Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment

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July 2018
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Jamie Betts

Graduate Attraction: Going Off-piste

Posted by: Jamie Betts, Principal Consultant, Capp

 

Something rather odd is happening. Despite a near record high in graduate unemployment, many graduate recruiters find it challenging to attract the very best candidates for their schemes. This reported candidate shortage doesn’t tally with the reality of the graduate job market. With over one million young people looking for work, what’s really going on?

 

If you speak to students, tutors, and careers service professionals outside of Oxbridge and the Russell Group, you’ll soon notice a trend: they are largely ignored by the bulk of prestigious graduate employers. What then happens is that frantic efforts are simultaneously expended by many employers on the ‘top 10′ UK universities, and particularly Oxbridge.

 

This creates a sharp division. If you attend a top university, graduate employers are falling over each other as they try to attract your attention – attending your careers fairs, lavishing student associations with sponsorship, and hosting events with free drinks to entice you along. Careers services are overwhelmed with employers wanting air time with their students.

 

If, however, you are unfortunate enough attend a university in the ‘lower 90%’ bracket, you’d be lucky to have a decent employer attending a single careers fair, let alone lavish you with sponsorship and events. The UK’s top few universities produce a finite number of graduates each year, which goes some way to explain why many graduate employers find it challenging to attract all the talent they need.

 

This isn’t the only problem. Even in attempting to attract the best talent from the top universities, many graduate employers follow a rigid cyclical timetable. This makes sense on one level, because graduate recruitment does operate in an annual cycle. But it also means that everyone is trying to attract the same finite pool of talent at exactly the same time. Slightly crazy.

 

Graduate employers who find it challenging to attract the best talent may enjoy greater success in breaking from their traditional cycle.

 

Don’t just attend the careers fairs with everyone else. Instead, build relationships with specific faculties, host independent events during the quieter months, think creatively about what you can offer undergraduates at each stage in their academic life.

 

And, importantly, ask the careers service what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you – you may be surprised at their response.

 

Perhaps above all else, remember that a wealth of young talent exists outside the Russell Group. You’ve just got to be open to finding it.

 

Strengths Attraction is the first step in Strengths Selector, Capp’s five steps to strengths-based recruitment.

 

 

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From Competencies to Strengths: A Personal Journey

Posted by: Jamie Betts, Principal Consultant, Capp

 

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about strengths-based assessment is that no-one thought of it sooner. But ten years ago when I was starting my career, competencies where ‘the big thing’, while strengths-based assessment was a mere glint in the eye of a few ‘crazy’ academics.

 

A lot can happen in a decade. Looking back on our unshakeable faith in the effectiveness of competencies now, it looks like a hazy and confused dream. Competencies became an article of faith, upon which no criticism would be brooked. Line managers huffed and puffed, feeling restricted and frustrated by competency-based interviewing and its endless probes.

 

OK, line managers said, so someone has done something in the past – that doesn’t mean they enjoyed doing it, won’t that impact performance? But we didn’t listen. We didn’t care – we’d seen some old research that competency-based assessment worked, and we’d be damned if we were going to be told otherwise.

 

Well, that was then. And much has changed. The saturation of competency-based questioning, and the tendency of organisations to all measure the same half dozen core competencies, led to the ridiculous situation where candidates reeled off fully rehearsed answers before you’d even finished the question.

 

Any candidate who understood the format, or had been coached in any way by a careers service, was going to simply reel off the examples – collaboration, working well under pressure, dealing with change…

 

And so, what started as a well-intended assessment approach (to measure people based on their past behaviour) descended into farce. Interviewing became a bizarre ritualistic act. Candidates felt frustrated at being cornered by specific past-behavioural questioning and a barrage of probes.

 

They lied, they acted, they rehearsed – passing a competency-based interview became a measure of how convincingly you could reel off the same half dozen stories without sounding too bored. It didn’t really matter if the stories were true or not, since you had plenty of time to rehearse them in your head and cover your bases when the inevitable probes came your way.

 

Thank God, then, for strengths. Just at the moment when the thought of another competency-based interview had some of us reaching for the valium, along came a methodology that just… made sense. Line managers got it. Candidates loved it. And assessment experts breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 

Strengths are the future of assessment. They synergy of ‘can do’ and ‘love to do’ leads to peak performance. And as competencies start to fade into the twilight, please allow a few of us to break open the champagne  – after thousands of competency-based interviews, we deserve it.

 

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Recruitment Trends in 2013: The Storm Has Yet to Pass

Posted by: Jamie Betts

 

Recruitment is a great indicator of the wider health of the economy. And economists, as in other disciplines, often attempt to predict the future by learning from the mistakes of the past.

 

So, what do they have to say about the state of the UK economy? In the US, economic activity has recovered to pre-Great Recession levels and unemployment is falling robustly, while sadly the same cannot be said for the UK. Why is this?

