Approaches to selection: competency, strengths, technical and values

A key to succeeding in any recruitment process is to know what criteria you are being measured against. If you know what they are looking for, then you can make sure your application form, interview answer or assessment centre performance gets top marks. It’s just like knowing the marking criteria at university.

Employers use different criteria to score candidates. A recent ISE (Institute of Student Employers) survey found that 79% of graduate employers use a competency- based approach, 43% use a strengths based approach, 40% use a technical and 32% values based. The eagle-eyed of you will notice that this adds up to more than 100%, demonstrating the fact that most employers use more than one approach.

What on earth do these approaches mean? Here’s a quick guide:

Competencies are skills that you are already proficient at using, e.g. teamwork, communication, numeracy. Employers may look for these in your CV or ask you questions about them at interview e.g. : “tell me about a time when you used excellent communication skills”.

Strengths are things that we do well and that energise us. To measure strengths, employers may use online tests to see how candidates might react in an imaginary work based scenario. For example, they may present a scenario where somebody has to take a difficult decision at work to test for resilience. They may also ask you about your strengths at interview e.g. “Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you”.

Technical skills could include scientific/ engineering/ IT skills and can be tested by interview questions or tests.

Values: Many organisations have identified a set of values that underpin their work and expect all employees to demonstrate these. For example, the NHS has a set of core values that include compassion, respect and dignity. Recruiters could ask about these explicitly e.g. “When have you demonstrated one of our organisation’s values?” or look for evidence of the values within the answers to other questions or tests.

To effectively prepare for an interview, try and find out how employers are going to assess you. They might tell you this on their website, include it in an advert, or previous applicants may share experiences on social media sites such as The Student Room. Don’t forget you can have an appointment with a Careers Adviser to practise before an interview, get feedback on an application or prepare for other selection methods. You can book a Guidance Interview on Surrey Pathfinder.

Keep an eye on upcoming blogs to find out more about how you can prepare for each of the selection methods.