Competency Based Hiring: Critical Factors I Learned From Hindsight

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Guest Post by: Jack Baxter

My management career got started when I was promoted from a sales position to that of a Regional Manager covering 5 or 6 states for a laboratory equipment company in the medical device industry. Having never managed a group of salespersons, my boss thought it would be appropriate to send me to an American Management Association seminar. I spent the better part of a week learning the ins and outs of managing a sales force; from recruiting to hiring to managing them.

Competency Based HiringOutdated Interviewing

In those days interviewing individuals for a company position was pretty much the same from industry to industry. The interview theme was broken down to the three parts:

  1. Can they do the job?
  2. Will they do the job?
  3. Do they fit in?

“Can they do the job” was based on the resume. We looked at the individual experience of the candidate and made a decision based on their experience in the industry, their rolodex, who they knew in the industry and the amount of sales they had made in the previous years.

“Will they do the job” came from the interview process, usually performed by the manager and one of the experienced sales individuals or an operations person. Of course there was no scripted interview. We asked questions that we thought appropriate at the time using the resume to form the basis for our questions.

To answer the question, “Do they fit in”, we would ask a third person on the staff, usually one of the technicians, since the salesperson and the technician worked closely together to take him for coffee and talk with him. If the technician felt a type of report with the candidate and he had past the two previous questions we would hire the person and pass him/her off to the technician to spend a week or two in the field. The candidate would shadow the technician until formal product training could be set up at the corporate office.

When I left the medical device industry my employer at the time set up period of time that I could have access to an “outsourcing” center. This type of interview process was taught at the various seminars during my time at the center. As far as I know this type of hiring process went on for years.

Costly Mistakes We Missed

In subsequent management positions it became painfully clear that this type of interviewing process did little to measure the competency of an individual prior to hiring them. In some instances this became a costly mistake. There was no guarantee that hiring a top sales person from a competitor’s company meant instant increase in revenues for the company. In fact, in my own experience some individuals who looked great on paper (resume) fell flat when compared to other sales individuals in the same office.

Hindsight being 20/20 I missed some, what I now know as, critical factors in the interview process. Yes, I knew what skills and experience were required; they did seem to fit in with the company culture, call it a gut feeling. However, I failed to define the core competencies and expectations for the individual I was about to hire. I am not making excuses, but it must have occurred to me that the individual should know what was expected since he/she had been in the same environment for years before they came to me.

Adopting Competency Based Hiring

Certainly, we had job descriptions with what the position requires in terms of knowledge and experience. This type of “position specifications” is required by HR for their documentation. What I had failed to do was to define and examine the patterns of behavior that distinguished high performers from others in the same job. It is essential to identify the behaviors that are required to perform a job at optimum levels. The competency must align with the job description.

One advantage of using the same competencies in each interview allows the interviewer to make fair observations from one candidate to another. This type of questioning for competency will provide a true sense of the individual’s ability.

There is an old saying, “How you hire determines who you hire”.

Next time I will talk about how you determine the type of questions you ask to illicit information regarding past and present behavior.


Creative Commons – Photo Credit

Employee Feedback is Best Delivered Like Sunshine: Frequent Small Bursts

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in 4 Generations at Work, VPI Blog

Employee FeedbackGuest Blog by: Ilana Herring reports that a sensible amount of sun exposure on a frequent basis is one way to get the Vitamin D that your body needs. I personally aim to get about 20 minutes daily of sunshine, while being careful not to get a sunburn. Turns out, human resource experts advise that frequent, short doses of employee feedback are best delivered similar to a natural dose of Vitamin D. People bask in sunshine, just like they do with recognition. We are thirsty for feedback. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains that when we don’t get feedback, we ask ourselves: “Why am I not getting feedback? Tell me you love me! Tell me it sucks! Just tell me something so I know you remember that I work here!” If doing something wrong, employees want real-time feedback, not delayed criticism 11 months later, clouded in the darkness of a hierarchical performance review. Employees want to know they are seen and heard.

How do you give feedback? 360-degree feedback is a popular type of review for leaders and directors. The well-known employee engagement advocate, Dr. Larry Bienati, recommends that the first 360-degree assessment take place after about one year on the job. Leaders and the employee can use the 360-degree feedback to develop action plans for the year ahead. Dr. Bienati suggests a follow-up one year later, ideally with the same population of respondents. He also advises tailoring the employee feedback to elicit key measures and specific actions that are calibrated to success. Dr Bienati notes the importance of thanking the participants for their valuable feedback and support of the one being assessed. It is noteworthy that the 360-review can often have 20 or more data points, it’s an arduous process and it’s not likely possible to conduct a 360 for every member of the organization.

The Best Managers Provide Feedback Regularly

In order to create structure for feedback, organizational development experts suggest an annual review. VPI Strategies recommends not limiting yourself to just an annual review. Provide employee feedback regularly. According to Gallup Research, “Our studies show that the best managers around the world provide feedback regularly. Expectations are set and continually clarified through ongoing performance feedback and recognition.” The Gallup Business Journal published: “What Your Employees Need to Know: They probably don’t know how they’re performing. Feedback and recognition are among the lowest rated workplace elements.”

