Life at Deloitte

Competencies Work at Job Interviews

A study in 1960 drew attention to this question. It was the year when US government experienced problems in shortlisting candidates for open positions in diplomatic posts overseas. A modern age diplomat is expected to be up to the plate in areas including politics, economics, American History and the like. Yet it was seen that success in tests measuring aptitude in these areas is not a reliable precursor of diplomats’ future success in their posts.

So, what makes or breaks the professional success of the diplomats then? And what sort of indicators can the assessors rely on when making the right decisions?

The researchers formed two sample groups among the diplomats, one for those nail it and one for those who were rather mediocre in terms of their performance. The scientific comparison revealed a very interesting finding: what differentiated the two groups were actually not academic qualities. Attributes such as a quick ability to grasp the nitty-gritty of the political relationship network, intercultural sensibility, and positive inclinations towards others - which altogether can be called COMPETENCIES – were some of the characteristics of the individuals who managed to succeed.

In the 1980s, the study was extrapolated to managerial positions in business life. 1990s saw a hike in the popularity of the concept of competencies within the business context. As per a study carried out in 1996 by the American Compensation Association, 80% of the 426 organizations that took part in the study said they adopted competency-based practices. Nowadays, competency based practices are integrated with other human resources implementations and are increasingly in use.

Can success at work and in life be measured by conventional aptitude tests?

All individual attributes that are observable and measurable, - including attitudes, values, personal traits, motives, our knowledge, mental and behavioural abilites - which altogether differentiate the mediocre and the superior performer can be taken within this context.

Competencies are the personal attributes that drive success.

For example, for positions that require problem solving, analytical and conceptual thinking are of essence ; whereas positions that involve managerial responsibilities would need teamwork, ability to help others grow, giving instructions ; and for positions that necessitate a motivation for success; we see success motivation, quality and a concern for order leading the list of relevant competencies.

So what is Competency?

It is needless to say that different jobs in different organizations require different set of competencies that drive superior performance. Here is the good news: many companies do actually share a list of the expected competencies -maybe not labeled as such- that they deem relevant for their line of work on their corporate website, by way of various links and feeds.  Therefore, it is always a good idea to refer to the company website to gain an understanding of the competencies they focus on prior to a job interview.

Lets look at an auditor position. An auditor spends her time within various teams at different customer offices as per the nature of the job.  So is it correct to say that ability to do team work is a prerequisite for an auditor? The answer is a definite yes. To be successful, an auditor needs to refrain from doing her work in isolation or in a competitive manner. She will be successful to the extent that she achieves teamwork and cooperation. An auditor will enhance personal and team success as she manages to properly communicate information with the group, share expectations positively, and ensure empowerment through encouragement of team members.

Important Competencies for Job Interviews

The best way to present a competency is to share a prior experience with the assessor that helps portray an achievement through use of a specific competency. The assessor is in a position to set aside the story itself and focus on the level of the competency revealed. In this respect, new graduates can review their achievements in their internship experiences as well as academic and social activities to see what sort of information they can derive to share in such interviews.

Case studies are activities that allow direct presentation of the required competencies.  It is important to successfully solve to the presented case through individual or teamwork. Even more important however is to present the relevant competency; be it analytical approach, teamwork, concern for order or some other competency.  The case studies themselves are designed to allow presentation of the essential relevant competencies.

Organizations can also use specificly designed questionnaires, tests and assessment centers, as they deem necessary to assess the competency level of the candidates in question.

How to present the competencies?

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