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Lead Your Team Managing

Ask This One Question to Discover a Job Candidate's Strengths

Ask This One Question to Discover a Job Candidate's Strengths
Credit: ktsdesign/Shutterstock

Do you run your company based on your employees' individual strengths? If so, you're not alone: More and more of today's organizations are finding ways to use their staff's strong suits to their advantage.

"Strengths-based [management] approaches are popular because they work," said Chris White, managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations and adjunct faculty member at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "The best-performing managers capitalize on strengths, while organizing around weaknesses. To get the most out of [employees, especially] millennials, it is virtually a requirement to imbue the organization with a sense of deeper purpose, and to help team members develop roles that allow them to apply their strengths, values and passions in their day-to-day work."

Research by the Center for Positive Organizations, a business research center based at the Ross School of Business, has found that people are more engaged and simply perform better when they apply their strengths, values and passions in their work, White said. Therefore, some organizations teach and apply what the research team calls "job crafting," the practice of adapting employees' roles and responsibilities to suit these strengths. However, this does not mean leaders should ignore poor performance. [Tips for Conducting an Effective Job Interview]

"Positive leadership is placing one hand on the back to push people along, challenging them and setting inspiring visions and goals," White told Business News Daily. "The other hand goes on the arm to support them when they need it."

The task of adopting a strengths-based management policy isn't always an easy one for leaders, though. There's no "silver bullet" solution to make it work, and everyone in the company needs to be on board with this approach.

"Macro data on employee engagement and attitudes suggests that we have a long way to go in making energizing workplaces the norm rather than the exception," White said. "Creating a positive organization requires a deep and long-term commitment on the part of leaders — both organizational and individual managers — to align goals, incentives, strategy, systems and processes with this objective."

If you do decide to commit to a strengths-based organizational approach, you'll need to make sure that any new hires are the right fit for this type of culture. An effective way of discovering a candidate's strengths and passions — and whether those attributes will mesh with your existing staff — is to ask them one simple question during the interview: "What are the things you could do all day, every day, and never get bored?"

White said he likes to ask this question during job interviews because it encourages candidates to talk about the activities that are most likely to get them positively energized and into a state of flow, whether in or out of the office. The candidate's response may be anything from cooking or sports to home improvement or painting, but ultimately, the answer itself is unimportant.

"It really does not matter what the answer is," White said. "The conversation that follows is where the magic happens. I want to hire people who might bring the energy, passion, excitement and commitment that they feel in cooking, dancing or meditation, to our culture and to their work. I want to hire the kind of people who would want to work here even if they were not being paid to do so. It is a chance to simply engage as human beings, within the very real constraints of an interviewer-interviewee dynamic."

The resulting conversation may show that the candidate is or isn't right for an available position, but in either case, asking this one question will likely have a positive effect on the candidate.

"It is a chance for [the hiring manager] to help candidates leave the conversation feeling good and perhaps having learned something new about themselves," White said. "They had the chance to show themselves as their authentic best selves, whether they are eventually hired or not."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.