Competency Based Recruitment Models

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Competency Based Recruitment Models

Google, Boston Consulting Group, Baird, Salesforce, Quicken Loans, Ultimate Software, and Edward Jones are the companies that all use elements of a competency-based recruitment model. All the companies we examined to understand the key competencies they look for.


We used Fortune's 2017 "Best Companies to Work For" list to select companies with a reputation for success in talent acquisition/HR. From there, we explored each listed company to see if they provide information about the competencies that they look for. We identified seven companies from this list that use competency-based models to recruit and retain talent. When it comes to companies researched in this request, generally, we were unable to find screening techniques/HR manuals/HR blueprints they use because the information isn't publicly available. HR blueprints are generally kept private, especially in sectors where attracting the right talent is a key competitive advantage. Nevertheless, we provided sample questions and insights on their hiring process where available. Companies are known to use Applicant Tracking Softwares, where the information provided by candidates is used for "screening, applicant testing, scheduling interviews, managing the hiring process, checking references, and completing new-hire paperwork". However, what kind of process each company uses is kept secret.


In the "On Site" interview portion of their interview process guidebook, Google specifies they are looking for the following competencies:
"General cognitive ability: We ask open-ended questions to learn how you approach and solve problems.
Leadership: Be prepared to discuss how you have used your communication and decision-making skills to mobilize others.
Role-related knowledge: We’re interested in how your individual strengths combine with your experience to drive impact.
Googleyness: Share how you work individually and on a team, how you help others, how you navigate ambiguity, and how you push yourself to grow outside of your comfort zone".

Google has a reputation for asking difficult, brainteaser interview questions that help them review how talents act under pressure. The company's interview question also tries to get a talent to solve challenges and generate ideas on the spot. 41 of its past interview questions are compiled here.

2. BCG

BCG provides a page with "Interview Process & Tips" on their website where they list what competencies they are looking for in applicants. The following competencies are listed:
1. Experience
2. Leadership
3. Strategic Thinking
4. Ability to form compelling arguments
5. Effective Listening and Communication
6. Intellectual Curiosity
7. Creative Thinking

According to BCG, their interview questions are designed to help them learn about the talent's background and experience. In addition, the talent is generally presented a case study of one of their client's challenge and asked to develop solutions to the client's challenge. For example, an interviewee said he was given a case that "involved trying to figure out how to improve the snack profits of a supermarket (namely, what was the root cause of the profit issue and how to improve it)." Some more interview questions can be found here.


Baird employs students, recent graduates as well as experienced professionals. In order to hire the best talent, they provide a list of competencies each candidate that applies to work for Baird should have. On the "Find Your Fit" page Baird states that they look for the following attributes in their candidates:
"1. A strong sense of integrity, always treating people with dignity and respect
2. Genuine care and compassion for clients and fellow associates
3. An innovative spirit with a willingness to seek win-win solutions
4. A team player, sharing success and recognition
5. Ability to maintain collaborative working relationships in a fast-paced environment
6. A long-term outlook rather than looking for a quick fix
7. A well-rounded perspective with openness to change
8. An ability to lead and follow
9. An interest in giving back to our communities".

Interviewees mostly mention that the questions were behavioral, informational, and informal.


At Edward Jones, the HR department focuses on several competencies that are related to applicants' previous experience: "These competencies help us to understand how you may have approached various job situations in the past and what you may have learned".
Edward Jones outlines the competencies they look for in Financial Advisor applicants under the subheading "Your Skills":
"1. Ambition
2. Self-motivation
3. Commitment to establishing long-term client relationships
4. Critical thinking
5. Sound Judgement".

Interviewees comment that the interview process is pleasant and laid back and is focused more on behavioral. For example, an interviewee commented that the process was relaxed and that they "didn't try to stump me or catch me off guard." According to an interviewee that was employed, they use the 'STAR' method and questions are expected to be answered following the format: Situation, Task, Action, and Result.


Ultimate Software created a "What We Are Looking For" section on their website where they state they are looking for people with "an inner fire and strong moral compass". On top of that, they also seek the following:
"1. Competencies: Proven track record of high performance
2. Drive: Self-motivation and passion
3. Values: Team-player attitude with a do-the-right-thing ethic".

From the questions interviewees said that they were asked, they seem to ask competency-based questions that seek to see how a potential employee would handle a task they are likely to come across if employed. For example, an interviewee seeking a Software Engineer internship position, said he was asked the following question: "Given the code below, what will the program's output be if the pop and peek functions (Java) were used on a stack?"


Salesforce claims the following about their competencies-based interviewing process: "It is intended to help the company minimize unconscious bias while also making sure we hire people who will thrive in our environment. We rigorously train our hiring managers and teams to recognize unconscious bias through required online training called Cultivate Equality at Work, and we also give them the tools to interview on competencies we know people need to have to be successful in the various roles here. We do this because we know that diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences makes our teams stronger and helps us deliver more innovative products and better customer experiences". On top of that, they provide a report on "The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business".

The interview tips provided by Salesforce reveal that the company is looking for the following competencies:
"1. Energy/Passion
2. Philanthropic interests
3. Insight/storytelling ability
4. Connection building skills
5. Team-player attitude
6. Alignment with core values of Trust, Growth, Innovation, Equality, Customer Success, Transparency, Giving Back, Well being, and Fun".

From the questions interviewees said they were asked, Salesforce seem to ask behavioural questions as well as questions geared towards seeing how a potential employee resolved a job challenge in the past. For example, an interviewee said he was asked "tell us about a deal you closed", and another said he was asked "tell me about a time you've had to influence your engineering team to agree with your decision."


Quicken Loans Family of Companies (FOC) claims that they are always trying to find a better way to foster creativity, innovation and transformative thinking. The key competency they look for is the potential to become an “Intrapreneur”, which is a title they use to describe their sales force. They say their "Intrapreneurs", like all great entrepreneurs, "work hard, think creatively and earn big".

On top of the "Intrapreneur" potential, Quicken Loans is also looking for the following competencies:
"A positive attitude and the desire to truly help people
The ability to rock in a fast-paced, dynamic environment
Superb communication skills
The spirit of an entrepreneur".

Questions past interviewees said they were asked were quite standard, such as what they know about the company and how they solved work-related challenges in the past.


Google, Boston Consulting Group, Baird, Salesforce, Quicken Loans, Ultimate Software, and Edward Jones are the companies that all use elements of a competency-based recruitment model.