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

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October 2019
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Competency-based recruitment

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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Why Competency-based Recruitment Misses Talented Graduates

Posted by: Nicky Garcea

 

“This latest research confirms that taking part in work placements or internships whilst at university is now just as important as getting a 2:1 or a first-class degree,” says Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, quoting their latest research.

 

High Fliers latest research report, The Graduate Market in 2013, reflects responses from recruiters from UK’s top 100 degree-level employers.  Half of the recruiters surveyed warned that graduates who had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful in their selection processes.

 

This is hardly a surprise when competency-based recruitment depends so critically on candidates being able to provide “an example of where you have done this before.”

 

If ever there was a case of needing experience to get the job, and needing the job to get the experience, it’s competency-based interviews. Competency-based interviews rest heavily on past experience.

 

As a result, it is easy to see how graduates who do not have a wealth of past work experience or job-specific examples, will often be sifted out of a large recruiter’s application process as early as the application stage.

 

These experiences, confirmed by the High Fliers research, clearly point to a need for both graduates and recruiters to take a fresh look at graduate recruitment.

 

After all, if every graduate candidate is simply regurgitating the same competency response that they picked up as a model answer from Wikijobs, that isn’t going to help any recruiter sift the talent from the rest. Equally as important, it isn’t going to help graduates get into a job they will love.

 

Thankfully, there is another way.

 

For many years now, we have been helping graduate recruiters (and other recruiters) use strengths-based recruitment to assess the candidate more holistically, by taking account of their energy and motivation, as well as their past performance.

 

Yes, there is still a role for what people have done before, but this isn’t the only criterion, or even the main criterion, by which they are judged.

 

Our experience of helping major organisations to recruit thousands of graduates for their strengths, rather than being constrained by looking only in the rearview mirror of what they have done in the past, is changing the face of graduate recruitment.

 

Companies like Barclays, Ernst & Young, Nestlé and Aviva are leading the way, with many others now starting to follow.

 

Strengths-based recruitment delivers the right talent for the right roles. In doing so, it depends not just on what people have done, or even what they can do, but more on what they love to do.

 

By getting graduates into the work they love, graduate recruiters will be building their future talent pipelines at the same time as making a significant social contribution, opening their doors to a wider talent pool than just the fortunate few who have “done it before”.

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