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

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November 2019
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work placements

Using your strengths, is a truer insight to a young person’s readiness to enter work

Posted by: Helen Dovey, Senior Psychologist, Capp


“Small jobs make a big difference to young people.” This was the keynote message delivered by Michael Davies, the Chief Executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) last week. Mr Davies opened the launch of ‘Precarious Futures: Youth Employment in an International Context’ report, hosted in the Science Museum.


I attended with the great and good from industry, parliament and academia to hear the UKCES’s recommendations for addressing youth unemployment today.


The resounding conclusion was clear: any kind of work experience significantly improves the career trajectory of young people today.


And why is this? We heard business leaders across the world describe how their early employment experiences shaped their learning agility, skills and knowledge, fundamentally preparing them for the world of work. This ranged from:


  • Working in a newsagent (Fiona Kendrick, Chief Executive and Chairman of Nestlé UK and Ireland) honing interpersonal skills and the true meaning of supply and demand
  • Working in McDonalds (Jill Huntley, Managing Director of Corporate Citizenship, Accenture) developing an appreciation for work ethic and the advancement one earns as a result
  • Delivering a paper round (Michael Davies, the Chief Executive of the UKCES) building trust with others and the value of team work


Interestingly, the UKCES report reveals that from over 90,000 organisations surveyed, nearly 25% of those who recruit school leavers cite lack of work experience or maturity as a key constraint in this population. This was closely followed by poor attitude or lack of motivation at 18%. By contrast, the technical side looks bright with only 4% citing poor numeracy and literacy skills as a barrier.


From my perspective, these findings imply a largely eager, technically able population of young people, hungry to enter the employment market but with no evidence to showcase their potential.


I left the event feeling that businesses are certainly striving to enable young people to enter their organisation at flexible levels. From the Nestlé Academy, to Google’s 3000 strong Internship programme, the initiatives are there.


My challenge is this: how do we assess young people, who do not have the employment history from which to build their personal business case?


Working with school leaver and graduate recruiters across sectors, such as professional services, FMCG and IT, I hear the same thing. ”We want talented, ambitious, hard working and agile individuals”.


While past experience has traditionally been a predictor of job success, at Capp we know from a decade of research that the study of one’s individual’s strengths, not what you have done, is a truer insight to a young person’s readiness to enter work.


This sits at the core of our recruitment methodology and for me, provides the how in addition to the what we can all do to address youth employment today.


Nestlé Academy Fast Start Programme Case Study


A great example of success in recruiting young people is the industry-leading Nestlé Academy Fast Start Programme, a three year scheme for school leavers. Capp worked in partnership with Nestlé to define the indicators of success and to design an assessment strategy capable of identifying individuals’ potential for success, without relying on candidates’ limited previous work experience. The three main challenges were:

  • To increase social mobility in the recruitment process – a programme that would enable anyone, regardless of their background the opportunity to ‘learn while you earn’.
  • To differentiate Fast Start from other school leaver programmes.
  • To identify candidates with high potential, not based on limited previous work experience.


The success of this scheme won Capp & Nestlé the Best Apprentice/School Leaver Recruitment Strategy Category at the Recruiter Awards 2014. To read about the business outcomes, please see more in our case study here.


For further information on strengths-based assessment, apprenticeships and young careers please contact Claire Marr, Client Services Manager at or telephone +44 (0)2476 323 363 or Link In with me, Helen Dovey at


Follow @Capp_co on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook.


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Launching School Leavers’ Fortnight on The Capp Blog

Posted by: Alex Linley & Nicky Garcea, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight


With Scottish Highers results published today, and A-level results looming for many in England and Wales on Thursday 16 August, we are launching “School Leavers’ Fortnight” for the the next two weeks on The Capp Blog.


Throughout this period, we will share with you a series of blogs that cover topics including how students can differentiate themselves on application forms and at interviews, insights from the mind of the interviewer, how young people can use their strengths to enhance their employability, and what advice you can give as a parent, teacher or careers adviser to young people making key decisions at this point in their lives.


We know from the myriad statistics and reports being published that a university degree might not always be the best option for everyone, and that more and more people are turning to apprenticeships or moving directly into the world of work. Supporting this trend, many large graduate employers are questioning whether graduate schemes are the right talent feeder pool for them, or whether they would do better to work at attracting and recruiting junior talent from further down the feeder pool – straight after A-levels, through apprenticeships, or via work placement schemes.


It has been assumed for a long time that universities were the natural sift for the talented to progress, but increasingly this view is being questioned. With rising university fees, ever higher levels of student debt, reduced degree class differentiation, and tightening graduate employment opportunities, both potential employees and graduate employers themselves are asking if there is a better way.


We are witnessing profound social change in the transition of young people to adulthood and the world of work. As with any major change, this creates risks but also huge opportunities. There is real cachet awaiting the organisations capable of reaching out to this emerging junior talent pool and finding the right ways to attract, select, recruit, develop and retain them through their early career years and beyond.


As we will explore throughout the blogs of School Leavers’ Fortnight, helping young people to recognise, develop and make the most of their strengths is critical in enabling them to be their best at work. Through helping young people to discover what they do best and love to do, we can help them discover the careers that will give them success and fulfilment for years to come.


We hope you enjoy the blogs of School Leavers’ Fortnight over the next two weeks. Share them with your colleagues, share them with other parents, share them with young people and school leavers themselves.


It’s time to start thinking afresh about what school leaver career paths can look like.

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