A Simple Guide to Strengths-Based Recruitment

When you tailor the recruitment process to uncover top performers who love what they do, you benefit your organization with boosted employee engagement and reduced turnover. You need the know-how to unlock motivators and the passion behind the skills when recruiting. We can help.

Strengths-based recruitment and development provides an understanding of what candidates can do. It also drives employee engagement by learning why they enjoy doing it. It's been so successful in reducing staff turnover that recruiters have now shifted the recruitment process to include it.

In this article, you'll learn what strengths-based recruitment is, tools that support it, and how it benefits your talent management strategy.

What Is Strengths-Based Recruitment (SBR)? 

Strengths-based recruitment is when employees focus recruiting to natural talents and motivators. There’s an emphasis on what the potential hire loves to do versus what they’re skilled at, and this provides a deeper level of engagement.

Strengths-based recruitment is less about focusing on behavioral-type interview questions. Instead, it's about having an authentic conversation with candidates about the work they desire to do.  

In this way, the interview becomes less about what the candidates have done in the past and more about what they intend to accomplish in the future.

A Tale of Two Candidates

You can have two similarly skilled candidates who are motivated by different things. This can affect their approach to business relationships, the focus of their work, and the outcome of their contributions.

An example would be if you have two mid-level sales managers, one who is motivated by cost savings and the other by customer satisfaction. 

When there's a client issue, the first manager will spend more time trying to save the company money. They may sacrifice one unhappy client in order to save company resources and dollars. 

The manager motivated by customer satisfaction may be willing to go to extreme lengths to prioritize a positive client experience over company budget. They are motivated by the philosophy that a happy client can have more long-term benefits to the bottom line. 

Both sales managers may be at the same seniority but their motivators can result in different business results. To know which candidate is better for the position, you must uncover the candidate's strengths and whether they fit with your team's needs

Benefits of Strengths-Based Recruitment (SBR)

Powerful (and profitable) organizations like Barclays, Aviva, and Starbucks use SBR to bring in high performers so, naturally, it has everyone's attention. What is it about integrating this method into the recruitment process that is beneficial? SBR shortens the recruitment process and boosts employee engagement. This is because it helps candidates think about whether the job is right for their skillset.

This Kogan Page article cites three major benefits to using strengths-based recruitment methods: 

  1. It helps reduce staff turnover which is known to cost lots of money.
  2. SBR helps boost productivity levels since employees are in roles they enjoy.
  3. For sectors that rely on service, employee engagement means better customer satisfaction.

A case study commissioned by Sally Bibb's company Engaging Minds found that switching to strengths-based recruitment led to a fall in staff turnover from 65% to 17% staff with a UK-based call center. Maybe it can be taken with a grain of salt since Bibb is a strengths specialist and this case study is published on her company website to prove the merits of SBR. Even still, it's a considerable drop that saved that company millions to their bottom line.

To learn more about Sally Bibb and her findings, check out her book, “Strengths-Based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results.”

Types of Interview Questions That Assess Strengths

Strengths based recruitment: Woman interviewing an applicant

Bibb talks about how strengths-based recruitment styles take the sting out of candidate rejection in a Guardian piece about SBR. She said, "We have found time and time again that the people who don't get offered the job a) understand why and realise that they wouldn't be happy in the role because it's just not them, and b) don't feel like they've failed as they often do if they don't get through a competency-based interview.”

To better check a candidate's strengths, ask these questions during the job interview:

  • What work are you passionate about?
  • What was your favorite/least favorite subject in school?
  • What tasks are easiest for you? Which are the hardest?
  • What are you excited to learn? What do you dread?
  • What does success look and feel like to you?
  • What's an example (or two) of an accomplishment that you're most proud of?
  • What do you often leave until last on your work to-do list?
  • What excites you and gives you energy each day?
  • What is your top motivator?
  • How do you know when you've had a successful workday?
  • What are three things that are going well for you right now?
  • What kind of work makes you feel most useful?
  • How do you overcome challenges?
  • What do you find inspiring about your life?
  • How do your strengths benefit your community?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt satisfied in your work.
  • If you had the opportunity what would you like to teach others?
  • What are the things in your life that help you keep strong?
  • How have people in your personal or professional life helped you deal with challenges?

Open-ended questions can provide some context and insight into the type of work this potential new hire will enjoy most (or try to avoid). It can also help the hiring manager understand who they can be paired with for mentorship while onboarding them.

Competency-based interview questions test skills but miss critical information. Missing out on information that can lead to greater employee engagement would be a pity.

It's not that competency-based interview questions are bad, it's that recruiters see fruitful results with complementary strengths-based assessments.

Strengths-Based Recruitment Programs and Tools

These two tools can help support any talent acquisition team looking to make the switch from competency-based hiring to a strengths-based recruitment method.

1. Strengthscope®

Strengthscope was built to achieve the company mission of "building a simple, accessible language that enables people to pinpoint what they love most about work, coupled with giving them increased self-awareness." 

It managed to earn its stripes as being the only strengths assessment to reach Registered Test Status with the British Psychological Society and is therefore recognized as a reliable resource. 

They provide a set of tests that are created for hiring and performance enhancement with your existing team. In each 35-minute questionnaire, Strengthscope uncovers seven strengths (out of 22 possible strengths) for participants. 

They define strengths as “underlying qualities that energise us, contribute to our personal growth and lead to peak performance.” 

The evaluation ranks these natural abilities instead of competencies, which they consider surface qualities.

With five different products, three potential accreditation programs, and numerous case studies available on the website, there's bound to be an avenue that works well for your particular use.

2. Searchlight

Strengths based recruitment: Searchlight Data Summay

Searchlight helps to identify strengths without bias since the data is coming from third-party colleagues and managers. The reference data is provided by those who have direct experience working with the candidate in consideration. 

The reports created in Searchlight can be used to cross-reference a candidate's self-evaluation of their strengths and coachable areas which can lead to further insights about the candidate’s self-awareness and motivation.

The Final Word on Strengths-Based Recruitment

Employees in an office setting

For SBR to be an effective strategy for your talent acquisition team it will require some self-reflection before posting the job descriptions. It will be more difficult to rank candidate replies according to a scale since they are often highly personal. Instead, seek to understand what kind of strengths are required to begin with.

Ask yourself, "What strengths does this job involve?" and "What key markers, words, and impressions will let me know when a candidate matches them?" 

Make a list and be prepared to take note of red flags. By being upfront about the chemistry between candidate motivators and the open role, you can ensure a more compatible fit from the get-go.

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