Assessing Candidate Interpersonal Competencies

Published on May 6th, 2022


You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business.

Zig Ziglar

Part 2 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.

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

  • First Impression: What impression do your candidates make the first time they interact with a team member, customer, supplier, or other key associates in your organization? Are they professional, with appropriate body language, eye contact, posture, voice quality, and attire? What standards has your organization established in these areas?

  • Liability: After assessing your candidate’s first impression, how do you assess how well team members and clients will like them? Do they put people at ease, or make them feel on edge? How do they build and maintain trusting relationships? Are they confident, or arrogant? How will you assess their behavior when they are frustrated, to ensure they always treat people with respect?

  • Listening: Here is an important competency to assess - how well does your candidate listen? Do they tune in to other people's opinions, feelings, and needs? Are they aware of the impact of their behavior on others? What strategies do you expect them to demonstrate to ensure they take in other people’s points of view?

  • Customer Focus: How do your candidates meet internal and external customer needs? What do they do to build strong relationships with customers? What do they do to be seen as visible and accessible by customers?

  • Team Player: Of course, we hope every candidate will be a good team member, so we need to quickly assess if they will build walls between team members, or help tear those walls down. Are they able to lead peers toward what is best for the company? Are they simply a “yes person”, or a collaborative team member striving for the best possible solutions to challenges?

  • Assertiveness: Here’s a tough one … how assertive are your candidates and how assertive does your organization expect them to be? Are they able to take forceful stands on important issues without being excessively abrasive, or do they just surrender at the first sign of resistance?

  • Verbal Communication: How do your candidates communicate one to one, in small groups, and when speaking publicly? Are they consistently quick on their feet, with clear thoughts that they articulate compellingly through effective command of the language?

  • Written Communication: Here’s a tough competency to assess. You will be looking for evidence that proves your candidate knows how to get things done in your organization by building informal networks of trusted colleagues. You will also be looking for evidence that they don’t always have a “hidden agenda”, or have earned a reputation as a self-serving “back-stabber.”

  • Negotiation: How well do your candidates negotiate? Do they have the ability to reframe negotiations as win/win, or are they always locked into zero-sum games? Can they continue to push for the right outcomes when negotiations get tense with customers, suppliers, or internal partners?

  • Persuasion: How powerful are your candidates at persuading others to adopt their point of view? Do they have the charisma to sell their vision with quiet credibility? Those are the right candidates to add to any team!

These are essential interpersonal competencies to consider in evaluating your candidates.

Assessing Candidates Effectively

When screening candidates for interviews, and when interviewing those who pass the 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 highly capable 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 move less qualified candidates through the process. 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 personal competencies while minimizing screener and interviewer bias.

Our chatbot-powered skill assessments are built around realistic work scenarios, ensuring candidates answer structured questions that enable us to generate insights into each candidate’s job-specific skills and business competencies.

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


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