May 2, 2017

Using a Tailored Competency Model to Hire the Right People


Every recruiter and hiring manager knows it’s best to seek candidates who align with the company’s long-term objectives, but knowing and doing are two different things. Getting the right candidate the first time can be a challenge – and going through multiple candidates before finding the right one can be expensive.

With the right competency models in place, however, organizations can increase the accuracy of hiring decisions and cut down on hiring costs. Each organization has its own culture and recruitment needs, so it’s important to find a model that reflects the specific goals of the company.

According to Steve Hrop, vice president of organization development services for talent management and data firm Caliper, “There are three types of competency models: off-the-shelf, tailored, and customized.” As the names suggest, off-the-shelf models are pre-made, customized models are made from scratch for each company, and tailored models blend the two approaches.

Off-the-shelf competency models tend to be cheapest and quickest to implement. Customized models are more expensive and require more work, but they also deliver better results. Tailored models, in Hrop’s view, can give employers the best of both worlds.

“The advantage of the tailored approach is that it’s much quicker and less expensive to develop than a fully customized model and is of comparable quality,” Hrop says.

In a tailored competency model, internal interviews are conducted to gain insight into areas like the company’s strategic objectives and organizational culture. Then, these insights are used to select a customized set of competencies from a pre-existing. At the end, an employer has the model it needs to start making better hires.

Be Competent About Competency

Instead of hemming and hawing over custom or off-the-shelf models, many companies these days are choosing the tailored option.

“Off-the-shelf models are less valid than tailored ones because they do not align closely to an organization’s strategic objectives,” Hrop says. “Also, they have less credibility with employees and managers because of their generic wording or because those models are viewed as one-size-fits-all [models]. … As noted above, the tailored model can be developed more quickly and inexpensively than a fully customized model with no loss of validity.”

And these tailored models help not only with hiring, but also with retention.

shore“A tailored model improves the hiring process by providing the basis for creating behavioral interview guides that assess competencies important to organizational success,” Hrop says. “For existing employees, such a model provides a framework for individual development since well-defined competencies can be used to design training programs and to provide guidance for creating individual development plans.”

Want to Implement a Tailored Competency Model for Your Hiring Process?

Implementing a tailored competency model involves three steps, according to Hrop:

1. Look Inward

“Nobody knows the ins and outs of a business like its employees. Talk to executives to learn how they feel about the company and what its priorities should be. Also, ask them about trends in the industry and how they apply to the organization, and [talk to them] about the corporate culture and how it applies to talent management.”

2. Create Competency Model

“A tailored competency model lays a solid foundation for the company’s hiring initiatives. Knowing what competencies are most important for your business enables you to find and interview worthwhile candidates.”

3. Use Assessment Tools

“Assessment tools and structured interview guides should also be based on the tailored competency model so that all available resources work in tandem to find the best candidates for every open position.”

It’s important for businesses to use all the tools at their disposal to make the correct hiring decisions the first time. Recruiters and hiring managers who fail to use the right resources risk letting top talent slip through their fingers.

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Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.