Are competence based interviews missing the best candidates
Is the drive for consistency and ‘fairness’ leading employers that use competence based interviews, missing the best candidates. Talking to an old friend today I had an interesting insight into the effectiveness of competency based interviews.
The individual concerned is going for a mid level management post with a major international retailer as a duty shift manager. This is a significant drop in responsibility from what she has been used to and almost a 50% income drop. On top of that it is in a sector she has not worked in before. But the company, location, roles etc is right for her. The role will allow her to perform at work, have an income she can live ok on and provide a reasonable work-life balance, something she is missing at the moment.
After accepting her CV they sent her a copy of the job description and role profile. It also stated the “competencies” it was looking to recruit to. Unfortunately the statements gave some description but no range or scope of the competence.
The following day a telephone interview was scheduled.
During the interview she was asked about her experiences etc, and the interviewer realised that the individual was not a perfect “natural fit” but has significant skills that could benefit the organisation. Then they came to the competency questions.
As the document did not contain any real descriptions of competency statements and definitions this was left for her to work with common sense meanings of the statements. For example “commercial acumen”. My friend has run her own budgets ranging from £50k-£1.3M. So in her examples of evidence of commercial acumen she cited budget decisions, budget management etc – when the client was looking for commercial awareness as a function of customer service. This unfortunately she was told in the feedback after the event. You get want you focus on – is this a missed opportunity by the recruiter, as they have now lost this candidate.
So this got me thinking, how many other employers use definitions which mean a lot internally, but to an experienced professional could well mean something else?
Is this a missed opportunity?
In the current climate where a lot of very experienced people have lost their jobs they will be open to different experiences, and for many that may mean dropping a level or two in responsibilities and salary just to be considered in a different sector. What are the costs to the employer? What if they could have employed a better quality employee, but they failed to recognise competence because the definitions were not common or clear?
This person was also disappointed in that the senior experience she had was almost treated as a negative, with the interviewer wondering what the motives were for the application to lower level roles.
Frames of reference
We tend to recruit in our own image, and if we are in a good position we may find it difficult to understand why someone may want to apply for a job in which they are “over qualified”. So what? It seems that this creates more questions and doubt in the recruiters mind than someone that is stretching them self for the role and not really ready or right – but they appear ambitious. Ambition is good, but not essential for all roles.
I remember a few years ago when I worked in the engineering world, a team leader was offered promotion to manager. Better pay, more holiday, every thing was better… with one exception. His team leader job was a 4.5 day week, the new manager post was less hours but 5 days a week.
Now this individual was motivated by the fact every Friday lunchtime he and his wife hooked up their caravan and went away for the weekend… every weekend.
This promotion would put a stop to that. Unfortunately the management did not realise this and when he asked if there was any flexibility with the hours, he was told in no uncertain terms no. That was a shame as her rejected the offer of the promotion. He would have been great in the role – both for the people he would have been managing and for the business. Why they would not have flexed was beyond me at the time and of course now.
He had talent and the management did not make the most of the talent available to them. It was their loss not his – even 10 years later he is still in the same role having his long weekends.
So when recruiting are employers linked too much to competencies that are too rigid and not having universal definitions and as a result they may well be missing some of the best talent.
Are competency based interview techniques based on frames of reference that candidates are not aware of as a result are we recruiting the best people for our organisations?
At a time when employers can employ experience and real competency for lower than expected salaries are many recruiters missing the opportunity of getting fantastic experience, performance and people for their organisations?
What examples do you have of talent being missed due to policy/ procedure?