• The Heart of Recruiting: Why Are You Hiring the Same People as Your Competitors?

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
    August 7, 2013

    by Sue Keever Watts

    Sue Keever WattsFlexible. Strong Communicator. Leader. Team player. Problem solver. 

    Do any of these competencies sound familiar? That’s because almost every organization lists two or more of these as attributes of a successful employee. It begs the question: If an organization goes to great lengths to differentiate itself from its competitors, why do they hire the same people?

    You’re not just looking for top talent. You’re looking for uniquely talented graduates who can help your company achieve its objectives. There’s a big difference. It takes some work to peel back the onion and figure out which competencies are aligned with your company’s mission and brand. But it’s worth the effort.

    A competency or attribute is different from a skill. Skills are acquired or learned and are typically what you’ll find on a student’s resume (degree, coursework, and more). Competencies are best described as behaviors or abilities. When an employee fails, more often than not, it’s because he or she doesn’t exhibit the behaviors needed to be successful.

    When developing interview questions, start by creating a list of competencies, but don't end there. You have to understand the behaviors that make up that competency.

    Here’s an example of how the same competency can mean something quite different based on the mission and brand of the company. If, for example, a retailer and a package delivery firm were looking to hire sales associates, they may look for the same competency, however, the behaviors they would target would be dissimilar.

    Company  Competency  Behaviors  Brand Promise 



    • Demonstrates empathy when speaking with customers.
    • Is able to convey a desire to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.
    • Will do whatever it takes to ensure customers’ satisfaction and loyalty.

    Package Delivery Firm


    • Is able to efficiently communicate options and services.
    • Conveys product/service knowledge in a way that creates customer confidence.
    • Offers a fixed suite of delivery services to customers who will accept nothing less than the assurance that their package will be delivered on time.

    To determine both the competencies and the behavior that are unique to your organization, I recommend the following:

    • Review the company’s mission and brand to identify the universal competencies that every employee must have to help your company achieve its objectives? What specific behaviors must they exhibit?
    • Sit down with supervisors or hiring managers and ask them to identify the behaviors of a successful employee in their department. Ask them about the behaviors of employees who don’t do well in their department.
    • If you’re able to, talk to your customers and ask them to describe the behaviors of an employee who delivers excellent customer service.

    Sue Keever Watts is founder and president of the Keever Group.