Using strengths-based assessment for recruitment

by Miriam Bell29 Aug 2012

Strengths-based theories on organisational development have demanded greater attention in recent months, and now some experts are recommending that strengths-based assessment be used in recruitment.

Originally articulated in the 2001 New York Times bestseller Now, Discover Your Strengths, strengths-based organisational “science” revolves around the idea that success is built on identifying and developing the things you do best rather than shoring up your weaknesses, Robyn Hart from Gallup New Zealand said.

Strengths-based organisations systematically select employees (and leaders) based on talent, and position them to use their identified strengths every day whilst integrating those strengths into key processes and systems organisation-wide, she explained. This tends to lead to a multitude of benefits for the organisation – including increased engagement and retention among customers and employees, reduced costs per hire, and greater earnings per share growth rate.

Strength starts with an innate talent – a tendency to think and behave a certain way, Hart said. “A talent becomes a strength when it is refined by skills, knowledge and practice, and then consciously applied to something that needs doing. If companies want to increase productivity, they must deliberately manage their employees towards engagement and help them to use their strengths with knowledgeable intent.”

One of the great advantages of knowing what employees' strengths are is that organisations can align people with complementary strengths, Hart told the New Zealand Herald earlier this year. “Another advantage of identifying staff strengths is that managers and staff can seek help from those they know have complementary skills. This is no longer admitting failure… It gives [people] permission to go and ask for help and to accept that 'this isn't my strength'. It is very liberating.”

Meanwhile, one UK-based people management expert has said that, with more job candidates on the market than ever before, the importance for HR to recognise high potential in employees was at an all-time high.

One effective way of doing so was to adopt a strengths-based recruitment method, Nicky Garcea from Capp wrote in a recent article for HRZone. “The problem with more traditional means is that many candidates have been tutored in coming up with polished responses to competency-based questions, offering ‘evidence’ that is well-rehearsed rather than a real reflection of their skills and personality,” she said.

Strengths-based assessment, on the other hand, evaluates people based on their natural talents by trying to identify and gauge the things that they not only do well, but also that they love doing, Capp said. She offered the following tips for HR pros interested taking a strengths-based approach to recruitment:

1. Look for energised and authentic individuals: Both traits are strong indicators that they are using their strengths, so applicants who display such qualities are likely to become high performers in future.

 2. Ensure your hiring activity is aligned to the business goals of your organisation: Ask key stakeholders what their five-year vision for recruitment is to ensure that incoming personnel are aligned to organisational goals and future requirements.

3. Identify generic and specific strengths: While you will want all recruits to demonstrate certain generic strengths, it is important to identify what individual strengths certain roles require. Being more specific here will speed up the recruitment process and ensure better performance once people are on the job.

4. Ensure any assessment exercises are based on role-specific tasks and real-life situations: Providing a highly realistic job preview at every stage ensures candidates know what to expect.

5. Continually re-evaluate data: Keep gathering data against your key indicators of success like candidates’ perception and recognition of your brand, the percentage that pass their exams, peer and manager ratings and sales targets.


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