Model Warren Buffett’s Strategy. Hire Based on Strengths.

By Guest blogger - Aug. 27, 2015
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Editors Note: This is a guest post written by Julie Bowden, from True Colours People Solutions. Her opinions are her own. 

Warren Buffett’s strategy is to hire right the first time – and by hiring only the top 20% of candidates for an individual position, he has created an ideal business culture and exponential growth. He finds people primarily on qualities of character strengths, such as intelligence, integrity and energy.

Every employer knows the experience of supposedly hiring the “perfect” candidate for a job, only to wonder what went wrong when the candidate joins the team. The person who was so confident and knowledgeable during the interview is suddenly lacking in essential character traits such as a “can do” and optimistic attitude, essential to overcome challenges. Time and resources are spent supporting them and productivity can suffer as a result.

According to a recent Ernst & Young report on productivity, one in three people let their team down due to low productivity.

Recruitment is a major investment for any company so it is important to get it right the first time! A team member who is bored, incompetent or argumentative can upset the entire balance of an engaged and motivated team, dragging down the productivity of any organization. Yet once a person is employed, it can also be extremely disruptive to go through the process of dismissing and replacing them – especially if the company’s fundamental hiring strategy is flawed, leading to further employee mismatches.

How can you model Warren Buffett’s strategy and hire based on strengths only employing candidates in the top 20% and know this, even before you interview?

1. Focus on strengths

The first step to a strong cohesive team is to employ people whose strengths and passions complement the role. This ensures a high level of engagement and motivation within the company, so people are working enthusiastically to their full capacity as individuals and as team members.

A recent Gallup survey on Australian businesses showed that only 18% of Australians are engaged at work. 66% are not engaged and 16% actively disengaged. The research also shows that when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on the individual strengths of their people, only about 9% (one in eleven) of employees become engaged. When leadership makes focusing on the strengths of employees a priority, the level of engagement rises to almost 73% (three in four).

So your primary task when recruiting new employees is to assess their strengths that will ensure engagement in their role.

2. Monitor conscious behaviour

During a job interview, the applicant displays “conscious” behaviour – putting on the right performance to achieve the right response from you. While an applicant might be highly skilled in making a strong impression during an interview, this does not necessarily translate into the right skills for the job.

So how does an employer look beyond the veil of conscious behaviour to identify the right person for the role? And how useful would it be to have this information even before you interview?

3. Look at career history

An applicant’s résume should be a reliable source of information but a survey sent to 23,000 businesses showed that 56.7% of employers have come across job candidates who have lied on their résume.

LinkedIn is a good back-up reference as it tends to keep people honest about their qualifications and their work background. You can gather a few clues from an applicant’s career path, such as whether they have a history of working to their strengths and consistently built on natural skills to create a strong and individual career.

Most important of all, identify the strengths you are looking for in this particular position and see whether the applicant has demonstrated these strengths in previous roles.

4. What are your top 2 interview questions?

Applicants with strong interviewing skills love talking about themselves and explaining why they would be a good fit for the job. Yet some questions (relevant and relative to the role) often get candidates opening up and revealing a wealth of knowledge. Ask questions such as:

  • What was your most recent significant accomplishment and why?
  • If you were offered the role, what would you bring to it and how would you transform it?

An applicant’s strengths will show when they talk about where they excelled. For example, if they light up when presenting, this is where their passion lies.

5. Subconscious signature strengths

Hiring the applicant for a trial run can be a costly and disruptive process – a more streamlined strategy is to professionally assess the applicant’s subconscious traits before hiring. Match the traits against a successful employee already in the role, so you can establish whether the applicant will also engage as effectively and productively with your organization.

Assessing applicants before even looking at their résume can save time and cut costs. By matching candidates with the right strength score levels against the strength scores of your best people in the role, means you can ascertain whether you have the right candidate. Measuring and matching strengths to include optimism, energy, productivity and how someone deals with challenges will give you a good indication as to whether an interview should be arranged.

By assessing the sub-conscious signature strengths of applicants you will only interview people who have the core signature strengths necessary to make the best possible contribution to your team. By removing the guesswork before interviewing, you streamline your entire recruitment strategy, performing fewer interviews and achieving more positive long-term results by hiring people whose passions and strengths complement the goals of your organization.

An interview is no comparison to a day on the job but you can’t give every applicant a trial run in your organization!

If you feel your recruitment strategy is letting your company down, you can take a step back and start assessing your applicants before they even enter the interview room. When all your applicants display the subconscious Signature Strengths you require for your organization, you are better equipped to create a strong, cohesive and engaged team.

Julie Bowden is with True Colours People Solutions – an organisation helping businesses find the right people, with the right sub-conscious Signature Strengths (driving over 80% of behaviour). Their “Blue Ocean” hiring strategy provides businesses with a scientific, proven process that takes the guesswork out of hiring.

Photo by DonkeyHotey


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