Competency Based Recruitment – Boyatzis

What is competency based recruitment?

Competency based recruitment helps savvy recruitment managers identify the best candidates for a position. These managers don’t just rely on candidates’ qualifications and job experience to help them make selection decisions. They know that an applicant has to have the right kinds of workplace behaviors to do the job well.

competency based recruitment

Richard Boyatzis and the birth of competency based recruitment

The use of “competencies” took off in the 1980s when Richard Boyatzis published “The Competent Manager: A Model For Effective Performance”. In this book he encouraged human resources officers to look at the characteristics of a person that made them effective for doing their job. It is mainly due to Boyatzis’s work that most professional recruitment agencies and larger companies now use competency based recruiting. They do this through behavioral based interviewing: by asking how a person acted in certain situations they can understand more about their character and their competencies to do a job.

Grouping the compentencies

What are the competencies that Boyatzis identified? In his book he identified 21 competencies which he then sorted into 6 groups or clusters. These clusters grouped together competencies that he believed superior performers processed. For instance, in the leadership cluster he had four competencies; self-confidence, oral presentations, logical thought and conceptualization. He called the other clusters the goal and action management cluster, the human resources cluster, the directing subordinate cluster, the focus on others cluster and the specialized knowledge cluster.

Although Boyatzis’s work formed the backbone of competency based recruitment, many firms have simplified his ideas to make the easier to use. It is important to remember that different professions and levels of management need different competencies. Not only that, firms also vary on which competencies they feel are the most important.

Does it work?

A question people often ask about competency based recruitment is “Does it work?” . Most recruitment professionals agree that it does, or at least it works better than the alternatives. Often the alternative to competency based recruitment is an informal unstructured chat. This can help the recruiter know if they like the person, but it does really let them know if they will do the job well.

Some problems

One big problem with competency based recruitment is the practice of basing competencies on people who have been successful up to now. We all know the business environment is always changing, this means that many new skills and characteristics might be needed to do a job well. Unfortunately, many companies fail to review and update competencies. Another problem is identifying the wrong competencies. In this situation a firm might have correctly identified the better performers, but fail to identify what characteristics make them better. Cloning is another problem that occurs in many firms. This happens when the firm correctly identifies high performance characteristics and then only employs people that fit these exact characteristics. The result is that there is very little diversity in the company, and a diverse workforce is often a more creative and adaptable workforce.

Generally, however, competency based recruitment does help companies recruit and keep the kinds of people who will fit into the company culture and help the organization achieve its goals. Until a better method of recruiting comes along competencies will continue to be the dominant influence in recruiting practice.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *