Puzzles, Holograms and Hiring: Why Business Leaders Should Use StrengthsFinder


You are wise to consider the relevance of jigsaw puzzles and holograms for your next hire. That’s Todd Wilson’s advice, and he’s the brains behind Exponential, the largest conference of its kind in the world. Let’s just say he’s hired a few people in his day.

The analogies of the puzzle and the hologram paint a picture for why business leaders should use personality profiles like StrengthsFinder to make great hires.

I attended Expo this year and interviewed Wilson on the topic. Download the 15 minute interview here:

Before Wilson started Exponential, he was a nuclear engineer for fifteen years in the Navy with a wide range of jobs (e.g., test engineer, overhaul maintenance of ships, operation of ships). Additionally, he’s started and operated a number of organizations since then. Now he spends his time leading Exponential in addition to developing nonprofit organizations through life-coaching, consulting and leadership development.

Having hired hundreds of people (and managed thousands), his experience has taught him that personality profiles are vital to healthy hiring.

Whatever he does, he's a guru, so when he recommends personality profiles, I trust him. (He’s an organizational guru, in part, because he rubs shoulders with the likes of Bob Buford, sometimes called the “Peter Drucker of Nonprofit Management.”)

He uses two analogies for business leaders to describe why business leaders should use personality profiles like StrengthsFinder. According to a recent survey, ‘personality’ impressed 78 percent of hiring professionals more than technical skills, Jessica Stillman reports on Inc.

Consider the jigsaw puzzle and the hologram as reasons why assessing personality is important in hiring.

1. Candidate Personalities Are Like Jigsaw Puzzles

Wilson uses the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle to describe a candidate’s personality. Everyone is a “unique puzzle," he says. Click on the link above to hear him speak on the "Puzzle Analogy" for hiring (41 seconds to listen).

He applies this to hiring by asking himself, "How do I use different profiles and assessments to get clarity on some key parts of the puzzle and then do my best to extrapolate to fill in the gaps on what’s missing?"

He calls them personality profiles, not tests. Listen to why here.

Wilson’s experience in the Navy taught him the importance of each person’s contribution: “The aircraft carrier needs the 5,000 crew members cooking food, cleaning, washing clothes, and operating machinery to support the deployment of the 120 pilots via planes.”

Like Jim Collins's Good to Great, Wilson knows that "leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."

Getting the right people in the right seats takes discernment, and discernment of persons requires knowledge of personality, which is what personality assessments are for. Learning someone's personality could make or break a hire. That's why Wilson uses all the tools he can to rightly perceive people before hiring them. 

2. Candidate Personalities Are Like Holograms

He uses another analogy: the hologram. Personality profiles “shed light” onto an individual’s personality like the lights of a hologram: “Each of these profiles or tools is one of the lenses creating clarity in the room.” He says more about holograms and hiring in the embedded link above (27 seconds to listen). 

Each personality profile is like one light that illuminates the whole image of a person. So each personality assessment is only one of tool to assess an individual. Nothing beats presence and encounter with a person to truly know them, but when making hires, you don't always have the luxury of a quality, relaxed hang time at the corner pub; you might, otherwise, learn more about your candidate than you wanted to! Nor do you have the luxury of watching them in a workplace setting to understand their function within a team before they come on the team.

That's why we have personality assessments—a shortcut to understanding their personality type through proven studies. By looking at more than one assessment, then, you gain clarity on a person, but it's never the whole picture.

StrengthsFinder Makes the Top of the List

I asked Wilson which personality profile he would put above the others in priority and preference.

Todd told me that he started out as a skeptic, but now he’s a believer in the usefulness of personality assessments. Of all the tools, though, Wilson recommends StrengthsFinder over them all. He said only if I made him pick - and I did :)

Click on the link to the right to hear him on why he picks "StrengthsFinder Top" over the other personality profiles, as the place to start (30 seconds to listen). 

StrengthsFinder assesses a person’s top strengths from 34 easy-to-remember single-word descriptions. StrengthsFinder is a Gallup product that has been tested around the world in various cultures. 

Starting at $10, StrengthsFinder (SF) is Wilson’s top pick for hiring managers. Gallup is on the second iteration of the assessment (which goes with their book, StrengthsFinder 2.0). Gallup says, “The Clifton StrengthsFinder is the culmination of more than 50 years of Dr. Donald O. Clifton's lifelong work, which has led to more than 10 million people worldwide discovering their strengths.” You can buy the assessment to find the top five strengths for $10. You can also find all 34 strengths in order from 1-34 for $89. 

Self-Knowledge

Socrates said, "Know yourself" as wise advice for a person to understand their own personality. This advice is also helpful for collective personalities, for teams. So for leaders, “Know yourself” is also instruction for knowing your team.

That means personality tests are important for more than just self-knowledge; they're valuable for knowing your team, too.

What employer would not want an employee who knows their skills, abilities and personality bents and knows how to apply that self-knowledge to serve the team, especially to lay down their ego for the team ethos and goals. "Self-knowledge for self-giving" might be a good tagline for that kind of employer.

If you’re about to hire, give your candidate the $10 StrengthsFinder assessment. If you've got an established team but little knowledge of their personalities, spend the $10 per person and have them take StrengthsFinder. Or pick one of the major assessments out there to develop your team. (If you can, choose the $89 version, which comes with a full report. I did it and I’m glad I did.)

Once you have the right people on the bus, place them in the right spot for maximum efficiency.

Start with one assessment for your team and begin the process of increasing your collective self-knowledge. Take Wilson’s advice and begin to see the puzzle come together. The hologram that emerges will be beautiful as your team comes together. This could save you on your next hire. It could save the health of your team, too.