Minneapolis College’s Competency-Based Hiring Program Improves the Quality and Diversity of New Hires

2020 Higher Education HR Awards

Minneapolis College’s Human Resources Team is the recipient of CUPA-HR’s 2020 Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award.

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A few years ago, the human resources team at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minneapolis College) discovered a flaw in organizational thinking around evaluating and hiring job candidates. Specifically, they found that hiring based largely on credentials and specific job experiences was not necessarily bringing in the best-fit talent and, perhaps more important, was hindering the college’s diversity efforts.

To remedy this, in 2015, HR piloted a competency-based hiring model for staff positions. This new way of hiring would evaluate candidates based on their abilities and competencies to perform the functions of the job as opposed to focusing solely on education completion and related job experience. “The goal was to ensure that capable, qualified and diverse candidates with desired experience and skills were not being excluded from consideration based on the traditional evaluation model,” says Dianna Cusick, the college’s chief HR officer.

For each vacancy at the college, HR created a list of skills, abilities, knowledge and qualities that a candidate would need to be successful in that position. Doing this required an analysis of the position, consultation with the hiring manager and an inquiry into what traits and skills have made candidates in similar jobs successful.

“The move to competency-based hiring not only improved the quality of the hire, but also led to a significant increase in the hiring of diverse candidates.” – Dianna Cusick, Chief HR Officer at Minneapolis College

From 2015 to 2017, nearly 56 percent of staff hires at Minneapolis College were people of color (in 2014, only a quarter of staff hires were people of color). Since the competency-based hiring program has been in place, the college has seen an overall increase in staff of color (from 24.8% in 2015 to 30.2% in 2019). The program has led also to Minneapolis College being a leader for workforce diversity in the Minnesota State system. With 60 percent of the students at Minneapolis College being students of color, this program has helped make significant strides in aligning the college’s workforce with its student diversity.

The HR team is currently considering a similar model for faculty.

Read more about Minneapolis College’s hiring model in the Higher Ed HR Magazine article, “The Equity Case for Competency-Based Hiring.”


About the Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award:
CUPA-HR’s Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award recognizes and celebrates institutional initiatives and programs that have made a significant impact with respect to inclusive and equitable workplace practices, particularly those that have brought about cultural change throughout the organization. Thanks to support from EyeMed, the award comes with a $6,000 contribution to the recipient’s institutional endowment or a scholarship fund. Learn more.



The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.