Competency based interviews

“Competency” is a concept linking three parameters – Knowledge, Skills and Attitude. Competency-based interviews (also called structured interviews) are interviews where each question is designed to test one or more specific skills. For example, the interviewers may want to test the candidate’s ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to provide an example of a situation where he worked under pressure.

How are competency-based interviews different?

  • Normal interviews (also called unstructured interviews) are essentially a conversation where the interviewers ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for but without any specific aim in mind other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual. Questions are fairly random and can sometimes be quite open. For example, a question such as “What can you offer our company?” is meant to gather general information about you but does not test any specific skill or competency. In an unstructured interview, the candidate is judged on the general impression that he/she leaves; the process is, therefore, likely to be more subjective.
  • Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate’s behaviour or skills.

Psychometric Assessment

Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style. Psychometric tests are designed to measure candidates’ suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive abilities).

Why consider psychometric assessment:

  • The cost of a bad hire in South Africa is estimated at 5 times the annual salary of the employee
  • 36% of organisations state that a bad hire negatively impacts employee engagement and culture
  • R10bn lost in terms of productivity costs due to labour unrest in South Africa in 2014

Skills Audit

The aim of a skills audit is to identify the existing set of skills within the organisation and the skills and knowledge the organisation will need in the future. Often, what employees may have to offer can lay hidden because organisations simply do not know how to access or harness it. Skills audits are often undertaken at times when an organisation needs to restructure its business or refocus its strategy and direction. For example, technological developments may mean that certain skills are no longer needed but new ones will be required. Similarly, a decision to expand by embarking on a new line of business will also call for new areas of expertise.

Skills audits should not be seen as a once off exercise but rather as an ongoing process which is centrally placed within an organisation’s training and development and talent management functions. It is important to understand that there is little value in undertaking a skills audit without first thinking about why it is being undertaken, how it will be conducted and how the results will be used. It is also vital to consider how the skills audit relates to work already carried out in the context of annual performance appraisals and training needs analysis, so as to avoid any duplication of effort.

Skills audits can enable managers to:

  • gain a clear understanding of employees’ skills and abilities
  • take advantage of previously unidentified skills in the workforce
  • redeploy employees to roles where they are better placed to use their full range of skills
  • assign the right people to the right projects
  • identify any skill gaps or areas of strength and weakness within the organisation
  • demonstrate commitment to the job satisfaction and career development of employees
  • plan for more effective recruitment and development activities.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Research shows that a committed and engaged workforce has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. But the latest findings indicate that on average less than 30% of all employees globally are engaged. This means that for every R1 million spent on remuneration, roughly R700,000 is unproductively employed or wasted.

Figures like these seem to explain why management nowadays like to refer to their employees as a ‘strategic resource’ or ‘competitive advantage’. However, to capitalise on your employees as a strategic resource, you have to know what drives and motivates them – in essence, where to start and where to focus if you want to enable them to perform at optimum levels.

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