Competencies Are the Rosetta Stone for Recruiters and Students

By Chris Motley posted 12-05-2017 08:20


New study, new data

In a recent survey by Gallup and Strada Education Network, 36 percent of U.S. adults stated they would change their college major if they could go back and do it again. In analyzing the results of this survey, Strada’s executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy, Carol D’Amico, concluded that “the most valued source of advice comes from work-based people (employers), yet it is the least used.” She then issued the challenge to figure out how to increase access, “especially for our first-generation students.” 

If you’ll recall our favorite student-candidate, Sarah, this challenge from D’Amico comes at an amazing time in the world of talent acquisition. The problem isn’t that your company content isn’t great… because it is. The problem is students don’t know where to find all the amazing content that your marketing team works so hard to produce. 

New data, new approach

The goal of this article is to humbly suggest a shift in the status quo - a framework for developing relatable content that helps students confidently progress through their career discovery process. We'll take a quick look at a content marketing strategy that university recruiting teams can use to attract, engage, and hire relevant candidates. 

Let’s start with the framework

The Competency Model Framework identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that a globally competitive work force requires. Translation: employers expect that the person hired for the job actually possesses (or is capable of learning) the KSAs required for the job to be done successfully. But, as the $400 billion staffing industry suggests, companies don’t always hire fully-prepared applicants. 

Competency models are widely used in business for defining and assessing competencies within organizations in both hard and soft skills. The goal is to make sure that when a company communicates an opportunity, the targeted talent pool fully understands the opportunity and what will be expected of them. 

And for educators, the framework helps create competency-based educational structures that enable personalized learning. The collection of competencies students attain through their education define successful performance in a particular work setting. These models are tools for creating career pathways. 

Competencies are the Rosetta Stone

Each industry should have its own empirical competency model. (Note: your industry might have one here.) Use it to  build a more approachable employer brand and job description, by incorporating language that resonates with your target candidate. But, if you’d really like to take things to the next level, then build a competency model specifically for your company.

Don’t wait for weeks of discussion with your team. Just get started on one with what you know about the roles you’re trying to fill. Just doing the process will undoubtedly help you better understand the way you communicate your opportunities. Then present your ideas to your team and embrace the scrutiny. Because, at least then, the discussion has been kicked off.

Course-to-career stories

After developing competency models, all stakeholders can map course learning outcomes to required competencies for specific jobs, job groups, organizations, occupations, or industries. Employers that connect their employer brand and entry-level opportunities to competency models will be more capable of creating an engaging candidate and applicant experience for students in the career discovery process. Employers can use language introduced by competency models to connect courses and careers. This creates a much more approachable and engaging employer brand for students during the career discovery process. As a result, content marketing strategies become more efficient, thereby reducing the average cost-per-hire of $4,000

Content distribution has evolved drastically, but the content has not. New technologies, platforms, and user experiences have been introduced to Millennials. Students can engage with an employer brand (virtually anywhere) through the power of social media. But, career content (including how companies translate the responsibilities and requirements of their opportunities) often generates confusion among students. This can impede career discovery and engagement. (Sample course-to-career stories can be found here.) 

Candidate personas

Successful employers in 2018 will take time to identify, synthesize, and then relate to their candidate personas. A candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal candidate. Effective personas consider the competencies and professional values that describe a relevant candidate. Course-to-career stories for each persona provide a bridge between the key learnings from a student’s collegiate experience (identified in the competency models) and a career pathway. These stories (published as short articles) reduce the friction in communication caused by the language barrier between students and employers. 

Turning qualified students into relevant applicants is dependent on your ability to grasp the fact that attention is king, not content. Content is important, but only for the role it plays in achieving the end goal of getting someone’s attention. To do that, you need to get personal. And to do that cost-effectively, you need to scale.

The grand vision

We believe students will be more engaged with their career paths and realize better outcomes, if they can 1) connect their courses to career opportunities within a casual, fun, and informative user experience; and 2) regularly engage with career services, employers and other students.

 Getting personal at scale

Traditionally speaking, developing a content marketing strategy for campus recruiting would require additional resources. Applying the competency model framework eliminates the need to create entirely new content. Much of this content already exists and simply needs to be repositioned. Once the effort is made to translate existing content, recruiting can be scaled virtually and automatically.

 Reducing churn

More than half of U.S. adults would change at least one educational decision, and 36 percent would change their college major if they could go back and do it again. Implemented properly, the competency model framework could significantly reduce the fact that Millennials will change jobs about 4 times in the first 10 years after undergraduate university (according to Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn, reported by EdSurge in July 2017). This is because course-to-career stories have the unique capability to help students own their educational experience and career discovery process in a holistic and approachable way. Even further, when the employer brand uses these stories to create a more transparent and engaging career path, student job seekers are much more likely to visualize their long-term growth, thereby reducing churn by a significant margin.