Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


Why strengths-based recruitment gets to the heart of what motivates someone

It’s all about the ‘why’

We know that what makes someone a high performer is not just that they can do the job but that the job is something they love to do.

Energy, motivation and interest are integral to performance.

But typically in recruitment what we look for is competence. We assess whether a candidate can do the job. We don’t measure whether they’re going to love to do the job.

A strengths-based recruitment approach, however, does just that. It hones in on a person’s motivations, the reasons why they do what they do.

Because why they do what they do will determine their behaviour in the role. And that will determine the impact they will have in the role, the outcomes they will deliver.

A strengths-based recruitment approach enables you to assess whether a candidate will deliver the specific outcomes your business requires.

Here’s why.

Imagine you’re a restaurant owner looking to hire a chef

You have three candidates: Nigella, Jamie and Heston.

To discover which one is the best for your business, you might start by asking can they cook well? A competency-based recruitment approach would help you assess their cooking ability.

With a strengths-based recruitment approach though, the most important question is why can they cook well?

Because why they cook well will determine what sort of cook they are. And that will determine what sort of restaurant it will be.

Nigella cooks for the pure pleasure that comes from feeding people the food they love. Jamie delights in experimenting with flavours, creating new taste sensations. Heston is fascinated by the chemistry involved, how reactions at a molecular level determine the finished product.

They all create great food. But their different interests have driven the development of their abilities, making them very different chefs.

And those differences will have a huge effect on your restaurant. So the question to ask yourself is what sort of restaurant do you want? Are you looking for Michelin stars or a reputation for serving good, honest, hearty tucker? Is your restaurant cutting-edge, fine dining, or a home-from-home?

Once you know the answer to that question, you’ll know which chef to employ.

While a competency-based approach is focused on candidates’ behaviours, a strengths-based recruitment approach looks much more closely at the interest (the passion, the energy) driving the behaviour. And at the outcome of the application of their interest. Not, can they do it, but, what’s the impact of their interest in it?

What is the impact of your interest?

Your interest drives the development of your ability and your behaviours. Different interests can drive the same behaviour but the outcome will be different.

Let’s say you have two candidates applying for a managerial position. One of them is interested in developing other people. That interest will drive them to find opportunities to do so, perhaps through mentoring their team. The outcome will be their team will feel that attention, they’ll feel supported.

The other candidate is interested in efficiency. They will, therefore, tend to seek out opportunities to organise, to streamline, to bring structure. They’re less inclined to focus on their team’s development. The outcome is a super-efficient team but one that doesn’t feel very supported.

Both these candidates are skilled managers but each does it differently based on their personal interests. And their interests deliver different outcomes.

The question is: which outcome is best for your business?

Designing a strengths-based recruitment approach

To design your strengths-based recruitment approach you need to start at that end point. Start by asking yourself:

1. What is the outcome you need?

Whenever I’m designing a strengths based recruitment approach I want to know what the desired outcomes are.

What does good look like? What does effective look like? Not in terms of how, in terms of impact.

With a competency-based approach, you would be looking for how a candidate would apply themselves in the role. Something like: ‘they will have coaching conversations with people on their team.’

But, instead of defining behaviours in a role, define the outcome. For instance, you may be looking for a manager who delivers ‘a team that is motivated towards common goals’.

2. What interests/strengths help drive someone to be good at that?

Next explore what strengths someone would need to make them successful at delivering this outcome.

Look at the high performers in your business. Those who are great at the job and love the job. Use job analysis techniques to get a better understanding of why they are high performers. Not in terms of what they do or how they do it. What you’re really looking to capture is what they’re motivated by, energised by, interested in.

Create a framework to document your findings (in the same way a competency framework helps you to document behaviours in a role). E.g. People who are interested in leadership tend to be interested in big picture thinking, motivating people, change.

3. What kind of recruitment tools do you need?

Now you know what ideal candidates are interested in, how are you going to measure that?

There are plenty of strengths tools available. A good one that has reliability and validity (needed for a recruitment context) and is registered with the British Psychological Society is Strengthscope®.

Be aware that it is difficult to observe strengths in action. So if you’re using a tool like a role-play, you’ll be able to observe what someone is doing but not why. To discover why, you’ll need to add an opportunity for the candidate to reflect on that exercise -perhaps in discussion with an assessor or via a simple form. Asking them why they behaved in the way they did is how you get to understand their strengths.

Remember though that it’s not enough to have the right strengths. You need to be able to use them productively in the role.

For information on devising strengths-based interview questions, click here

Strengths-based recruitment is very different to competency-based recruitment. It can feel weird to focus on why someone’s good at something if you’re used to assessing how someone does something. But the why is at the heart of what drives performance. At the heart of what delivers the outcomes your business needs. That’s why a strengths-based recruitment approach could be the recruitment approach for you.

If you’d like more on how to implement a strengths-based recruitment approach in your business, click here to arrange a no-obligation chat with me.

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