Help with basic understanding of Competence requirements

I was previously a quality manager for our company, and one requirement I always struggled to understand was competence. In talking to different auditors they seemed to have different opinions of what this meant.

One perspective was you have an expectation of your employees and competence means you trained them on what those expectations are(here is the process for x, y, z, here is what term a, b ,c means, etc). I always used this perspective as it's something I understood and I could point to training records as evidence...

The other perspective that I'm asking about here was, how do you know the new hire x was qualified to to job y with responsibilities a, b, c - where is the evidence? I always struggled with this perspective as to me hiring has always seemed like a judgement call(risky). If you did a job yourself for a number of years then it seems like there is less risk as you know the pitfalls, the terminology, the strengths the person should have and the concepts they should be familiar with and can try to look for these in an interview process(I prefer hands on interviews doing the job). Where if you never did the job yourself, you do your best to talk to the person to make sure they sound competent and look at their resume to see that they have relevant experience/education but in either case(you did the job or not) it's risky when you hire the person and you won't know for months or in some positions years to know if the person was actually qualified.

The problem I'm observing recently is it seems like we've had a lot of bad judgement calls years ago, and now it's coming to light(management team in agreement) we have several people in positions that are doing a poor job and to me it just seems pretty clear they were not qualified for the job - it was a bad hire (e.g. someone that is terrible with keeping details straight is our project manager responsible for releasing new products). Keep in mind we're a small family owned business where the family approves all hiring decisions and in some cases does 100% of interviewing. As was head down the difficult path of changing responsibilities(you have strengths in technical sales so that will be your focus, we'll find a someone else to manage our projects). That has me thinking back to auditors that asked me where the evidence is to prove the new hire was qualified to fill the job description we hired them for.

How do we mitigate the risk of ensuring we hire competent people for the right job? I'd be happy to read a book if anyone has advice or if their are best practices I should read about or whatever but it seems to me like we have a bit of a trend of bad judgement calls resulting in unqualified people being assigned responsibilities where the person is naturally weak/ inexperienced. At the end of the day my goal is to better educate myself so I can do a better job at hiring and feedback what I learn to the rest of the management team so ideally we can all benefit.
Last edited:
Elsmar Forum Sponsor


Super Moderator
What's to understand? Competence = demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills. It's defined by the ISO as such and doesn't required a great deal of brainpower to understand.... Most easily demonstrated with the certification of forklift drivers under US OSHA 29CFR 1910.178 - Powered industrial trucks....A no brainer.

Just remember, no matter how competent a person is or you think they are, they can still push the wrong button or flip the wrong switch. Crap happens

Johnny Quality

Quite Involved in Discussions
If you work out how to never hire bad hires then you should write a book in it! Though I would ask you...

  • You say the family do the hiring decisions and in some cases all of the interviews? Do they have an active role in the business, do they know what is needed from the role they are trying to fill?
  • From my experience the first thing an interviewer looks for in a resume is on the job experience. How do you differentiate between someone with 10 years of experience and someone with 1 year of experience 10 times over?
  • How do you sort between those who naturally interview well and the nervous wrecks?

Perhaps it'd be a good idea to view the interview process as a flow chart, with inputs and expected outputs.

John Broomfield

Super Moderator
Competence is delivered by two processes:

A. Recruiting people (includes internal assignments) who have the potential to do the job well. Here we are selecting folk who have the required attributes or behaviors. Recruiting may also assess current skills and knowledge offered by the candidates.

B. Training and learning (in all its forms) imparts/acquires the necessary skills and knowledge which together with the behaviors and strengths or attributes results in competent employees.

But, is the system within which these employees work, effective at helping employees do good work? We also have to select leaders who engage employees in system thinking, designing and development.
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