Competency-based recruitment

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Competency-based recruitment is a process of recruitment based on the ability of candidates to produce anecdotes about their professional experience which can be used as evidence that the candidate has a given competency. Candidates demonstrate competencies on the application form, and then in the interview, which in this case is known as a competency-based interview.

The process is intended to be fairer than other recruitment processes by clearly laying down the required competencies and then testing them in such a way that the recruiter has little discretion to favour one candidate over another; the process assumes high recruiter discretion is undesirable. As a result of its perceived fairness, the process is popular in public services. Competency-based recruitment is highly focused on the candidates' story-telling abilities as an indication of competency, and disfavours other indications of a candidate's skills and potential, such as references.

Best practices[edit]

Having established the competency profiles for groups and roles, organizations can use the competencies as the standards for assessing candidates throughout the screening and selection process as well as advertising and communicating the organization’s requirements to potential applicants.

Competencies support recruitment and selection by:

  • Providing bona fide, validated, fair and unbiased standards against which to assess applicant competencies to perform in the targeted role / job.
  • Improving the transparency of the selection process by clearly communicating the behaviours employees must display for success in the role / job.
  • Contributing to the design of a well-articulated, efficient and effective recruitment and selection processes.
  • Creating efficiencies by providing re-usable selection tools and processes (e.g., question banks for interviews and reference-checking organized by competency; template interview and reference checking guides for roles / jobs within the organization; targeted role plays, work simulations, in-basket assessments; etc.)
  • Providing explicit, clear and transparent criteria on which to give candidates feedback on their performance in the selection process (e.g., input for future learning and development; etc.)
  • Providing standards for evaluating the success of the selection process – e.g., correlating the results of the selection process with competency-based on-the-job performance.

Some of the common benchmark competency-based practices in Recruitment and Selection include:

  • Notices of job requirements – A template is developed to define how competencies will be reflected in .notices regarding the requirements of jobs to be filled. As the competency profiles are completed, sample notices are developed for the varied types of jobs/ roles. .
  • Interview and Reference Checking Guides – Template interview and reference checking guides are developed for varied types of jobs/ roles, including instructions and rating guides. These are made available to hiring managers and HR Advisors.
  • Template Interview and Reference Checking Guides – Template interview and reference checking guides are developed for roles/career streams and levels within Occupational Groups including instructions and rating guides. These are made available to hiring managers and HR Advisors.
  • Competency-based Track Record / Portfolio Reviews – Track record / portfolio reviews allow employees / applicants to document their past experiences and accomplishments that relate to the competency requirements for positions within the organization. Once completed, trained evaluators score the extent to which the required competencies are demonstrated in the written examples using standardized scoring criteria. Typically, the candidate / employee also provides references who can attest to the validity of the examples provided. Results can be used as part of the staffing process and / or for other purposes (e.g., competency gap analysis for Learning and Development; Succession Management; HR Planning).
  • Other Competency-based Assessment Methodologies – A variety of other competency-based assessment methodologies can be incorporated into the selection process, including In-basket assessments, role plays or simulations of workplace situations that the employee will encounter, multi-source input (as appropriate), etc. When designing and implementing any methodology, it is important that it be defensible (i.e., reliable, fair, valid and unbiased).
  • Training on Competency-based Selection – Managers must have the knowledge and skills to be able to apply the various competency-based assessment methodologies noted above to arrive at valid selection decisions. Likewise, employees must be able to participate effectively to provide an accurate picture of the competencies they possess. Finally, both managers and HR professionals must be able to establish selection processes that are both efficient and effective (i.e., reliable, fair, valid and unbiased). All of this requires targeted training / orientation programs to ensure that all stakeholders have the necessary skills.

Implementation stages[edit]

As competency profiles are developed for varied job groups, the following implementation stages are suggested for their use in recruitment and selection on a corporate-wide basis.

Stage 1:

  • Define the policies and decision-rules for using competencies in the recruitment and selection processes
  • Identify considerations / guidelines for including information on competencies in notices of job requirements
  • Develop sample notices of job requirements as the competency profiles become available for use.
  • Customize or build an interview / reference checking question bank organized by competencies included in the competency profiles.
  • Customize or build other competency-based tools or processes (e.g., track-record reviews) that can be used across a number of occupational groups.

