The secret sauce to hiring great product people – Competence vs Commitment

As product people, we often talk about product/market fit but rarely talk about person/organization fit. A product startup won’t flourish until a great set of right employees are by the side of an aspiring entrepreneur.

Steve Jobs quoted years ago, “People who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do it”. This inspiring quote clearly throws light on how self-motivated candidates being committed to changing the world could be the right hire.

Lately, the struggle of every entrepreneur has been a dilemma considering the major factor in the hiring process, either to choose competence or commitment. As an HR I have often encountered hiring complications and have come up with commitment-based strategies for successful manpower management.


A person is competent if he/she is highly skilled at a specific task. Now this candidate is enriched with experience and needs no assistance.

Since competence has nothing to do with intelligence, there is a possibility that the person is competent in regard to one specific task and not competent in other tasks.

A competent candidate would have acquired the skills to perform a particular task within no time.


Commitment is a quality that refers to self-motivation and a drive to learn more. A committed candidate will always be eager to learn the tasks even if he/she is not skilled at them. This candidate will slowly evolve with the qualities to lead with the willingness to accept new challenges.

Four Types of Resources

The characteristic of resources in relation to commitment and competence plays an important role in the hiring process. To make the hiring process easier, the resources can be segregated into the following four categories that will aid in finding the right fit.

Type 1: Vivacious Fresher – High Commitment & Low Competence
Type 2: Discouraged Learner – Low Commitment & Low Competence
Type 3: Self-motivated achiever – High Commitment & High Competence
Type 4: The Swinger – High Competence & Low Commitment

These four growth levels are an effective way to categorize your candidates. Also, read The right questionnaires’ to determine a behavioral aspect of a candidate!

Screening Process

While determining the right candidate, the following methods can also be considered.

  1. Questionnaires: Comprising the set of questions to find out the level of commitment
  2. Screening of profile/resume
  3. The history of job change, and reasons for changes using behavioral tools – The Predictive Index and MeritTrac tools.

“In a hiring process we prefer finding the ideal candidates with the right blend of extrinsic (salary, work schedule, benefits) and intrinsic motivators (Anonymity, work intensity, culture)”

Khuze, Founder of Siam Computing

Let’s consider your own motivation for reading this article, are you reading the article to improve your hiring process, resulting in employing the right candidate? If so, you’re an extrinsic motivator and are reading this article to gain external reinforcement (hiring the right candidate). In a similar way, with extrinsic motivators, salary, work schedule, and benefits are prior to all.

Whereas, if you’re reading this article to gain personal knowledge about the personality traits of candidates then you come under intrinsic motivators. Similarly, candidates with intrinsic motivation rely more on work culture, degree of anonymity, and intensity toward the job role.

A candidate who might not have experience in coding but is eager to learn and stay committed is a lot better candidate than someone who is highly skilled but does not love to do it. The advantages of hiring a highly committed person are as follows

  1. This candidate is not just bound but also connected to the goal. He has utter faith in the goal and wants to achieve it.
  2. A committed employee is connected to the organization reflecting a psychological state that binds the person closer to the organization and less likely to leave it.
  3. Relationship with the job – This relationship drives the employee to explore more areas regarding his/her career.
  4. A positive attitude towards the work and work environment.

Qualities to look for in a committed candidate

  • Competitiveness: A committed candidate with a competitive attitude can take any organization on a path of growth.
  • Punctuality: A person who is resilient to deliver on time by doing the right homework is an advantage to the organization.
  • Passionate: A committed employee with passion is the best ever combination.
  • Motivated: Motivation that comes from within to reach a certain goal.
  • Excellent learning skills: A candidate who is eager to learn the different aspects of the same job.
  • Leadership Qualities: A candidate that’s committed to their job will evolve into a leader and support their teammates with different aspects.

“Commitment is the most important trait an ideal candidate should carry. Competency, either inherent or threshold can be developed at any point of time. If a candidate does not carry right commitment values, right organizational behavior then no matter what kind of competency he has developed, he cannot display leadership skills”

Prof, Preeja Sridhar, a leadership coach at Mu Sigma Inc.

Commitment certainly makes all the difference. A committed employee adds value to an organization. Through their determination, proactive support, and awareness of quality, they can lead a business to climb the ladder of growth and success.

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