitment needs, they must then confirm the accuracy of the descriptions and specifications for the positions to be filled. The information can be gained through moderate to extensive job analyses and should meet the following requirements:

  • Work outputs, activities, and tasks as well as job competencies and the behavioral indicators by which those competencies can be measured are clearly stated and aligned, and the managers who are seeking applicants agree on them.
  • Performance data analysis identifies the competencies necessary for successful performance of the work to be performed in a specific role within the organization.
  • Key competencies that are the greatest predictors of job success have been identified and validated by the specific managers who are in need of applicants.

With a competency-based approach to recruitment, the process of applicant evaluation criteria development must be reframed from that of the traditional approach. The task of finding the needed competencies is made easier when the organization has conducted a data-driven assessment of existing staff competencies and can access that information through a competency inventory. It is also helpful to identify past sources of exemplary performers in specific roles within the organization as defined by their competencies and related behaviors. Analysis of this type will most likely reveal that certain sources of talent yield the best applicants for specific roles more often than do others.

Planning completed, the organization now employs the competency-based model when actively seeking applicants. It is particularly important that decision makers identify and communicate those competencies that are not developed with training and must be sourced through recruitment and selection. For example, most people would agree that it is difficult, if not impossible, to train new employees to persevere. Consequently, locating this competency may require special attention during recruitment and selection.


This is the first of two blogs on this topic. Check out the second here.


You can reach John at or on LinkedIn.