Human Resources Department

Human Resources at MIT Logo
* Using CompQuick

* Downloads
* Learning More
* The MIT Selection Process


What are Competencies?

In matching people with work, we intuitively try to do the best we can to assess those underlying factors or competencies that will affect people’s success in the job. Often what we want to know is as much about HOW candidates go about getting things done as about WHAT they know how to do. For instance, we might want to know…

  • HOW does this person take initiative and ensure results in work assignments?
  • HOW does this person communicate and work with other people?
  • HOW does this person deal with conflict or obstacles?

Most people accept that these types of questions are quite important. A great deal of research over the past 25 years has supported that idea, and attempted to understand what kinds of HOW factors are most important for success in different kinds of work (see Reading List).

Behavioral competencies target those HOW factors. Behavioral competencies are abilities and characteristics that help people make the most of their technical competencies on the job.

Note: throughout this guide we often refer to behavioral competencies simply as "competencies".

CompQuick focuses on behavioral competencies rather than technical competencies. This is not because technical competencies are not crucial–they are. It is because technical competencies are more overt, and assessing technical competencies is something that hiring managers have always done, whereas behavioral competencies are often neglected or glossed over in interviews. (See The MIT Selection Process for tips on assessing technical competence in an interview.)

Technical competencies might include degrees or other credentials, knowledge of a certain type of software, experience with a certain type of machinery, knowledge of regulations or procedures, presentation skills, or project management techniques.

To learn more about what competencies are and the theory behind them, see More About Competencies.

To see an example of how competencies might be used in matching people with jobs, see Competencies in Action: A Tale of Two Doctors.


What is CompQuick?

The MIT Administrative Staff Core Competency Model


Send comments to


Last updated January 2000


| What is CompQuick? | What are Competencies? |

| The MIT Administrative Staff Core Competency Model | Hiring for Competencies at MIT |

| Using CompQuick | Competency Interviewing Tips | Downloads |

| Learning More | The MIT Selection Process |