Back to front page

Competency + Character + Capability = You

Personal judgement always plays a role in candidate evaluation, but reliance on gut feel alone is not a strong foundation for candidate selection. As hiring managers, consciously or subconsciously we evaluate candidates on three criteria: Capability, Competency and Character.

Every recruiter knows that these 3 things effectively defines You, at least “Professional You” in the eyes of a potential employer.

Being conscious of these 3 things is a powerful tool to add to your managerial arsenal. It will help you to better interpret and understand people; it will help you with developing a genuine appreciation for who an individual truly is; it will help you defeat unconscious biases but most importantly it will help you to extract the very best from others.

Professional You - Competency, Capability and Character

Capability refers to ‘Soft Skills’

These are the transferrable professional skills that you need for problem solving at any level irrespective of your role, your industry or profession.

Competency refers to ‘Hard Skills’

This is your domain knowledge and technical expertise that relates to your industry, organisation, profession or your specific role. It could be either practical operating knowledge, accreditation or compliance.

Character refers to ‘Personality Type’

These are your personal qualities, natural tendencies, and personal preferences. It influences your cultural fit for the organisation and role.

Inherently these 3 things are equally as important. All of these three things are always considered, all of these three things must have the right fit, however depending on the situation, the role, the decision-maker, the candidate etc. the hiring manager may place greater or less emphasis on one thing over another.

And there are many existing ways of evaluating Competency and Character.

Competency is commonly measured via industry accreditations, technical certifications or knowledge tests. Character is commonly measured via psychometric, personality-type indicator tools such as Myers-Briggs, Disc and HBDI. However, Capability is a measure that has remained somewhat elusive. Until now… but let’s talk about that later.

First, let’s talk about Competency; your ‘Hard Skills’, i.e. your knowledge.

This is your subject matter expertise and technical knowledge that relates to your industry, organisation, profession or your specific role. It could be either practical operating knowledge, accreditation or compliance.

For example:

  • Knowing how to perform a certain activity or follow a specific process
  • Being able to use a tool or method to a required degree of mastery
  • Understanding rules, policies or methods to follow
  • Having industry knowledge, contacts and relationships
  • Familiarity on how specific tasks need to be executed
  • Holding the necessary qualifications, accreditations or credentials

Now, let’s talk about Character; your personal qualities, i.e. your personality and temperament.

These are your natural tendencies and personal preferences. Your character influences your cultural fit for the organisation and role.

For example:

  • Agreeableness: Customer facing positions may require friendliness, sociability, caring and patience
  • Flexibility: Roles in fast-paced tech companies may require someone who is comfortable with changing situations and is adaptable
  • Extroversion: A sales role may require outgoing people who like being the centre of attention
  • Desire and Passion: Being personally committed to a cause that aligns with the organisation

And now let’s talk about Capability.

Capability is the ability to deal with complexity

What’s Complexity?

Complexity is a measure to describe the level of Ambiguity and Abstraction within a certain system or situation, such as a role.

To understand complexity, we need to first understand ambiguity and abstraction.

Ambiguity is a spectrum. Something being unambiguous refers to it being clear and known whereas ambiguous is the exact opposite end of the spectrum: unclear, obscure and unknown.

In between these extremes is the spectrum of ambiguity.

Abstraction is also a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, something that is abstract is representational: a concept, a thought, an idea. On the other end of the spectrum, something that is concrete exists in fact and between these two extremes, there is a spectrum of abstraction

Every role and working situation exists somewhere along the complexity spectrum. 

Senior organisational leaders need to be able to operate in ambiguous and unstructured environments dealing with challenging and highly contextual situations. The problems they need to solve may be unique, their measures of success unclear, their timeframes long and their level of control low.

Entry level roles on the other hand, operate in more procedural, structured environments where problems are known, situations are repetitive, timeframes are short and individual control is high.

When we hear about something being complex, we sometimes assume that it must be difficult, but whether we find something difficult is a highly subjective thing – it depends on your personal experience and the situation at hand.

Think of disassembling and assembling a car engine. If you’re not someone with mechanical ability, this may sound indeed difficult. If you have mechanical ability, this might just be time consuming for you, but either way there’s nothing unknown or obscure about this activity: you just need the specs, the time and the right methods and tools.

On the other hand, think of someone launching a business in another country with a different culture, or the job of a social worker working with disadvantaged youths or a politician drafting environmental policy; just when you thought you tackled a situation, new impacts, effects, new stakeholders appear. While these are undoubtedly difficult roles, they are also complex because there are many unknowns, and some of those are unknown unknowns, impossible to define up-front.

Capability is the ability to deal with complexity. 

An individual with greater capability is able to deal with greater complexity.

Just like the human DNA identifies our individual traits and indicates what might lie ahead during our life, Headway DNA helps determine where you are most capable at work and where you can develop your capabilities to achieve your true potential. Headway DNA will help you improve your capabilities, be your best and enhance your career experience.

A Complexity Space is Headway’s way of measuring and describing the nature and challenges of a working environment and an individual’s ability to deal with it.

Your Complexity Space indicates the level of complexity you are most comfortable and effective working in.

The larger your Complexity Space, the more likely it is that you enjoy working in more ambiguous and unstructured environments, dealing with more challenging and highly contextual situations, solving more difficult and abstract problems, over a longer timeframe with less control and unclear outcomes. 

Your Complexity Space indicates the level of complexity you are most comfortable and effective working in.
What is your Complexity Space?

Map your “soft” skills and find out!

When you complete your Headway DNA, with your results you’ll receive your own 12-month professional development plan with development actions tailored to you.

Topics in this article

transferrable skills

Other Insights

The difference between Soft Skills and Personality Traits
The difference between Soft Skills and Personality Traits

Your personality may indicate what job you like to do but your “Soft Skills” define how good you are at it.

Soft Skills are the new Hard Skills
Soft Skills are the new Hard Skills

Soft skills remain the bastion of human intelligence, creativity, problem-solving and innovation.

Good Listening Skills
Good Listening Skills

Listening is one of twenty transferable “soft” skills that every business professional needs to apply in their working environment.

Professional Fitness
Professional Fitness

What enables elite athletes to change sports and is this the same as business professionals changing careers?