“Gallup researchers conducted the first assessment of employee engagement worldwide using the Q12, Gallup’s 12-item assessment of engagement. Decades of research has proven that these items distinguish the most productive and successful workplaces from the rest. More than 47,000 employed respondents in 116 countries, from Canada to Qatar, were asked to respond to these 12 items.

In most global regions, two items were the most poorly rated among the 12: “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

VPI Strategies recommends the use of Q12 measurement device or other engagement assessments. It is part of our Strength Based Leadership curriculum. Research and anecdotal evidence support our belief in the Q12 measurement device. When managers don’t provide workers with regular, individualized feedback, they are depriving them of the sunshine to grow and improve their work performance. Gallup notes that: “Frontline managers may also be overlooking opportunities to talk with their employees about what they need to remain engaged and productive at work.”

Help Your People Get an A

Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge coauthored: Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A” When asked about why he wrote the book, Garry Ridge answered:

“When I first heard Ken talk about giving his final exam at the beginning of the course and then teaching students the answers so they could get an A, it blew me away. Why don’t we do that in business? So that’s exactly what I did at WD-40 Company when we set up our ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A’ performance management system. Has it made a difference? You’d better believe it. Ever since we began the system, our company’s annual sales have more than tripled, from $100 million to more than $339 million. And we’ve accomplished this feat while making the company a great place to work.”

Executives know talent management is important. But do they know what “helping their employees get an A” looks like in their organization? It’s no secret that most performance management systems don’t do what they intended to do – enhance performance. Now is the time to be thinking about an organization’s next generation’s performance management system. Train managers to use the systems in place, but train them to also maximize the smaller, more frequent opportunities to give employees feedback. We know that Millennials are looking for that constant feedback because they want to be keeping score, always learning, always growing. Encourage management to know what works best for their teams and to make feedback apart of the constant flow of communication.

Don’t Abolish the Annual Review

Whether or not to abolish the annual review is a hot topic amongst bloggers. I do not advise abolishing the annual review, but suggest that feedback should not be contained to only the annual review. Waiting to give feedback only once a year deprives your employees of their needed dosage of Vitamin D. Humans and organizations alike need sunshine. Employees who don’t get as much feedback as they desire often suffer and ask themselves ‘How am I’m doing?’ We need regular feedback to be our be our best self at work.

Organizations are smart to create structure like annual performance reviews and 360-degree feedback. We would love to get to a point where companies give their employees feedback on a continual basis. At VPI Strategies, we recommend an annual review plus two more discussions per year. We often call these two discussions “performance coaching”. We encourage you to take an honest look at your performance system and consider how a structured performance discussion could complement the annual review until we are all really comfortable with the giving and receiving of feedback. Until we learn to instinctively take the opportunity to provide feedback when we have the opportunity. Until it is part of our work and lifestyle, not an isolated event. When someone does something good we want to tell him or her right then and there. When someone does something wrong, we also want to say it right then and there. Of course, deliver it in a tone that does not make people feel bad for an action they took. Prompt frequent dosages of feedback can keep our employees, our organizations, and ourselves healthy. Just like taking our vitamins, let’s commit to healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our organizations. Let’s model feedback today and help the next generation grow up learning from our positive example.

Bottom Line

Employees need feedback. There are a lot of vehicles for how you can get and give feedback, but ultimately they are looking at you to make a commitment to getting and providing feedback. Get it regularly. Give it regularly. Just like getting your Vitamin D.

Do Wellness and Leadership Mix?

Written by Miki Jo Resto on . Posted in VPI Blog

As Managers, Leaders and Entrepreneurs we sometimes think about the needs of our people and employees more often than we think about our own needs.

We think about others’ capabilities to produce and ability to get along with the team. We also think about their ability to cope with their responsibilities, their ability to deal with stress, and grow. We may even think about an employee’s longevity. When we term this with an organizational “name” we call it Talent Management.

Talent Management and Health are not all that different.

When we turn these same questions back toward ourselves, the name we give it changes to Personal Health. Just for the moment, let’s put thoughts about our employees to the side. Take a moment and think about yourself as a Leader. Does your own ability to cope and grow right now make you feel stimulated, excited, and alive? Or, do you feel slightly tired and maybe you need to recharge? You might even feel really tired or nothing at all.

wellness and leadership Any of these – or whatever the feeling may be – is a reflection of not only your energy level but also your wellbeing, i.e. health. While this isn’t Earth shattering information, it can be a good reminder that the mind-body senses are feeding you information about your current state-of-being and health at any given moment.

What does it matter?

After coaching many corporate leaders and entrepreneurs over the last couple of decades, I’ve noticed that most of them (men and women) hold a belief that to be successful, to lead well, and produce much they have to give up their health. Of course, they don’t necessarily think of it in this very direct way. The idea takes the form of some of these statements I hear frequently.

“I travel a lot, so I have a hard time eating well.”

“I won’t be able to exercise much until this ________ is done.”