 

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman notes that the US has not (as yet) bothered with austerity at all – and yet, somehow, its deficit has fallen by 25%, and businesses are hiring again. How did this happen? Largely, Krugman notes, it happened thanks to a growing economy and the increased tax revenue this generated.

 

In the UK, we are repeating the mistakes of the 1930′s by cutting back during an economic slump, at a time when the economy actually needs a kick-start. Our deficit grew larger last year in spite of (or perhaps because of) austerity. If the current indicators are correct, then our economy is poised to enter an unprecedented Triple Dip recession. Welcome to 2013.

 

It is against this rather dark background that we must frame our thinking with regard to the trends we’re likely to see in recruitment in 2013.

 

Many organisations are sitting on large cash piles, and credit is becoming cheaper, but a chronic lack of demand is preventing investment (and hiring). Millions of people are unemployed, or under-employed and seeking full-time employment.

 

At least, that’s one half of the story. The other is that, at the highly skilled end, the labour market has become far less ‘liquid’ as people sit tight on the job they have, motivated by fear of loss. What are the implications of this?

 

On the one hand, a business may be inundated with thousands of responses for jobs in retail, customer services, and administration. The paradox is that as businesses have hired less, so the time they must invest in recruitment has often increased – handling very high response levels professionally and appropriately can be a daunting and time-consuming prospect.

 

The other side of the same coin is that at the highly-skilled end, while volumes are lower, it is critically important to make the right hires – and there may be a tangible impact on business performance as a result. In a challenging economy, having the right people on board could mean the difference between profit and loss.

 

With this in mind, there is likely to be a continued and heightened focus in 2013 on the following key recruitment themes:

 

1. Response handling and screening – particularly at the graduate and junior operational end, what is the best way to handle thousands of responses?

 

2. Robust assessment of key hires – those hires that are made, need to be the right ones

 

3. The link between recruitment and development – acquisition of talent is one side of the coin, retention and development the other, and the synergy of both is critical.

 

As 2013 develops, the hope is that the current economic indicators are wrong. But if they’re not, and we enter yet another recession, then we are at least able to learn from our experiences of hiring in 2009-2012.

 

The storm has yet to pass, but our ability to predict and handle its consequences are much improved.

 

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Beyond Induction: How Ineffective On-boarding Harms Business Performance

Posted by: Jamie Betts

 

In this final blog introducing Capp’s Strengths Selector, Jamie Betts explores how Strengths On-boarding, the fifth and final step of Strengths Selector, ensures that new joiners are more productive in their new organisation from day one, week one and month one

 

Many of us have been there. We start a new job, we’re excited, we’re ready to perform, and we want to deliver great results. Then reality hits – the organisation has no idea how to harness our potential, and we feel a sense of low-level frustration. Stagnation follows. And a resignation follows some time after that.

 

Perhaps the worst thing about this cycle of events is how rarely it’s picked up. People don’t want to burn bridges, and it’s not like their organisation is… bad. It’s just not for them. They’ll do their job, meander along, cause no problems, and then move onto pastures new. It happens all the time, as any organisation with a robust exit survey process can attest.

 

This isn’t how businesses will achieve optimum performance. By failing to understand their individual behavioural preferences and potential, we greatly reduce the chances of people attaining peak performance. Multiply this by several key hires, and you’re left with an organisation which won’t realise it’s own potential.

 

This impacts quickly on organisational performance – service delivery, profit, reputation… all can be damaged.

 

It needn’t be like this. Though straightforward interventions, such as identifying an individual’s strengths prior to them joining, we’re able to help them map out their pathway to optimal performance.

 

Effective on-boarding isn’t just about an induction and a mobile phone, but also the harnessing of an individual’s true potential, helping them align their strengths to how they will deliver success in role.

 

After all, their strengths are what you recruited them for – and it is these strengths which will lead to engaged, motivated employees, and an organisation primed for peak performance.

 

Strengths On-boarding is the fifth step in Strengths Selector, Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment. Read more about Strengths Selector and Strengths On-boarding here.

 

Jamie Betts is a Principal Consultant at Capp.

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Why Do ‘Bespoke’ Assessment Centres Always Feel the Same?

Posted by: Jamie Betts

 

In this third blog introducing Capp’s Strengths Selector, Jamie Betts explores how the Strengths Assessment Centre, the fourth step of Strengths Selector, serves to differentiate the Assessment Centre experience for candidates, helping organisations identify and select the right talent

 

It’s perplexing. Assessment and development experts will all agree about the importance of bespoke assessment centres, which measure the unique behaviours required for success in a given role. And yet, as any graduate doing the assessment centres ’rounds’ will tell you, most assessment centres tend to feel the same.

 

One of the reasons for this homogeneity seems to be rooted in the weaknesses of the competency-based approach. For all the talk of organisations having unique cultures, the same 4 or 5 generic competencies are measured again and again: customer focus, collaboration/teamwork, results orientation, and planning/organising almost always crop up in one form or another.

