Values based recruitment: Do your values give the right message?

21 January 2015 | David Widdowson

For the past twenty years or more organisations have been applying competency-based interviewing as part of their selection process, to the extent that it is now ubiquitous.  It would be rare to attend an interview these days and not be asked for ‘an example of a time you worked with a challenging team’, or to describe ‘the last time you made a difficult decision’.  These questions are designed to assess the individual’s experience and competence in different behaviours of relevance to the role.  This helps managers decide whether the individual is capable of doing the job as defined in the job description.

Many organisations are now switching emphasis to the broader issue of cultural fit with the company.  This move reflects the amount of change many organisations face and the need for a more flexible workforce, as roles become harder to define and – in many instances – are built around the individual’s strengths.  The recruiter looks for evidence that the individual’s values are aligned with those of the organisation, using this as a predictor of future commitment and engagement.  The fine details of the role will often be worked out once the individual is on board, built around their talents and interests.

Whilst in practice the applicant may not notice a marked difference, in that the overall approach and some of the areas explored at interview may remain the same, the development of the process will be based around the organisation’s values rather than individual role profiles or the competency framework.  This puts a lot of weight on the values of the company and anyone committing to this approach must be confident that their values framework is robust and has continued relevance, supporting the kind of culture that they wish to retain and/or want to build in the future.  If the future of your company rests on the quality and commitment of the people you employ it is important to get this right.

What does this mean in practice?  Before embarking on refining the recruitment process it is best to step back and validate the continued relevance of the values.  In the worst case scenarios these will be:

  1. ‘brand values’, originally created to focus external marketing and then force-fit onto employees (e.g. ‘encyclopaedic’, ‘hassle-free’, ‘memorable’); or
  2. so bland that they could apply to almost any company (e.g. ‘ethical’, ‘valuing people’); or
  3. dreamt up some years ago on an executive away day, never validated with colleagues, and eventually stashed in a drawer somewhere to be dusted off when someone says “didn’t we develop some values two years ago?”.

Take a moment to look at your own corporate values – what do they say about the organisation?  Do they reflect your own experience of working there?  Do they align with the organisation’s stated strategy or vision?

Does it sound like the sort of place you’d want to work?


For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please get in touch.



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The author

David Widdowson
Employment Law
Business Coaching
D: +44 (0) 207 036 8388
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