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These Companies Assessed for Soft Skills…and Saw Results

Source | | LUCY ADAMS

A lot of companies use competency-based interviewing techniques to choose the best applicant. As I’m sure you know, in the 1980s and 1990s HR departments went through agonies breaking down every job into competencies so people could be interviewed against them. There’s no doubt this led to a higher degree of success in recruiting competent people, but there were (and still are) two main problems with them.

  • They can be manipulated by applicants who are well practiced in the process.
  • More importantly, they’re not suitable for discovering what a candidate loves doing and is truly talented at. 

Clearly skills and competencies can’t be ignored, especially in fields in which professional qualifications are essential. But there’s an increasing, and exciting, trend towards assessment processes that enable us to get to know the applicants as people, discover their passions, feel what kind of energy they have, and learn what they’re great at. Then we can work out how to use those talents rather than trying to shoe-horn employees into jobs in which they’re good at seven out of the 10 criteria we’re assessing them against.

Cloning Employees

Reward consultancy organization NextJump has a great technique for doing this. It spent years examining which of its employees it would clone if it could, so it could structure their needs around a set of attributes rather than competencies.

NextJump eventually found its surest indicator of success was having a sense of humility. The ability to be open to other people’s ideas was so important to it that it developed a 45-minute interview dedicated solely to finding out the applicant’s propensity for humility, and anyone who didn’t measure up wasn’t hired. It also looked at three other areas: gratefulness vs. entitlement, responsibility for one’s own actions rather than feeling like a victim of circumstance, and a willingness to invest in doing things outside of one’s comfort zone rather than “knowing it all.” Once it got this right, its staff turnover fell from 40% to 1%.

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