Assessing Candidate Personal Competencies

Published on May 4th, 2022


The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable
sources of competitive advantage since very few organizations are very good at it.

Peter Drucker

Part 1 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 begin by examining the essential personal competencies you may want to consider in evaluating your candidates.

  • Integrity: There is no better place to start than assessing a candidate’s integrity - the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. The challenge is how to evaluate if a candidate possesses this quality. Do they always remain consistent in what they say and do, and how they behave toward others? Do they always exhibit integrity, or is it sometimes a grey area? Can you count on them to maintain secrecy and put your organization’s interests above themselves, or do they sometimes “play games” with facts to win a point?

  • Initiative: Is your candidate an action-oriented “doer” who achieves results despite a lack of clear direction, or someone who waits until they are told what to do, and blames the organization for not providing what was needed to get the job done? Do they seek out and seize opportunities and go beyond what's expected, or do they only do what they are instructed to do? Who do you want on your team?

  • Planning: How well do your candidates plan, organize, schedule, and resource their projects? Are they able to focus on key priorities and effectively juggle multiple competing priorities? Can they juggle their personal needs while ensuring that work deadlines are met with the appropriate attention to detail?

  • Excellence: What performance standards do your candidates set for themselves and their co-workers? Are they conscientious, with a high sense of responsibility, or do they routinely accept mediocrity? You will want to ensure your candidates have a deep personal commitment to high-quality results.

  • Independence: Although you will expect most, if not all, of your candidates to work well together as members of various teams, you will also want to assess their ability to work independently. This personal characteristic shows up in their willingness to take an independent stand and not always be swayed by the opinions of the last person they spoke to.

  • Stress Management: The pressure to perform touches every person in every organization, as the company demands you “make your numbers,” your customers demand you “meet and exceed your promises,” and your boss demands you deliver “on time and under budget.” You will want your candidates to demonstrate that they can remain calm and continue to perform under pressure.

  • Self-Awareness: Are your candidates aware of their behavior and the impact they have on other team members? You will want candidates to recognize their strengths, and are mindful of their weak points and areas for improvement. Are they able to identify their own “blind spots” and accept feedback without becoming defensive or blaming others for their failures?

  • Adaptability: How well do your candidates adapt to changing priorities and requirements? Can they handle new needs and adjust quickly to evolving preferences, and can they cope effectively with increased complexity?

Now you know the essential personal competencies you may want to consider in evaluating your candidates. But, how do you effectively assess these vital attributes?

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 proceeds 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 to implement an effective assessment process that minimizes screener and interviewer subjectivity, and creates a level playing field through 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 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 personal competencies of your candidates today. Just visit to schedule a demo today!


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