“I intended to start _______, once that project was over, but of course something came up right behind it.”

“I can’t think about it now, because ______.”

In other words, I’ll work on it later. This is how you lose your health, little by little, or perhaps suddenly and all at once. These types of messages tell the body and mind that You are not as important as work, employees, clients, bosses or the Board – or whatever It may be. The message your mind-body learns is that you only deserve to feel vital and energized for short periods of time, like in between work steps and career leaps. The Self, called You, learns that health is recreation and not a resource. Recreation happens when work is done. Leaders are rarely finished with work.

Understand that Health is a resource.

Health is a concept for the high level functionality of your body, brain, mental and emotional capacities. When someone is functioning highly and astutely on all of these levels, health has a second name. Vitality.  When it all comes together, it’s the experience of feeling truly alive with all of your senses and capacities. All systems are a “Go”.

Vitality is the highest human state when your whole body, brain, mental and emotional capacities are ready and willing to serve you. It’s the highest human state giving you immediate access to draw on all of your talents, capabilities, knowledge, energy, wisdom, patience, resiliency, hope – all necessary qualities – to navigate, lead and achieve.

When we’re talking about Talent Management and Personal Health, they intersect at the point where both are growing, together. Science calls that a symbiotic relationship. Organizations receive industry awards for it, called “Great Place to Work”, and employees just call it a “joy to go to work”.

A healthy business with healthy leaders has deep resources to increase powerful impact in the community, markets and the globe.


Read the rest of Miki Jo’s Talent Management blog on ManagingAmericans.

Miki Jo Resto, VPI’s Vice President and Senior Consultant, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Miki Jo contributes monthly to the Human Resources Blog.

Resource List for Top Ten Generational Gems for the Multiple Generations Workplace

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in 4 Generations at Work, VPI Blog

Sherri Petro delivered another excellent webinar! Top Ten Generational Gems for the Multiple Generations Workplace. If you missed it, make sure to watch the recording and check out the slides that are available.

What was learned?

  • “How to get all generations of volunteers to work together.”
  • “The reminder that we tend to look through our own lens- it’s too easy to do and all the examples she gave were very insightful for use as I deal with the younger generations.”
  • “Characteristics of Gen X & Gen Y. Tips on supervising different generations.”
  • “The differences between generations needs/expectations and how to bridge those if you a a supervisor.”

And much more!

Click here or on the image below to access Sherri’s Generational Gems Resource List

generational gems resource list image

Looking for Great Talent?

Written by Miki Jo Resto on . Posted in VPI Blog

Looking for Great TalentHave you ever hired someone who seemed perfect for the job but then wasn’t? Have you every tried to hire the “best person for the job” and then they turned down the offer?

Why can it be so difficult to find really good talent sometimes? And by “really good”, I mean the right fit for the job and company culture.

The Selection Process

There are a number of elements that need to work together well (but need not be perfect) to hire great people. The high level basics are called:

  • Process
  • Recruitment
  • Selection & Assessment
  • Offer Process
  • Pre-Employment Checks
  • On-Boarding

Sometimes these steps are called by different names. The reality is they flow together and are part of one hiring process continuum. That’s why the first is Process. It’s the structure ensuring that all moving parts are increasing the opportunity to hire the right fit. Conversely, avoiding low quality process – which just means a process that’s getting in the way – will help avoid mistakes that lead to the wrong hire.

The Recruiter

Right now, let’s say your overall hiring process is sound and not getting in the way. Where, then, does hiring the right person start? This discussion begins with recruitment. Actually, it begins with the Recruiter.

A skilled Recruiter intentionally and systematically uses the recruitment and hiring process to create opportunities in these areas (think of these as areas of recruiter competency).

  • Relationship
  • Credibility
  • Competence
  • Closing

Many recruiting articles found in online blogs focus on the hiring process. Taking that to the next level, the discussion is now about skills and competencies of the Recruiter. Naturally, recruiter competence highly impacts the ability to hire the right fit for the job and the company culture.

Depending on the size of the company the person acting as the Recruiter may be an HR Generalist, the company Owner, the Hiring Manager, an external agency, or an internal Recruiter. However, even though one person is acting as the Recruiter, every person in the hiring process must be recruiting to hire great talent.

Let me say that a different way. To hire the right fit – that is great talent as defined by the hiring manager – every person that all candidates come into contact with must understand their part in the process and how to leverage their conversations to recruit.

In this way, recruiting competencies is important for everyone in a selection process to understand.

Is the Recruiter similar to a sales person? There is a selling element but it’s really more of a promotional element that educates and builds a candidate’s desire for the job. This is necessary so candidates will volunteer to go through an, often times, stringent selection process. This isn’t fun for the candidate! (Candidates are not “professional candidates”, so the whole selection and hiring process can be somewhat discomforting or painful for anyone.) Though there is an element of this, recruiting is not selling.

Read the rest of Miki Jo’s Talent Management blog on ManagingAmericans.

Miki Jo Resto, VPI’s Vice President and Senior Consultant, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Miki Jo contributes monthly to the Human Resources Blog.