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How to: Use Strengths-Based Recruitment to Improve Your Placements



It’s happened to everyone: A candidate looks great on paper. She has all the right education and experience. She’s articulate, has great references, and appears to be the “whole package.” Yet when she takes the new job, it’s a disaster. Her performance is subpar, and she never quite takes to her new role, and she’s looking for a new position within a few months.

So what went wrong? It seemed so perfect. As it turns out, and as many recruiters are discovering, competency in the actual job tasks isn’t always an indicator of someone’s fit for a job. It’s the recognition of this reality that has led many recruiters and hiring managers to shift towards a strength-based recruitment method to place the right people in the right jobs.

What Is Strengths-Based Recruitment?

Think about the typical job interview for a moment. In most of these meetings, the interviewer asks the applicant to provide examples of how they handled specific situations, or to outline their experience and knowledge in job-related areas. And most applicants give the same, typical responses, offering specific examples and anecdotes, and highlighting the information that they think the interviewer wants to hear.

The problem with this type of interview is that while it helps give the interviewer a glimpse of what the applicant can do, and their success in doing so in the past, it doesn’t really tell them anything about what the candidate is actually good at or likes to do. And as anyone can attest, there is often a disconnect between the two; after all, most of us can do the dishes and the laundry, but it doesn’t mean that we enjoy doing those chores or feel engaged by them.

Strengths-based recruitment, then, attempts to give people the chance to be more authentic when looking for a job. By assessing the qualities that would make someone “good” at their job, which may or may not be actual hard skills, recruiters are able to craft more effective job descriptions based on strengths instead of competencies, and conduct interviews that allow a candidate’s energy, enthusiasm, and strengths to shine through. Marcus Buckingham, a leader in strengths-based recruiting, argues that by knowing an employee’s strengths, you can focus their work more effectively and create a more engaged, higher-performing team, and a more satisfied workforce.

Evaluating Employee Strengths

pexels-photo (2)Moving to a strengths-based recruitment model usually requires taking an honest assessment of the high performers in the workplace and determining the strengths and values that motivate them. With that analysis, you can develop job descriptions that are strength focused, with less emphasis on competencies.

However, much of strength-based recruitment is based on interviews, and it’s important to ask the right questions to determine whether a candidate is a good fit. Among the questions to consider asking include:

  • What do you enjoy doing the most?
  • What types of tasks come easily to you? What are the hardest things to do?
  • What do you enjoy learning the most? The least?
  • How do you define success?
  • What are the accomplishments that you are the most proud of, and why?
  • Are you typically able to finish your to-do list? What is usually left undone?
  • What gives you energy? What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What motivates you?

These are just some of the types of questions that can provide you with greater insight into a candidate’s strengths. By asking them, you can gain greater insight into what makes them “tick,” while also reducing the likelihood of hiring someone who isn’t a good fit because you relied on canned, rehearsed answers that were geared toward demonstrating competency more than anything else. In fact, companies that have used the strengths-based approach actually report reduced hiring costs, because hires are made more quickly and are more likely to stay on board longer.

There will always be times when placements don’t work out. Personalities don’t always mesh, personal issues take precedence, or it’s otherwise just not a great fit. But by moving to a strengths-based approach, it’s easier to weed out the potential bad matches sooner and have a higher success rate — and much happier recruits and clients.

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