Match psychometric assessment with competencies

An old nursing quote: “There are two types of nurses. Those that can communicate with conscious human beings  – they’re ward nurses…  &  those that can’t – they’re theatre nurses!”

The quote is instructional when it comes to the task of placing the right people in the right jobs.

There are some HR professionals who recruit and develop using a robust competency set. The use of such competencies can determine the aptitude and skill that an individual might demonstrate within clearly defined parameters.

However, it does not describe the desirable behaviour that would best complement those competencies. *Just* working with the competencies, can be argued, is only half a job being done.


Competencies are a description of the task to be completed. They should be developed with an eye to business effectiveness to dovetail perfectly into the organisation’s Balanced Scorecard.

Behavioural Anchors are described for those that have to exercise them and those who have to observe them, usually their manager, coach or team leader.

Competency: ‘The candidate has the ability to write a business proposal’. As an observer the competency description is no help. How do you discern if this is really what is happening? This is where Behavioural Anchors come in:

  • ‘Gains clarity of purpose for the proposal being written’.
  • ‘Uses plain language’.
  • ‘Breaks the key issues down before writing’.
  • ‘Proposal has a logical flow’.
  • ‘States what the client is to do’.

Behavioural Anchors are the manager’s template for observing performance that enables evidential feedback.  Competencies, described by their Behavioural Anchors, could be said to have completed two thirds of the job to be done.

But we are dealing with people here, not an automaton that can mechanically be described within the parameters of Competencies and Behavioural Anchors – and human beings behave in so many and varied ways.


Lets go back to the two nurses.

The ward nurse whose tasks could initially be broken down into: ‘Listen to and observe patient’s needs and provide appropriate care’.

… one could imagine that patient’s needs would be varied and multifarious .

An initial look at the results of a psychometric analysis might state that this person tended towards a GENERALIST style of behaviour.

The GENERALIST  style indicating someone more comfortable with :

  • Interested in things in general, sees the whole picture
  • Looks for challenges
  • Wants responsibility
  • Comfortable with change
  • Will get things done

The theatre nurse whose tasks could initially be broken down into:

‘Provide methodical and structured support to surgical team’.

Again, the initial look at the results of their psychometric analysis might state that this person tended towards a SPECIALIST style of behaviour.

The SPECIALIST style indicating someone more comfortable with :

  • Agreeable & co-operative
  • Will follow instructions
  • Works well under supervision
  • Likes routine and detail

So do COMPETENCIES AND BEHAVIOURAL STYLES complement each other? You bet they do. Yet how often are people recruited on how well they fit just the demands of the competencies!