Reed Smith revamps selection process to focus on strength-based assessment

Reed Smith has overhauled its approach to selecting trainees and vacation scheme students, switching its process to strength-based assessment in a bid to find candidates who display eight key qualities.

The London office of the US-headquartered firm mulled switching from a competency-based application process to a strength-based selection earlier this year, while fellow US firm Shearman & Sterling has also trialled strength-based selection.

Competency-based questions are common in job interviews across many sectors. They ask candidates to use examples of past experiences in order to prove certain qualities. A typical competency-based question might be ‘Give an example of a time you worked in a team’.

By contrast, strength-based questions are much more open-ended. An example of a strength-based question might be ‘What motivates you?’.

Reed Smith has chosen not to name the eight strengths it is looking for, as it wants candidates to approach applications as naturally as possible but said that it had drawn up the list after discussion with its lawyers around the qualities that made them successful. Candidates will complete an online selection procedure before going on to interview, with all candidates who complete the online test receiving feedback reports on their key strengths.

Graduate recruitment manager Lucy Crittenden explained: “We want to see the real person. Application processes can become very rehearsed and this should allow us to the more natural side of a candidate.

“We want to make the process more personable and make sure it is a good experience for candidates, whether they are successful or not. Also, because competency questions rely on past experience, they can be bad news for candidates from non-traditional backgrounds.”

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