Behavioral Competency: All You Need to Know


Many people struggle to talk about their behaviors and core competencies – not necessarily because they don’t have those particular traits, but simply as a result of not knowing how to identify them.

The problem for interviewees here is that employers, more often than not, are looking for evidence of certain qualities during the recruitment process. That’s why, in this article, we will explore what behavioral competencies are and how you can identify them within yourself to help you avoid missing out on any more opportunities.

What is behavioral competency?

Behavioral competency is the ability of an individual to exhibit certain traits and soft skills that are essential for the success of an organization. In other words, it is a measure of how well a person is expected to perform in a certain job role that requires specific skills.

Many organizations use behavioral competency models to identify, assess, and develop their employees. One reason for that is because research has shown behavioral competencies to be strong predictors of job performance.

As such, anyone who wants to increase their chances of being successful in an upcoming job interview or appraisal should be aware of the various behavioral competencies, know which ones apply to themself, and have some examples prepared of using those particular traits in the workplace.

What are the different types of behavioral competencies?

Competencies are the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and actions that enable you to be successful in your job. There are countless ways to group the various behavioral competencies, but here we have identified three distinct categories.

Cognitive competencies

These are technical skills such as problem solving or analysis that can be measured through tests and examinations. Problem-solving abilities can be broken down further into separate abilities like critical thinking, creativity, analytical competencies, attention to detail, and resourcefulness.

Interpersonal competencies

These are people or social abilities that involve interacting with others, such as teamwork and communication skills. The former requires an ability to give or receive feedback constructively and work well under pressure, while the latter includes writing, presenting, and active listening.

Depending on the role in question, leadership skills like strategic thinking, decision making, conflict management, and inspiring others are also interpersonal skills that an employer might look for. All such skills are sought after for leadership roles, regardless of the approach to project management that is taken.

Personal competencies

These are characteristics and skills that relate to an individual’s own behavior, including personality traits like self-control, initiative, and adaptability, as well as organizational skills such as time management.

How can you identify your own behavioral competencies?

One way to determine which characteristics and skills you have yourself is to think back on past experiences and try to recall any specific instances when you displayed certain behavior attributes. This kind of example is likely what an interviewer will be looking for, so it’s useful to have some moments in mind and be able to articulate them clearly for this purpose too.

Alternatively, you could ask friends or family members to give you their honest opinion on which behavioral competencies they think you possess. There is also the more formal approach of taking personality tests or using self-assessment tools in order to determine your skills and personality traits.

Why do behavioral competencies matter?

The concept of behavioral competency is important because it provides a common language for organizations to use when discussing employee performance. Additionally, it allows businesses to identify training and development needs, as well as which employees are best suited for certain positions.

Using a behavioral competency model allows companies to improve internal communication between managers and employees, as well as create a more positive work environment. Finally, research has shown that taking a behavioral approach to competency can result in increased job satisfaction and engagement, as well as better employee retention rates.

How are behavioral competency models developed?

There are various ways to go about developing a behavioral competency model, but the most important thing is to ensure that it is tailored to the specific needs of the organization. To do this, businesses must first identify which behavioral competencies provide the biggest chance for success in their particular industry.

After the critical competencies have been identified, the next step is to create behavioral indicators or descriptors for each one. These should be clear descriptions of the personality traits that would be exhibited by someone who possesses that particular competency, explaining precisely what it means to do so.

Once the behavioral competency model has been developed, it is crucial to communicate it to all employees and provide training on how they can improve the abilities that have been deemed as necessities for their job roles.

Employers may also consider restructuring and assigning employees to positions that match their behavioral competencies list. When recruiting new members of staff, the established behavioral competency model can be used as an assessment tool during the hiring process.

How to assess behavioral competencies?

There are various methods that can be used to conduct behavioral competency assessments once a model has been established, and we will look at several of them in detail below.

#1 Self-competency assessment

This approach involves the individual rating themself on each competency relative to the organizational standard. They can then be asked to explain their responses in a behavioral interview or on a written assessment.

Self-assessment gives employees the chance to consider their own behavioral competencies and reflect on how they could improve, without any external influences. This method should not be used as the sole basis for making decisions about an individual’s behavior, but it can be a useful tool to supplement other methods of assessment.

#2 Observational behavioral assessment

A managerial competencies assessment is a more objective method that involves monitoring an individual’s behavior in a specific situation and then making a judgment about which competencies they were displaying. The assessor should be trained to look for the relevant behavioral indicators and be able to make accurate judgments about which competencies are being displayed, free of bias or prejudice.

The longer the assessment period, the more accurate the observations are likely to be. As such, the employee (especially a new recruit) could be tasked with completing a project that requires certain behavioral competencies over an extended period of time. This method is often used in performance reviews or, for shorter observations, during employee-led training sessions.

#3 Competency interview assessment

This approach provides a direct opportunity to ask questions about how an individual has behaved previously in certain situations. A behavioral event interview (BEI), for example, is a structured assessment method that focuses on an individual’s past behavioral experiences in order to gain insight into their future behavior.

The interviewer asks for a recount of a specific event from their past where the interviewee had to display a particular behavioral competency, and they should then go into detail about what they did in the given situation and how they felt about their actions. The assessor can then determine whether or not the displayed behavior matches the criteria set out in their competency model.

#4 Simulation behavioral assessment

A method that evaluates an individual’s ability to display the desired behavioral competency in a scenario-based environment. The employee is placed in a situation that replicates one they might encounter in their job role, and they are then asked to demonstrate the required behavior.

This approach is most useful for assessing behavioral competencies that are difficult to observe in day-to-day work, such as crisis management or teamwork. It also allows the assessor to gain a more in-depth understanding of how an individual would react in a real-life situation, rather than relying on their or an observer’s memory of past events.

#5 360-degree competency assessment

Gathering feedback from an individual’s coworkers, superiors, and subordinates in order to get a well-rounded view of the employee’s behavior according to peer assessment. Like self-assessment, this approach is best used to supplement other methods, as it may be difficult to remove personal bias from the responses.

360-degree feedback can be gathered through surveys, interviews, or focus groups. Regardless of how it is collected from them, all employees who provide feedback must be doing so willingly, without coercion, and preferable with anonymity in order to get the most accurate and helpful results.

What are some examples of behavioral competencies?

Depending on the industry and the job role in question, the behavioral competencies that are required will vary. However, some examples of specific competencies that are often sought after in certain positions include:

  • negotiation skills – for salespeople who regularly interact with customers, closing deals that are open to discussion
  • ingenuity – for roles that require creative solutions, such as marketing or product development
  • resilience – for customer-facing employees who must maintain a positive attitude in the face of challenging situations
  • relationship-building – for positions that involve working closely with others, such as project management or human resources
  • trustworthiness – for roles that require handling sensitive information, such as finance or data entry
  • empathy – one of the managerial competencies necessary for roles that involve supervising other employees and understanding their individual needs
  • motivational competencies – required for supervisors in order to get the best out of their teams


Organizations rely on measurable competency models to identify required characteristics for successful job performance, assess employee’s strengths and weaknesses in those traits, offer training and development experiences tailored to improving in areas of need, and ultimately assign people to job roles that they are likely to be most successful in given their skill set and behavior attributes.

When done correctly, this process can lead to better communication across the organization between managers and employees. and an improved work environment overall. As such, it is important for any business that is interested in developing a behavioral competence model to understand the importance of this process in order optimize job satisfaction and productivity within the company.

By taking the time to understand the basics of what behavioral competence is and how it can be used to improve the performance of your business, you can set your company up for organizational success now and into the future.