Playing to your strengths: Recruiting the right people, first time!

Hi all!

I’m Clive Hutchinson, from Cougar Automation. I’d like to offer you some advice about making the right hire for your business.

After many months worrying about survival through this tough recession thoughts may be starting to turn to building our businesses through the upturn. And, of course, building our businesses almost inevitably means recruitment.

We need to find the fantastic people who will deliver great results to our customers so that our business almost builds itself. But, I am sure that like me you have had plenty of experience of recruiting what seemed like the perfect person, only to find out you have made a costly mistake. So, how can we improve the choices we make when taking people on?

At my business, Cougar Automation, simply put, we turned our recruitment process on its head. We no longer care about qualifications and past experience. Instead, we recruit for strengths. But, what do I mean by strengths?

Essentially, strengths are simply those things that you love doing, which you are naturally good at, that you look forward to doing, and that completely absorb you. Just take a moment to think of something that you do well and that when you do it you lose track of time. You know, the stuff you are doing when the day just seems to fly past. Well, that stuff is a strength for you.

Now, I discovered ‘strengths’ from Marcus Buckingham’s book ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’. This was a real eye opener for me. In the past I’d always thought that bright and motivated people were capable of doing pretty much anything they put their mind to. I now realise I was wrong. We are all totally different: things I love doing and am good at you may well hate and have to force yourself to do. And when we are doing something that drags us down our performance really suffers.

Just take a minute now to think of a task at work you dislike, one that you put off doing, and that you keep being distracted from. How productive are you doing that task compared with the things that you love doing? Half as productive, a quarter, even less? Now, who do we want to recruit? Someone that loves all the work they have to do, or one that finds it all a drag?

The Cougar Cats - Cougar Automation

But surely that is what recruitment is all about? We check qualifications and experience and ask searching interview questions to find people who are good at the job. Well, here is the shocking news. Research by the Gallup Organisation found that only 20% of workers say that they get to play to their strengths most of the time at work. So, if we base our recruitment on the candidates past work experience we are most likely to get someone from the 80% who have been doing the job despite it not playing to their strengths.

Well, what about qualifications? Not much help either. Just think about it, how similar are the things you have to do to get most qualifications compared to the jobs we do at work? Work isn’t very like being in a class, or reading a text book, or writing assignments. Yes, there are some similarities, but in general, loving the things that you have to do at school, college and university to get good qualifications are quite different to what we do at work. Just think of those well qualified people you recruited in the past who mysteriously were unable to do simple tasks.

The Cougar Cats - Cougar Automation

So, if you want to recruit more stars and avoid costly mistakes, think of what your new recruit will actually be doing at work and look for people who excel at those tasks, but love doing them too. Stop looking at qualifications and past experience and instead prioritise on traits and strengths – It’s certainly worked for us!