 

And yet, despite the striking similarities between these assessment centres, design consultancies sell these competency-based assessment centres as entirely ‘bespoke’. This is not entirely untrue, since each assessment centre will often be designed from scratch.

 

But given how similar the assessment centres feel, and what they measure, it could also be regarded as intellectually dishonest.

 

This is just one reason why at Capp we have moved away from competency-based assessment centres, and instead are innovating in the field of strength-based assessment. Not only does strengths assessment allow for a greater range behaviours to be measured, it also provides a more natural and positive environment for candidates to express their natural behavioural preferences.

 

Strengths-based assessment helps break the cycle of overly similar assessment centres for volume and graduate recruitment/development, moving away from the tendency of measuring the same narrow range of core behaviours.

 

Not only is this good news for candidates, it’s great news for organisations looking to measure an individual’s true behavioural potential and to spot who has the talent to succeed.

 

Strengths Assessment Centres are the fourth step in Strengths Selector, Capp’s five step approach to strengths-based recruitment. Read more about Strengths Selector  and Strengths Assessment Centres here.

 

Jamie Betts is a Principal Consultant at Capp.

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Does Your Interview Approach Force Candidates to Lie?

Posted by: Jamie Betts

 

In this second blog introducing Capp’s Strengths Selector, Jamie Betts explores how the Strengths Based Interview, the third step of Strengths Selector after the Situational Strengths Test, avoids the need to force candidates to lie

 

The question may sound a little provocative – why would anyone force candidates to lie in an interview? But it’s more common than you might imagine. The crux of the issue is competency-based past-behavioural questions, i.e., “give me an example of when you have…”, followed by detailed probes.

 

This interviewing approach is always assumptive and often specific. This isn’t a healthy combination where encouraging honesty is concerned. The questions are assumptive because you are telling a candidate to give you an example of something which may or may not have occurred.

 

A real-life example a large healthcare firm used was “give me an example of a time when you’ve managed a challenging individual during a period of considerable organisational change”.

 

The problem with past-behavioural questions is that, if candidates have no experience of the example you request, they are likely to make something up – it’s that, or sit there in silence and fail the interview. Asking detailed probes is essentially ordering a candidate to ‘flesh out’ their lie against their own will.

 

This isn’t to say that all candidates lie, some may indeed respond that they have never encountered such a scenario – but those that do, only do so because you’ve forced their hand with an assumptive past-behavioural question.

 

This is one of many reasons why we’ve abandoned the classic competency-based approach to interviewing and seek instead to understand a candidate’s strengths. We believe that candidates shouldn’t be directed to speak at length about behaviours they have no interest in, and are unlikely to display in the workplace.

 

Our unique approach to strengths-based interviewing represents a positive step-change in how an interview feels to both candidates and assessors alike – and as an added bonus, we don’t force people to lie.

 

The Strengths Based Interview is the fourth stage of Strengths Selector, Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment. Read more about Strengths Selector and the Strengths Based Interview here.

 

Jamie Betts is a Principal Consultant at Capp.

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Attraction and Assessment: What’s the Missing Link?

Posted by: Jamie Betts & Celine Jacques

 

In the first of four blog posts this week that preview Strengths Selector, Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment, Jamie Betts and Celine Jacques look at Strengths Attraction, the first step in the candidate funnel.

 

Expectations. They matter – and as anyone who has lost a new starter due to mismatched expectations will tell you, there is a genuine business cost associated with not meeting them.

 

It’s interesting, then, that many organisations don’t link their attraction and assessment strategies. This applies even in cases where organisations use a sophisticated and integrated direct hiring model (e.g., for graduate or volume campaigns).

 

In addition, for experienced hires, many organisations effectively outsource their attraction message to recruitment agencies. This will be the case for any organisation that has at least a partial reliance on agencies for their experienced hire recruitment.

 

This is perhaps unintended cause-and-effect. Organisations are not intentionally failing to link attraction and assessment, it’s just that the advertising agencies who develop the attraction message rarely link this to the requirements and realities of the job itself.

 

Further to this, recruitment agencies who engage with experienced hires on LinkedIn, and advertise on job boards, have their own message to ‘hook’ candidates. This means you lose control, and any attempt to effectively link attraction and assessment would be lost too.

 

When it comes to attracting the best possible talent, this matters. Even organisations with a robust direct hiring model, who are firmly in control of their employer brand and external positioning, only rarely link this message to the behaviours, or strengths, which will drive success in the role.

 

This is the missing link between attraction and assessment – an attraction strategy informed not only by your employer brand, but a message which is more likely to speak to those who will genuinely excel at the job.

 

Linking attraction with assessment is a logical step forward. Think of it as a head start in your screening process – and an opportunity to define a truly differential message to the marketplace. This is what the Strengths Attraction step of Strengths Selector is designed to do.

 

Find out more about Strengths Selector, Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment, here.

 

Jamie Betts is a Principal Consultant, and Celine Jacques is a Managing Psychologist, both at Capp.

 

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