Introducing SmartStyles


23 Mar 2018

Introducing SmartStyles

Hiring people on the back of a cultural fit has become a valid, yet controversial subject. Should you always hire candidates who share the same values and methods as your organisation? Or should you actively go against the grain: hire candidates who will disrupt the status quo and ‘shake things up’.

At Penna, we understand more than most organisations the importance of cultural fit as a result of our expertise in supporting organisations with their Employee Value Proposition (EVP).  We believe that hiring for cultural fit doesn’t produce a workforce of clones; it simply ensures that your values and all the things you stand for resonate more deeply through your employees. When you hire people who share the same beliefs, your organisation can only strengthen its offering. Without a well-defined culture that’s brought to life by its employees, organisations destroy unity, lessen engagement levels and even lose income.

That’s why; we’ve put a lot of time and effort into our assessment tool SmartStyles. It’s an online ‘compatibility’ test which checks for cultural matches. Candidates are presented with a block of four statements and their answers reveal their working style. Even better, because it’s based on competencies and behaviours, rather than personality, it can be used as a stand-alone online sifting tool. 

Ultimately, success relies on clients really knowing themselves. They need to have a core set of defined values and an idea of ‘what good looks like’. That way, they can work with us to develop behavioural statements, based on particular competencies. 

The chosen competency statements are presented to the candidate alongside ‘distractor’ statements. Candidates then choose which one reflects their working style, and the idea is that they’ll go for the desirable statements. 

Once the questions have been developed, we then trial them on existing job holders. By choosing both low and high performers, we can carry out reliability and validity analysis to ensure that the assessments are psychometrically robust. When a test goes live, we can actually screen 30-40% of candidates out automatically.

We’ve already trialled SmartStyles with a large UK financial institution, a large government organisation (at graduate level) as well as a number of leading UK Retailers. The feedback is impressive, particularly since it takes no more than 15-20 minutes for candidates to complete, it can be built into any Applicant Tracking System and it can also  flex and change according to the role or the level.

So, if your culture’s worth protecting, should you really just scan CVs for skills and experience? It could be more risky than you think.


For more information on SmartStyles or any of our services, please contact Rosemary Kelsall, Lead Client Partner at Penna  -