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What Are Competencies and Behaviours?

What Are Competencies and Behaviours?

Updated November 15, 2023

Assessment centres are very specific in their objectives and are used to ensure that the organisation takes on the best person for the role.

The way in which you as the candidate will be assessed is by your competencies.

So in order for you to succeed you must have a clear understanding of what a competency is and how best to show that you possess it.

By you taking part in specific assessment centre exercises the assessors are able to rate your competencies for a role in such factors as: your level of skills, aptitude and compatibility with the role and the organisation's culture.

Each exercise is deliberately constructed in such a way that the assessors are able to measure a range of indicators essential for the role within these competencies.

Competencies are general descriptions of the behaviour and underlying characteristics needed to successfully perform a particular role at the required level.

They are concerned with how an individual carries out a particular element of their role rather than merely what they do.

For example: Customer Focused = “how” an individual meets the needs of the customer.

An individual may fulfil their role by answering ten telephone calls in one hour (the “what”) but may not make any attempt to resolve the customer’s problem (the “how”).

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Why do employers use Competencies?

Competencies provide an employer with the following:

  • A consistent measure of performance, making it easier to be objective when assessing performance.
  • A structured way of describing behaviour – a common language for the organisation.
  • An effective tool to help managers give constructive feedback.
  • A self-assessment tool to help individuals identify development needs.
  • A mechanism to support the development plan for an individual’s current role and future potential.

It is through the use of competencies that organisations can ensure their employees are productive, effective, and develop to their full potential.

The following list shows the type of management competencies that could apply to a job description for a modern management role.

This is just an example, not all jobs require these competencies, but the list is fairly typical.

It is also important to view this alphabetical list in the context of the organisation’s culture as this will provide you with indications of which are more important than others.

  • Change Agent
  • Continual Improvement
  • Customer Focused
  • Decision Making
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Leadership
  • Mentoring & Coaching
  • Planning & Organising
  • Professional Development
  • Resource Management
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Strategic Thinking

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As you know, the assessment centre process is designed to make judgements about you based on what you can actually do as opposed to what you say you can do.

This is the important difference between an assessment centre and a traditional interview.

For example, if the role requires the competency ‘Planning & Organising’ then you should expect one or more of the assessment centre exercises to measure this competency.

How is this done? This is done by linking certain behaviours to each competency.

Linking Competencies to Behaviours

Each competency will have a series of behaviours associated with it.

These behaviours are what the assessors are looking for and if you demonstrate them during the exercise then you will be awarded marks that count towards your score for that particular competency.

One or more of the assessment centre exercises would be designed to allow you to demonstrate the behaviour associated with those particular competencies.

By understanding how you need to behave, you will be able to show the assessors that you have the appropriate level of competency for the required role.

By improving your ability to portray these behaviours you will increase your score for each exercise and overall.

So it is vital that you identify the key competencies for your future role.

You will be taken through twelve competencies along with the associated behaviours that would be expected at different levels within an organisation.

These examples of competencies are designed to show you:

  • What types of things are regarded as competencies?
  • How they are defined?
  • What types of behaviours are associated with them?

As you read through the competencies, try to imagine which ones will be applicable to the job you are applying for, which of the associated behaviours you would be expected to display and how you could do this in both the exercises and the interview.

Each table has its competency listed in the top left corner with its opposite definition.

The three rows below list the behaviours associated with that competency for each of the three levels:

  • Strategic
  • Management
  • Supervisory

It is important to realise that different organisations have their own definitions and that the behaviours associated with each will be specific to the organisation and to the role within it.

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