How do you recruit people who are not just skilled and competent but also motivated to do the job? People who will not just throw themselves into their work, but will thrive on it.
The traditional way is to ask motivational fit questions at interview – e.g. ‘why do you want the job? What do you think you’ll enjoy most about the role?’ But it’s easy for a candidate to bluff their answers making it difficult to be certain how they will behave once in post.
That’s why I use a strengths-based approach to recruiting.
The idea of strengths is based on the concept of ‘flow’ developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1980s. He wondered why some Olympic athletes performed so much better than their competition despite having similar skills and abilities. He found that those athletes who got lost in the moment, were totally focused on the race to the exclusion of everything else, ended up being the star performers. They used all their energy and passion as well as their skill to be the best they could be in that moment.
By doing something that energises you, you get that experience of flow, making you a better performer. Strengths are those things that energise you.
This is a becoming a leading trend with ASDA, John Lewis, Bank of England, Royal College of Surgeons, GSK, Facebook, Photobox, amongst many others adopting this strengths-based approach with success.
So how do you measure for strengths when recruiting?
Of the many strengths tools on the market, my personal preference is Strengthscope® by Strengths Partnership. It’s psychometrically robust and is the only strengths questionnaire currently undergoing the British Psychological Society kitemark process.
It’s just like a personality questionnaire. But unlike other similar psychometrics, it identifies your top seven strengths (taken from a range of 24 strengths). These are the things that energise you at work e.g. are you energised by working with detail, or getting to know people, or leading a team etc.
Prior to interview
I ask candidates to complete the strengths questionnaire and I share the resulting report with them in advance of the interview. This means they get the chance to reflect on whether it paints an accurate picture of them (I’ve never had anyone say it wasn’t accurate!).
During the interview
Using the results of the questionnaire, and focusing on one strength at a time, I use Strengths Partnership’s OPAL™ model to structure the conversation:
- Outcomes and achievements – how has the strength benefited them at work? What have they achieved using it?
- Productive use of strength – how have they applied this strength to past roles and how they would apply it to this potential role?
- Agility – how have they adapted using this strength over time? When has using this strength gone wrong?
- Learning and reducing performance risk – what have they learnt from their key successes and mistakes?
Talking through seven strengths can take time, so I often focus on their top three. I also tend to follow up a strengths based conversation with one about competency and experience. That way I get a really rounded picture of the candidate’s abilities and motivations.
After the interview
I will consider what the candidate’s strengths are in relation to the role, e.g:
- Do they seem self-aware and have they demonstrated they’re energised by their strengths and can use them productively?
- Will there be an opportunity for them to use their strengths in this role or will they be frustrated?
- Is there a good fit between their strengths and the culture i.e. the way things are done around here, and importantly with other people on the team?
The benefits & limitations
The benefits of this approach are:
- It can be used at all levels of an organisation – I’ve used it from non-Exec Board level to junior administrative level
- It’s much harder for a candidate to fake their answers and it embraces individual differences
- It’s a better experience for the candidate – they get to have a conversation about what really makes them tick
- It explores someone’s potential not just what they have done in the past.
There are limitations however. There is a cost per candidate to complete the questionnaire and you need to be appropriately trained to use the questionnaire. Plus, you need to be ready as an organisation to support and manage an individual working to their strengths!
What do you think? Have you used a strengths based approach when recruiting? How do you uncover candidates’ motivations? Let me know how you get on.