Competencies Unpacked 

The world of recruitment is full of constantly changing terminology and language that can be extremely confusing if, like most of us, you are not looking to change jobs or careers every six months.

In this blog we explore the meaning and importance of one particular word, an understanding of which is central to all primary recruitment activities, and particularly important if you are embarking upon a phase of major career transition. 

And the magic word is  “Competencies” 

So what do we mean by competencies and why is an understanding of them so important to your job search? 

Well in simple straight-forward terms recruiting organisations need to find out what you are good at and, most importantly, if your capabilities are a close match for what they are looking for in the advertised job. Competencies is the generic term used typically to describe a cluster and combination of skills, behaviours, knowledge and experiences. There are typically two different ways in which competencies are expressed in any recruitment process: 

  • Personal Competencies (what you have) - these are your distinctive personal capabilities and are best illustrated on your CV or at interview by describing the things you have done, the skills and attributes you use regularly and the success you have achieved at various stages in your career to date. If the recruitment process involves a presentation, role play or assessment centre then, in your actions and behaviours in these activities, you will be demonstrating in a direct way some of your distinctive competencies. In preparing for any career change, it becomes really important for you to clearly identify and record your specific and unique competencies, and to be able to readily articulate them when presenting yourself for any job. . 

  • Job Competencies (what the job requires to do it well)  - this is typically a list of the most important capabilities that, in the eyes of the recruiting organisation, are required for successful performance in an advertised job. Most organisations have become adept at describing the competencies they are looking for in their job related documentation, so you should look very carefully for these when first applying for a job. This is to ensure firstly that you possess the right attributes for the job and secondly so that in preparation you can practice describing how your skills, experiences and achievements match the job requirements. 

There are however some areas of caution to be noted when approaching the issue of competencies. 

Firstly, writing job competencies for advertised roles has in recent years become something of an HR cottage industry. This often results in descriptions of job competencies that can be over engineered and needlessly complex with stated competencies that are too numerous or too general or sometimes both. The challenge then for you as the job applicant is to try and hack your way through the verbal undergrowth and work out what the priority competencies are that will make the most impact and difference in the advertised job. Having identified the critical competencies, the task then is to focus on these and practice articulating your career experiences to demonstrate how you match these priority competencies. 

Secondly, most reputable organisations will have trained their front-line interviewers to ask specific interview questions to illicit good quality evidence that you possess the required job competencies. They are looking to find the closest match between your capabilities and the requirements of the job. This matching process will often determine the shortlisted candidates for the job or ultimately determine who is successful. Where there is good quality pre-information provided about the job competencies and you have prepared well ahead of an interview, it should be quite straightforward for you to answer in a way that provides the interviewer with credible evidence of your capabilities.

However quite often (perhaps too often) interview questions can be too general for you to be absolutely clear about what information the interviewer is seeking. You may therefore have to use the opportunity of a very general set of questions to turn your answer into a more specific illustration of your demonstrated competencies. That is a lot about you being alert and ensuring that however non- specific the questioning might be you can turn it to your advantage by providing specific and tangible responses. 

Finally, always make sure that you are fully prepared I.e. that you know exactly what career examples you are going to give in relation to each important job competency; definitely don’t leave this to chance or rely on responding off the top of your head. So if an interviewer asks you to illustrate a time when you have successfully led a major organisational change (a fairly typical interview question about your competencies) make sure you have lined up and rehearsed a powerful example of how you match this competency. And repeat this for every significant job competency. 

And if you need help with all of this, please do make contact with us at Brosna Consulting. We specialise in helping individuals to demonstrate their distinctive competencies at interview.