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The Iceberg Model and Its Importance in Recruitment

Gone is the time when only intelligence and skills were used to determine performance. According to McClelland’s research, even when two individuals have the same level of experience, skillset and education, their behavior and performance can vary significantly in the same job role. What differentiates their performance are the underlying behavioral competencies, explained by the iceberg model.

The Iceberg Model and Its Components

The iceberg model explains the concept of competencies with how an iceberg looks. An iceberg has 1/9th of it portion above the surface, while the remaining is hidden under the sea. Similarly, only a few components of competencies are visible, like knowledge and skills, while the rest of the behavioral components are below the surface or hidden.

 These hidden components include traits, attitudes, thinking styles and self-image and are the most integral part of determining job performance.

Knowledge: This is the information a person has acquired in a particular area and what they know about a specific topic.

Skills: Demonstrated learned abilities a person has to perform a task.

Self-image: A person’s sense of inner self, their identity and self-worth. Basically, how they view themselves.

Social Role: The image a person displays in public. Their values and attitudes projected to others. 

Traits: Habitual behaviors that explain why and how a person behaves in a certain way.

Motives: Unconscious thoughts and preferences. What drives a person? What is their need for power, affiliation and achievement?

Its Importance in Hiring Practices

Knowledge and skills only predict a small portion of an individual’s performance. The rest is determined by hidden competencies that are pretty difficult to judge when hiring new talent.

The two levels (visible and hidden competencies) take two completely different routes. Knowledge and skills can be built through training and exercises, but behavioral competencies are difficult to learn and develop. They are ingrained in a person’s personality and can be extremely difficult to alter.

A lot of time and effort is needed to change the characteristics of a person. Intensive exercises like counseling, psychotherapy, mentoring, developmental experiences and coaching might help to some extent. 

Recruiters use a lengthy and tedious recruiting process to figure out these hidden competencies. Hiring a person whose behavioral competencies don’t match with the job role will eventually lead to employee turnover.  

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