3 Steps for Building a Strengths-Based Firm

The war for talent has been going on for quite a while, and your team is feeling the impact. Staff is overextended. You’re losing key team members to other firms and they need to be replaced. You know you want the best possible hire, someone who can quickly start contributing and who will hopefully stay with you for a while. What do you do?

In Good to Great, author Jim Collins explains the importance of “getting the right people on the bus” as the first step toward creating a vision for greatness.  He stresses that your team should not be tied to a specific firm strategy because strategies change. Instead, they should be committed to your firm. This article will help you apply that theory to the hiring process to achieve peak performance in your company.

Step 1: Build the candidate profile

The first step to hiring and retaining team members who will be great contributors to your firm is to define the profile of the employee you wish to hire. This approach goes beyond the standard job description to an analysis of the personal attributes, strengths and technical skills this person will need to be successful with your firm. Get this step right, and the odds of finding and keeping the right person are vastly improved.

As you develop the candidate profile, analyze your firm and your current culture. With this analysis as a foundation, build a list of personal attributes required for this new employee to be successful. If you are in the process of changing your culture, you can base the profile on what you want the culture to be, but you must disclose the current status when interviewing candidates. For example, you may have a hierarchical culture but want to create a collaborative culture. You would list attributes such as collaborative work style in your profile.

A strength, as defined by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton in Now, Discover Your Strengths, is “consistent near-perfect performance of an activity.” They document research supporting the premise that to achieve peak performance a person must be maximizing their strengths. If you can match a person’s natural talent with how they spend most of their time on the job, they will reach their level of peak performance in your firm and be truly committed and fulfilled by their work. This gives you the added benefit of hiring a person who will not be easily enticed to leave your company.

Most positions in today’s workforce require a certain level of skills and specialized knowledge. This section of the profile should consider the time it takes to acquire specific skills as well as how long those skills will be relevant to the job. Most unsuccessful hires are a result of a mismatch of personal attributes. The best person for the position may be a candidate who has the personal qualities to succeed but lacks skills that can quickly be acquired. Be sure to include distinctions between required and desired characteristics for this employee.

Step 2: Develop a recruiting plan

The hiring environment will always impact your ability to hire the person you want. If you are trying to hire an employee with a profile that is in short supply,  analyze the recruiting environment and develop a strategy that will improve your chance of success. What is your competitive edge in the hiring marketplace? Do you offer top compensation and benefits, work/life balance and career growth? Often the answer is somewhere in between. Now is the time to honestly assess how candidates will perceive your opportunity and plan your recruiting strategy accordingly.

Bearing in mind the results of the above analysis, the urgency for filling the position and the internal resources of your company, you have several options for how you can identify the best possible candidate:

  • Employee referrals are an excellent way to attract talent to your firm. Many companies offer bonuses to team members for referred candidates who are hired as a result of this process.
  • Advertising in online job boards, including LinkedIn and Indeed, are the most effective venues in today’s environment.
  • When hiring a large number of team members, a job fair can be an efficient way to assess the market and find good applicants quickly.
  • Don’t discount the potential benefits of hiring from the gig economy. Working with freelancers and project-based workers can help you leverage a growing pool of talent and tap into specialized expertise on an as-needed basis.
  • A retained search firm collaborates with you to hire a candidate who has been specifically identified by the firm for your position. This approach is generally used when a particular combination of skills, personal attributes and abilities is required in the person you plan to hire.

Step 3: Interview and select

Design your interview strategy to give the candidates an accurate and positive impression of your firm. Your plan should include:

  • A consistent interview plan for all candidates. Schedule the same members of the interview team with each of the candidates.
  • Specific interview questions designed to determine how the candidates’ skills, attributes and abilities align with the profile you developed.
  • A focused, comfortable and uninterrupted interview experience.

Top candidates should be interviewed a second time. Consider using assessments that are designed to give additional information about the candidate. Either way, a second interview will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the person you are considering and give them a chance to learn more about the firm.

Collect detailed references for the top individuals under consideration. At this point, it is time to compare all of the information you have gathered to the criteria you established at the beginning of the process and make your decision.

In a perfect world, you are now ready to make an offer. Of course, this is not a perfect world so don’t be surprised if you find that you are hesitant to move forward. Often during this process, you will discover things about your firm or the candidate market that may cause you to rethink the position. This could mean starting the search over with a different set of criteria. Or you may decide to create an entirely new position to leverage a talented individual in a different role. If at any point you think you need to adjust your plan–do it! Take the time to identify and hire the best possible talent for your firm. It’s critical to creating and sustaining a great firm.


About the Author

Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.