The recruitment landscape has drastically changed over the past couple of years. And in the post-pandemic world, we expect to see more widespread digitisation and changes to the way we live and work that will last long term.

When it comes to interviewing processes in this new era of business, many organisations are rethinking traditional competency-based methods and favouring a more personal, candidate-friendly approach.

So, why are some recruiters moving away from competency-based testing — and how can a different approach help businesses find and retain the top talent?

Competency-driven vs candidate-driven

Most people will be familiar with the personality, ability or aptitude tests used by employers to narrow down the applicant pool.

This classic form of competency-based assessment is often the first round of the interview process. It typically involves the candidate answering various multiple-choice questions to determine their capabilities and ‘fit’ for a role. Examples of such questions could be ‘what would you do if this happened?’, or ‘how would you resolve this dispute?’. Candidates’ responses are then scored against a predetermined set of criteria to isolate the top candidates.

This line of questioning has been the go-to for many organisations to provide structure and consistency for fair candidate evaluation. It is a safe method for reducing bias and is one of the easiest ways to approach the initial interview stage in a non-discriminatory way. However, as people embrace technology and companies conduct more business online, this strategy is becoming outmoded.

Before the implementation of remote working, interviews were, more often than not, conducted in person. Competency testing was used to filter candidates and create a shortlist for interviews, saving hiring managers from meeting with hundreds of people that do not have the right skills for a role. Now, recruiters can interview and screen candidates virtually, removing the need for competency-based tests to whittle down the number of applicants invited for a face-to-face interview.

So, with competition for the top candidates at an all-time high, companies cannot expect their ideal candidate to jump through hoops for multiple tests and then interviews to secure a job — or travel hours for the first interview on top of the time it takes to prepare. Virtual interviewing saves time and money for everyone involved and allows recruiters to introduce a personal element to the process at an earlier stage.

Asking the right questions

Competency tests may also risk oversimplifying a candidate’s qualifications in the interest of a shortcut solution — and potentially cause employers to overlook the right person for the job based on their ability to perform well in this type of exam. As such, it can be tricky to accurately assess how a candidate’s experience proves their ability to perform a role within the constraints of a traditional competency-based assessment.

Doing so requires a level of understanding of the context of a position that is often missing, leading to generalised interview questions or candidates picking what they perceive to be the preferred answer. These tests, therefore, do not always represent someone’s ability to perform in a particular environment accurately.

Instead, a multi-stage system informs better hiring decisions, using a combination of interview techniques to gain a more holistic view of a candidate over the course of several meetings and allow recruiters to avoid prematurely discounting candidates. The price of hiring the wrong person or losing them to the competition will, more often than not, outweigh the cost of delivering an assessment that allows business leaders to test candidates on different criteria.

For example, to test for preparedness, an employer might ask questions that are easy to research — such as questions about the company itself — or ask interviewees to complete a task ahead of the meeting. Alternatively, they might curate assessments that spark some creativity or demonstrate know-how to determine technical expertise and critical thinking. An interviewer might also ask a candidate to explain how they would approach a particular problem or get them to describe a specific piece of software they use for their work.

Targeting passive candidates

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect interview strategy. Every role, candidate and company are unique, so it is worth taking the time to curate conversations that allow interviewees opportunities to showcase different skills. As such, it is crucial to ask questions that do not lead to robotic answers and allow for flexibility for each candidate.

Passive recruitment, which targets candidates not actively looking for a new job, is the most effective way to achieve this in the current candidate-driven market. This personal, direct approach to candidate sourcing is highly effective. It often generates better results for both employees and employers, with passive candidates requiring less training to get started and 120% more likely to want to make an impact in a new position.

By identifying the top talent and encouraging open-minded discourse around a role, businesses can develop meaningful relationships with the highest-quality candidates, tailor the interview process around each individual and enjoy more success in their recruitment efforts.

Is your business preparing for growth in 2022? Our finance and accounting recruitment specialists can help find and secure the top talent for your organisation. Contact us today on 01252 718777 or email, and we will be in touch shortly