The interview process doesn’t always result in the most appropriate candidate being chosen for a role.
Even if their skills and experience match the position, you could still end up with their resignation letter on your desk a few months later, leaving HR with the expensive and time-consuming task of finding a replacement.
Better interviews, say the experts, can go a long way to solving these woes. Strengths-based interviews (SBIs), which have their origins in positive psychology, are thought to be particularly effective in identifying where passion and competence converge to create value.
Whereas traditional competency-based interviews aim to assess what a candidate can do, a strengths-based interview looks at what they enjoy doing and have a natural aptitude for. After all, goes the thinking, if an employee enjoys a task, that leads to a shift in consciousness known as ‘flow’, which results in complete engrossment in the task and a higher level of performance.
Neha Mohunta, senior consultant at Aon Hewitt, believes HR should use the SBI technique to test for best fit, particularly in white-collar roles. She points out that for graduates – who often have a limited track record in the workplace – this technique offers a good way to evaluate potential.
“SBIs seek to identify what energises and motivates the employee,” she says. “If this closely matches the culture of the organisation it is a win-win situation. And the process itself is interactive, relaxed and engaging.
The candidate is likely to discover more about their own personality as part of the interview process, which makes rejection – when faced – easier.”
An SBI will feel more personal, and allow the interviewer to get a feel for who the interviewee actually is. This environment stimulates the candidate to be more natural and talk easily about what motivates them.
Questions could include: what kind of situations are you likely to excel in? What tasks do you find most engaging? And: can you describe in detail an example of where you feel you performed your best in the role?
A candidate cannot prepare for an SBI by cramming facts and figures beforehand, nor can they pull the wool over an interviewer’s eyes by giving ‘expected’ answers. “However, if the candidates know the likely behaviours and traits that are necessary to define success in the position, they can prepare in advance by recalling examples of how they demonstrate similar capabilities,” says Mohunta.
“For the experienced hire, it helps understand what drives them and where they can achieve mastery. It easily distinguishes employees who will naturally enjoy the role and are likely to push the frontier from those just performing tasks.”
A good example is Google, where the interviewer spends 20 per cent of their time pursuing topics the candidate is most interested in. “The SBI is likely to highlight such preferences upfront. It is a great way to drive innovation and creativity at work,” says Mohunta.
Interviewers should be aware that to gain maximum value from such interviews, it is critical to match the identified strengths with the competencies required for the role, otherwise the process may be engaging but the relevance and outcome could be low. The SBI should be supplemented with additional tools to enhance predictive outcomes, especially to evaluate technical competence.
Are you a journalist looking for expert commentary and insights on the world of work?
Latest news from the CIPD
Championing better work and working lives
About the CIPD
At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.