Stage 2:

  • As the competency profiles are completed for the job groups, develop and implement recruitment, and selection processes consistent with policy and tools / templates defined in Stage 1. Review and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of these processes and adjust policies, procedures, templates, etc., as required.
  • Plan for and train managers and HR personnel on appropriate competency-based interviewing approaches (e.g., behavorial interviewing; situational interviewing). This training should be just-in-time – i.e., as competency profiles become available for the different job groups.
  • Plan for, design and implement an orientation / training program for employees on how to participate in a competency-based recruitment and selection as new processes are being implemented).
  • Collect data on the effectiveness of the new recruitment and selection process (e.g., correlate results of selection process with on-job or training performance results) and make adjustments to the process, as required.

See also[edit]



  • Dubois, D., & Rothwell, W. (2004). Competency-Based Human Resource Management. Davies-Black Publishing
  • Dubois, D., & Rothwell, W. (2000). The Competency Toolkit (Volumes 1 & 2). HRD Press
  • Lucia, A., & Lepsinger, R. (1999). The Art and Science of Competency Models: Pinpointing Critical Success Factors in Organizations. Pfeiffer
  • Shandler, D. (2000). Competency and the Learning Organization. Crisp Learning.
  • Spencer, L M. in Cherniss, C. and D. Goleman, eds. (2001) “The economic value of emotional intelligence competencies and EIC-based HR programs”, in The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups and Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley
  • Spencer, L., & Spencer, S. (1993). Competence at Work: Models for Superior Performance. Wiley
  • Ulrich, D. and Brockbank, W. (2005) The HR Value Proposition. Boston: Harvard Business School Press
  • Wood. R., & Payne, T. (1998). Competency-Based Recruitment and Selection. Wiley
  • Robin Kessler (2012). Competency-Based Interviews: How to Master the Tough Interview Style Used by the Fortune 500s


  • Bartram, D. (2005) The Great Eight competencies: A criterion-centric approach to validation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1185–1203
  • Catano, V., Darr, M., & Campbell, C. (2007). Performance appraisal of behaviour-based competencies: A reliable and valid procedure. Personnel Psychology, 60, 201-230
  • Cheng, M. I., &. Dainty, R. I. J. (2005). Toward a multidimensional competency-based managerial performance framework: A hybrid approach. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20, 380-396
  • Draganidis, F., & Mentzas, G. (2006). Competency-based management: A review of systems and approaches. Information Management &Computer Security, 14, 51-64
  • Homer, M. (2001). Skills and competency management. Industrial and Commercial training, 33/2, 59-62
  • Horton, S. (2000). Introduction- the competency-based movement: Its origins and impact on the public sector. The International Journal of Public Sector Management, 13, 306-318
  • Kochanski, J. T.,& Ruse, D. H. (1996). Designing a competency-based human resources organization. Human Resource Management, 35, 19-34
  • McEvoy, G., Hayton, J., Wrnick, A., Mumford, T., Hanks, S., & Blahna, M. (2005). A competency-based model for developing human resource professionals. Journal of Management Education, 29, 383-402
  • Rausch, E., Sherman, H., & Washbush, J. B. (2002). Defining and assessing competencies for competency-based, outcome-focused management development. The Journal of Management Development, 21, 184-200
  • Sanchez, J. I., &. Levine, E. L. (2009). What is (or should be) the difference between competency modeling and traditional job analysis? Human Resource Management Review, 19, 53–63
  • Schmidt, F.L., & Hunter, J.E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practice and theoretical implications of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262-274
  • Shippmann, J. S., Ash, R. A., Battista, M., Carr, L., Eyde, L. D., Hesketh, B., Kehoe, J., Pearlman, K., & Sanchez, J. I. (2000). The practice of competency modeling, Personnel Psychology, 53, 703-740.
  • Spencer, L. M. (2004). Competency Model Statistical Validation and Business Case Development, HR Technologies White Paper

External links[edit]