Competency-Based Assessment and Selection

Use interviews, assessment centers, 360° feedback surveys, and/or tests to determine a person’s competencies and how those competencies match up to the competency requirements of a job.

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 Competency Based Assessment and Selection

People have unique ways of viewing and dealing with life situations

As a result, they develop preferred ways of operating. Because of these preferences, they develop particular abilities and become competent in their use. Some of these preferences, abilities and competencies are significant in predicting job success. People do – in the course of describing experiences and accomplishments – offer sufficient information to adequately discern their preferences, abilities and competencies.

Behavioral Event Interviews

The underlying principal of the BEI method is that the best predictor of what people will do is what they have done in the most similar, critical experiences in their lives. The BEI asks interviewees to identify the most critical situations they have encountered in their jobs or lives and describe these situations in some narrative detail: what led up to the situation; who was involved in it; what the interviewee thought about, felt, and wanted to accomplish in dealing with the situation; what he or she actually did; and the outcome of the incident.

Features of a BEI

  • It is a structured and focused probe strategy
  • Designed to illicit critical job experiences
  • Focuses on job requirements and job/candidate match
  • Investigative – not reflective
  • Allows the collection of actual performance data rather than what someone might do in a similar situation
  • Deters interviewees drawing their own conclusions about what it might take to do a job
  • Presses for actual behaviors – thoughts and actions


  • Provide specific, high-quality behavioral data describing what superior performers do to achieve superior results
  • Surface non-obvious effective behaviors that job incumbents and their bosses may be unaware of or unable to articulate
  • Provide strong evidence for a competency model’s validity – evidence that is especially important if the model will be used for external selection
  • Provide excellent case material that can be adapted for use in developing training materials

Structured Event Interviews

The Structured Event Interview is a simplified type of Behavioral Event Interview developed by Workitect to provide many of the benefits of Behavioral Event Interview, while significantly reducing the time and cost required to conduct and analyze the interview. This interview takes about one hour to conduct and focuses on three accomplishments, each of which is related to performance of a different main responsibility. The protocol includes both “event” questions and specified follow-up questions that guide the interviewer through the process of probing each accomplishment.

Competency Interview Guides

Interview Guides assist in the behavioral interviewing process. They provide specific questions and probes for the behaviors of each of the 35 competencies in Workitect’s competency library. In addition, positive and negative behavioral indicators are listed that help the interviewer evaluate the candidate’s responses. While the process described is designed for multiple interviewers seeing each candidate, it can be completed with only one interviewer. Each Guide can be purchased separately to correspond to the competencies in a competency model. Learn more

360° Feedback Process

Workitect’s customizable 140-item instrument and report provides clear, concise feedback from direct reports, peers, internal customers and supervisors along with the participant's self-assessment. The participant receives feedback on the degree to which he/she has been observed demonstrating the 35 competencies in Workitect’s competency dictionary. Learn more

Interviewing for Competencies Workshop

This workshop teaches participants to effectively use a competency-based process to conduct a structured behavioral interview to assess an individual's competencies. Learn more

Other Assessment Methods

Tests, assessment center simulations, proficiency tests, review of performance appraisal reports, and superior, peer, and subordinate ratings (360 feedback, competency assessment surveys).

Competency Assessment Surveys

If the competency model includes behavioral indicators, a competency assessment survey can be developed based on three to seven behavioral indicators per competency. Typically, there are four or five items per competency. The items may be grouped by competency or presented in random order. Rating scales may be based on various dimensions.   See table.

Selecting for Competencies versus Developing Competencies

Some competencies in every model are harder to develop than others. These harder-to-develop competencies should be the criteria for selection or career pathing to a job, rather than the criteria for training (unless the competencies are so rare as to preclude their use as criteria for selection). In general, competencies at the motive or trait level (e.g., Initiative) are more difficult to develop than competencies that resemble skills (e.g., Persuasive Communications); the latter might best be developed through a combination of training and on-the-job experience.

This page is part of an actual model completed for a Project Manager position. It summarizes recommendations regarding selecting for or developing the competencies in the position. Seven of the competencies are recommended as selection criteria, because either they are hard to develop from zero or they can be developed only if there is a minimum level of the competency. These fall into the "Select for" column. Six competencies (in the "Train" column) are recommended as training criteria, since they are more developable and, therefore, less critical than the others in selection.

Ideally, all the competencies in the model should be criteria of selection. What this form provides is a means of determining the relative importance of each competency in the decision to hire or promote. For example, given two candidates who each possess 10 of the 11 competencies, the candidate who lacks Self-Confidence (a competency recommended for selection) is much less desirable than the one who lacks Managing Performance (a competency recommended for training). The operating principle behind these guidelines is to select or promote into the target jobs according to the competencies that are most difficult to develop, and not to give excessive weight to the other, more developable competencies.

Recommendations on Ensuring that Project Managers have the Project Managers Competencies

Selection involves assessing candidates or staff to ensure that they have demonstrated a certain level of the competency before placing them in a project manager position.

Development involves enabling people to learn on the job through observing project managers, trying out competency-related behaviors, and receiving coaching and mentoring.

Training involves providing candidates with structured courses and learning experiences.

See table here.


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