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Successful interviewing

Career Comment From Ellis Fairbank

Claire Vandenburg, Head of Ellis Fairbank Medical, explains the benefits of competency-based interviews.

The initial months of a new year are a time when employees are especially motivated to make a change. For some, this is a resolution to progress within their existing role; but for many, the desire for a greater career challenge with a new employer becomes prevalent.

The medical devices industry is reflective of this trend, with a greater number of people in the sector likely to consider a career change in the first quarter of the year. However, during a period when candidates are in abundance, employers can find that their decision-making processes are overwhelmed.

This can result in considerable uncertainty about which characteristics should be valued above others. Potential employers must adopt sophisticated recruitment techniques to segment and analyse the skills and competencies required.

Effective candidate appraisal

Competency-based interviews have evolved as the traditional job description has become increasingly inadequate in assessing what is required from a candidate. At Ellis Fairbank, our approach uses scientific methodology to align a candidate’s experience, achievements and development potential with the core attributes that are essential in undertaking the role. Recent empirical studies suggest that the fit between candidate and opportunity can be increased by up to 30% using such techniques.

Within the medical devices industry, certain competencies can be identified as being more necessary than others.

Leadership, persuasiveness, communication skills, commercial awareness and personal motivation are benchmark qualities when recruiting for senior appointments. Interviewing candidates face to face is the most appropriate way to determine their capabilities, and the most effective way to score accurately against the competency framework established beforehand. Being able to perceive how a candidate portrays him/herself and reacts to probing questions in a pressurised environment gives a good indication of how they will react to the pressures of a job role. This is not something that can be determined easily through telephone interviews.

It is important that the interviewer understands how to score a candidate against competencies, while being able at the same time to probe and engage with the individual.

The right executive for the role

Without a sound understanding of the medical devices industry, attempting to establish competency frameworks relevant to the role can result in the attraction and selection of candidates who do not fulfil the requirements of a role and subsequently cannot enable businesses to meet their objectives.

Demonstration by candidates of experiences in all relevant competencies is critical. At Ellis Fairbank Medical, we would not select candidates for senior roles within the medical devices industry based solely on their commercial awareness. They would also, for example, have to demonstrate experience of setting targets, committing to goals and effectively managing people.

Due to the nature of the market, a candidate’s ability to demonstrate their ability and what they have achieved in set competency areas will often be more significant to the interview than, say, the products that they have worked with – particularly when a company is looking to move its business forward through diversification and changing direction.

Ellis Fairbank has more than 15 years’ experience in recruitment at middle to senior management level within the medical devices sector, and many of its consultants come from within the industry itself. This allows clients and candidates to benefit from our extensive knowledge of this market sector and utilise our innovative recruitment techniques.


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