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Competency-Based Selection - Hire for Humility

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Firm Executive Coaching Helping  Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Strategic Talent Management; Leadership Development; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; and Leadership & Team Building Retreats

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach

Competency-Based Selection - Hire for Humility

I recently spoke with the VP of Human Resources of a San Francisco Bay Area company regarding helping their company develop a Competency Model and make more successful hires. She asked some very insightful questions to determine fit. She specifically wanted to know how I assess personality and requisite competencies.

The VP of HR and I spoke about my approach to selection, and my belief that possessing a psychological understanding of human behavior based on neuroscience and business acumen are important competencies for executive selection. We also spoke of the need for her organization to hire executives who can help create a culture where innovation flourishes.

The VP of HR is also interested in partnering with me in helping their executives improve their emotional intelligence. We further discussed how high performing company executives can benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach.

The ability to select, motivate, develop, and retain top people is critical to a company’s success. If you want to build a company where people love to work you have to know how to hire and keep great people. Unfortunately, a poor hire can cost a company a great deal of money and cause undue distress and wasted time for everyone involved. Great companies and managers start with optimistic, change-resilient, and committed people whose values fit the workplace culture. Keeping great people involves creating a healthy work environment where people can use all their knowledge, creativity, and skills. Self-managed organizations create work environments where people can continuously learn and make decisions.

Carrie is Vice President of Human Resources at a fast growing company in a very competitive market. However, most of the company’s managers are extremely busy and find the hiring process very boring. Many resent time taken away from “important work” that needs to be done. Resumes are glanced at.  Interviews consist of questions made up as the interview goes along.  Interviewers talk most of the time, largely selling the virtues of the company.  Hiring decisions are frequently based on impulse.  Interviewers rarely find the time to get together as part of a team and discuss the candidate’s work-related competencies. Tracy found herself exhausted with the process and knew there had to be a better way.

Sound familiar?

Believe it or not, hiring the right people can be enjoyable and fun. Managers can easily learn an innovative method of interviewing, hiring and retaining people based on a candidate’s past performance.  Research in the area of emotional intelligence supports the idea that the ability to communicate effectively with others is a critical workplace core competency. The selection and assessment process is a great place to practice these skills.

The first place to start when hiring someone is to do a job analysis. Identify the critical success factors or job-specific competencies by interviewing top performers in that position. The next step is to create a job description based on a candidate’s past performance. If you want to hire great people, first define exceptional performance. Effective job descriptions define what needs to be accomplished, not the skills and experience the candidate needs to have. Research demonstrates that the ability to accomplish desired goals is a better predictor of future performance than the candidate’s level of skills and experience. Comparable past performance is a good predictor of future accomplishment.

What is a competency? 

Competencies are behaviors that distinguish effective performers from ineffective ones. Certain motives, traits, skills, and abilities are attributed to people who consistently behave in specific ways. A competency model depicts a set of desired behaviors for a particular job position or level. A competency model also implies that such behaviors are predictive of who is likely to be successful in a position or role.

Two distinct groups of competencies are assessed during any job interview.

  • Job competencies are the specific skills, knowledge, and abilities required to accomplish any given task at work.
  • Emotional Intelligence competencies refer to an individual’s personality or emotional makeup. They consist of habits, abilities, and skills that transfer from job to job.

When interviewing product managers at Google, hiring managers ranked candidates in four competency areas: technical ability, communication skills, intellect and “Googliness”. A “Googley” person embodies the values of the company - a willingness to help others, an upbeat attitude, a passion for the company, and most importantly, humility.

Two heads of engineering identified humility as the most important competency in new hires. For one startup ascertaining humility is so important, it is the first filter in the interview process.

Innovative and disruptive companies reinvent. They don't copy and execute someone else's playbook. To be disruptive, a startup's team must set aside preconceived notions and assumptions about doing things the "right way" and start inventing new ways.

There are no templates or best practices in working with startup companies. Each startup team faces a unique market opportunity with distinct market dynamics, sales processes, competitive forces, assets and challenges.

In such circumstances, it is best to have creative thinkers with open minds about the way forward. They learn from each other and the market. The first step to learning is a beginner’s mindset accepting we don't know everything.

Are you working in a company that selects and develops emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders? Humble leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more compelling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Does our company select humble leaders?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their leadership development programs.

Working with a seasoned cognitive executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders develop their emotional intelligence competence. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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