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Strengthening University and Student Results

By Trudy Bateman, Head of Strengths Profile, Capp

September 17 2019 - With exam results season behind us, is it time that we focus on an individual's key attributes, and not just on their exam results? Admissions processes that focus on strengths, as well as academic exam results, can help universities to select the right students and give them the best opportunities to learn, make an impact and contribute to society. The same strengths-based recruitment is also now being adopted by 43% of UK employers including EY, KPMG and GSK. By taking this approach, organisations can recruit the best talent, irrespective of where that talent has come from, or what degree class the candidate has achieved.

Over 100 universities are now using the strengths approach to help develop their students which has multiple benefits for both parties. Universities are able to have much more engaging career conversations with their students and are seeing successful application results. Many institutions are also using it to develop their own careers services team's strengths and be able to narrate their own strengths stories. Students are able to become more self-aware, aligning future careers to their strengths, and being better prepared for a strengths-based application process.

Strengths-based recruitment is bias-free in relation to gender, ethnicity or social background, as it relies on people demonstrating their natural strengths and as such, reveals their ability and potential in relation to the opportunity ahead of them. These natural strengths could be things like work ethic, resilience, curiosity or mission - factors that don't depend on the circumstances and background you come from, but on who you are as a person. It gives everyone an equal opportunity according to their ability and potential.

he magic in strengths is energy. Strengths look at what a person can do and loves to do, not just performance. This unlocks all those students who have been following a career they have been told they 'should' do by well-intended parents or teachers. Mentors over the years have no doubt spotted their great results in a subject or task, rather than how this made them feel each day and whether they enjoyed it.

What if these mentors were able to give students advice that will help them make informed education choices at the time rather than just going with the flow? They would have a much clearer idea of what they love and what makes them truly unique. It also tells them what they should avoid.

One of the areas where we see the greatest impact is the application process for students. They get to authentically expand on what makes them who they are, for example:

'good with people'


'enjoys starting conversations with people quickly and easily, and loves to find something of interest in others, establishing a quick rapport and putting people at ease immediately - quickly getting to know them.'

As universities welcome new and returning students, they can use the strengths approach to help set them apart and prepare them for success in the outside world by increasing their self-awareness, confidence and employability in the following ways:

  1. Build self-awareness - Students who understand their motivations and how they work best can drive that future direction in areas that are important to them. They start their career journey by listening to their heart and head, and making decisions more in line with their authentic self.
  2. Narrate Strengths stories - Recognising and noting how they use their strengths in life will help to build authentic success stories. Using this descriptive language is essential in preparing CVs that differentiate them from others and interview responses that are genuine.
  3. Increase confidence - Strengths are something we do well, so naturally by using them more students can overcome any self-doubt they face and build their overall confidence by focusing on areas they are likely to succeed in.
  4. Focus activities - Support students to choose jobs, volunteer work, hobbies or internships that will enrich their CV further with experience in their areas of strengths. Help them set themselves apart in a few exceptional areas rather than build general skills in all areas.
  5. Career anchors - Helping students to consider the types of organisations that would align with their values and strengths will align them with more satisfying work to avoid falling into the wrong job or culture.
  6. Understand weaknesses - Too often people fall into a career because they are good at some elements of a role, rather than reflecting on how the whole role or culture of the organisation makes them feel. Much of my role now is helping people in their 40's to recognise the difference between their natural realised strengths and their more draining learned behaviours.

Many of us bumble along our career paths without this kind of personal intuitive, relying instead on trial and error. Using a more strengths-based approach empowers students. It gives them the confidence and understanding to pursue a path that is a natural fit for them, representing them at their best. In such a competitive job market, this is absolutely integral to their success. Just as important, it also gives potential employers a valuable insight into the individual, giving them a much better idea of who they are employing and the skills they bring to the table.

To find out more about strengths go to

Trudy Bateman

Trudy Bateman

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