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The Boomer Bulletin - 2010
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The First Steps In Building a Strengths-Based Firm

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Monday, December 13, 2010

The economy is on the rebound and your team is feeling the impact. Your firm is improving with the result of over extending your existing staff or losing key team members to other firms and they need to be replaced. Either way, 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, by Jim Collins, he 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 (strategies change) but should be committed to your firm. The purpose of this article is to help you understand how to apply his theory to the hiring process in order to achieve peak performance in your company.

First Step – Building 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 that 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. In addition, they will 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 attributes to succeed and lacks skills that can quickly be acquired. Be sure to include distinctions between required and desired attributes for this employee.

Second Step - Develop a Recruiting Plan

Your ability to hire the person you want is always impacted by the hiring environment. You may be looking for an employee with a profile that is in short supply or you may be able to easily identify numerous candidates for your position. Analyzing the recruiting environment and developing a strategy that will ensure success is the critical component of this step. What is your competitive edge in the hiring marketplace? Are you hiring an employee that is in high demand? 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 your opportunity will be perceived in the current market and to 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 for your position:

Employee Referrals: This can be a great way of attracting talent to your firm. Many companies offer bonuses to team members for referred candidates who are hired as a result of this process.

Advertising: Effective venues might include local newspapers, trade journals, associations, and job boards.


Job Fairs: When hiring large numbers of team members, a job fair can be an efficient way to quickly assess the market and find good applicants.

Contingency Staffing: Employing the use of a contingency staffing firm will assist you in finding candidates quickly and to identify a portion of the "passive candidates” in the market. Fees are paid by you and are only incurred should you hire a candidate represented by the firm.

Retained Search: 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 very specific combination of skills, personal attributes and abilities is required in the person you plan to hire.

Third Step – Interviewing and Selection

Your interviewing strategy should be designed to give the candidates an accurate and positive impression of your firm. Include in your plan the following:

  • Develop a consistent interview plan for all candidates and schedule the same members of the interview team with each of the candidates.
  • Design the specific interview questions to determine how the candidates’ skills, attributes and abilities align with the profile you developed.
  • Provide each candidate a focused, comfortable and uninterrupted interview experience.

The top candidates should be interviewed a second time. This step may include the use of assessments that are designed to give additional information about the candidate. Either way, a second interview will give you a more in-depth understanding of the person you are considering and give them the chance to learn more about you.

Obtain detailed references for the top individuals who are 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 do not 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 a different position to bring in a talented individual in a different role. If at any point you think you need to adjust your plan–do it! Taking the time to identify and hire the best possible talent for your firm is critical to creating and sustaining a great company.

Interested in learning knowing more about building a "Strengths Based Organization”? Check out http://www.boomer.com/?page=hcls and explore our agenda for our special keynote speaker Melinda Figeley Dean who will be presenting the keynote on Building a Strengths-Based Organization: A New Paradigm for Development.

Tags:  strengths based firm 

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