Assessing Candidate Intellectual Competencies

Published on May 1st, 2022


Hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard.
And yet nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field.

Jack Welch

Part 3 of 6 Part Series on Assessing Candidate Competencies

Hiring expert Dr. Bradford Smart outlined the importance of assessing candidate core competencies in his 1999 classic, Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People.

Dr. Smart identified fifty core competencies in six key areas, including personal, interpersonal, intellectual, motivational, management and leadership competencies.

Let us examine the essential intellectual competencies to consider in evaluating your candidates.

  • Intelligence: Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. How well are your candidates learning, understanding, and absorbing new information?

  • Analysis Skills: How will you assess your candidates’ ability to analyze and solve problems? Do they know how to gather and compare data from multiple sources? Are they able to synthesize information, determine root causes and understand the relationships between various data attributes?

  • Judgment/Decision Making: Are your candidates able to both make quick decisions and take a slower, more systematic approach to complex problems? Do they demonstrate consistent logic, rationality, and objectivity in their decision-making? Can they show common sense and anticipate the consequences of their decisions?

  • Conceptual Ability: Can your candidates deal effectively with both concrete, tangible issues, as well as with abstract, conceptual matters. How will you assess their ability to handle both types of challenges?

  • Creativity: How will you assess your candidates’ ability to generate new approaches to problems? Are they able to show imagination by innovating modifications to established approaches?

  • Strategic Skills: Will your candidates recognize opportunities and threats through a comprehensive analysis of current and future trends? Do they comprehend the big picture and accurately assess your organization’s competitive strengths and vulnerabilities? Are they able to make tactical and strategic adjustments when presented with new data and information?

  • Pragmatism: Do your candidates assess the meaning of theories or beliefs and practically apply those principles to solve organizational challenges? Are they able to generate sensible, realistic, and practical solutions to problems?

  • Risk Taking: Presented with a significant risk to the business, will your candidate “bet the farm” or be able to demonstrate they take only calculated risks with generally favorable outcomes? How will you probe for this competency and objectively measure the information you gather to compare candidates?

  • Leading Edge: Does your candidate strive for the leading edge, balanced by a concern for costs? Do they benchmark “best practices” and expect team members to do the same?

  • Education: What are your requirements for candidate formal and informal education? How will you assess their commitment to continuous learning through reading, seminars, networks, and other professional organizations?

  • Experience: How much experience in the specific job is essential for a candidate to qualify for the position? How will you validate that experience in your screening and interview process?

  • Track Record: What track record of success can your candidates demonstrate? Do they have a successful career history filled with meeting commitments, or do they have a series of failures with “good excuses?”

Now you know the essential intellectual competencies to consider in evaluating your candidates.

Assessing Candidates Effectively

In screening candidates who you may want to interview and interviewing those who pass your initial screening, many organizations are plagued by two core challenges:

  • Lack of an effective assessment process: Far too often, candidate resumes are sorted into winners and losers based on one or two criteria. If the screener sees an attribute, they move the candidate to the interview pile. If not, they move them to the reject pile. The process wrongly excludes competent candidates (false negatives) and often moves unqualified candidates to the next step (false positives).

  • Screener and Interviewer bias: It is human nature to have criteria that define who you want and who you don’t want for a particular position in your company. Again, that causes companies to miss out on high-quality candidates and to move less qualified candidates through the process for consideration. It also affects diversity in the team, with consequent implications for overall company performance.

The key to hiring better candidates faster is implementing an effective assessment process that minimizes screener and interviewer subjectivity and creates a level playing field of objective evaluation.

At HireQuotient, our AI-powered assessments help you create processes that objectively measure intellectual competencies while minimizing screener and interviewer bias.

Our chatbot-powered skill assessments are built around realistic work scenarios, ensuring candidates answer structured questions based on the provided data and generate insights into each candidate’s job-specific skills and business competencies.

Learn more about how HireQuotient can help your organization assess the intellectual competencies of your candidates today. Just visit to schedule a demo today!


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