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The Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment

Updated June 5, 2022

A form of psychometric testing, the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment is designed to help individuals reach their full potential by turning personal attributes into strengths.

The science behind it is based on years of research by educational psychologist Donald Clifton.

Clifton’s theory suggests that a strength is built when natural talent is combined with learned skills and knowledge, and to achieve our best, we first need to identify our natural talents.

That’s exactly what the CliftonStrengths assessment looks to uncover, and it does so using a complex method of personality profiling based on positive psychology.

The test differs from many other psychometric assessments in that it is not recommended for use in the recruitment process. The results of the CliftonStrengths test do not give comparable candidate profiles, focusing instead on personal development.

As such, many people choose to take the test of their own accord, using it to pinpoint potential career paths or to harness their talents through a wider development plan.

It is also commonly used by employers in the creation of programs, either for teams or individual employees, that lead to a stronger, more productive workforce.

You may hear it referred to as the StrengthsFinder 2.0, a reference to its status as the updated version of the original Gallup StrengthsFinder test.

What Is the Difference Between a Strength and a Talent?

We’ve mentioned that the CliftonStrengths test identifies talents to help individuals develop them into strengths. To understand how the test works, we first need to look at the difference between these two terms.

According to Clifton’s theory, a strength relates to a certain task and our ability to perform that task at a consistently high standard. To do so, we need three core components:

  • Talent
  • Skills
  • Knowledge

Skills and knowledge can be acquired with the investment of time and effort, but talent is a natural gift. It is based on the way we typically think, feel and behave, and is rooted in our personality.

As an example, let’s look at a sales representative. To engage a customer in the sales process, they must learn about a product and its features, and be trained in techniques like open-ended questioning.

However, if they’re lacking in confidence and tenacity, they’ll struggle to close the sale. They have the right knowledge and skill set, but do not have the talent, and can therefore not count the art of selling as one of their strengths.

Essentially, our talents are our characteristics, and our strengths develop when we apply these characteristics productively.

What Talents Does the CliftonStrengths Test Measure?

The talents measured by the CliftonStrengths test are based on Donald Clifton’s research into some of the world’s most successful people and the attributes they possess.

There are 34 talents in total, described as themes. Each of these falls under one of four categories, known as domains.

The four domains are:

  • Executing – The themes under this domain relate to the way you get things done. If you have strong talents in this area, you are someone who can make things happen when given the right resources.

  • Influencing – Themes here refer to your talents for communication, and your ability to inspire and motivate those around you. Those with strong influencing themes often make effective leaders.

  • Relationship building – As you’d expect, these themes explore how well you connect with others, and your talents for uniting people under a common goal.

  • Strategic thinking – Themes under this domain relate to how you process information and visualize possibility. Innovation, creativity and decision-making are all talents that fall under this category.

Now we’ve covered the four domains of the CliftonStrengths test, let’s take a brief look at the talent themes found under each.

Executing Themes

  • Achiever – Achievers are driven individuals who work tirelessly to reach their goals. They have an inherent need for accomplishment and are most fulfilled when productive.

  • Arranger – These individuals are adept at organization and look for the best possible way to make things happen. They’re also highly adaptable and thrive in dynamic situations.

  • Belief – Those who identify with the belief theme are driven by values and ethics. They are consistently reliable and take satisfaction in achieving goals that align with their principles.

  • Consistency – The consistency theme refers to those who value equality above all else. They achieve by working to clearly defined rules and practices through which everyone is treated fairly.

  • Deliberative – An individual with deliberative talent sees the world through cautious eyes. They look ahead to identify potential risks and plan strategically to mitigate them.

  • Discipline – This relates to those who desire structure. They get things done by setting strict routines and deadlines, and pay close attention to detail.

  • Focus – Those with this talent focus on an end goal and prioritize their actions accordingly. They dismiss anything that may steer them off course and, as such, are highly efficient.

  • Responsibility – This refers to a sense of ownership and the need to follow through with every commitment taken on. Those with a talent for responsibility are dependable and loyal.

  • Restorative – These individuals are effective problem solvers. They take immense satisfaction in finding a root cause, applying the ideal solution and seeing the success of their efforts.

Influencing Themes

  • Activator – An activator is action-oriented. They believe the best results are achieved by diving straight in, rather than deliberating, and seek to learn through experience.

  • Command – An individual with the command talent stands up and takes charge. They have an authoritative presence and are persuasive when it comes to influencing opinions.

  • Communication – Communicators inspire others by bringing ideas to life. They have a talent for creative language and use it to motivate others to take action.

  • Competition – The competition talent describes people who assess their achievements against those of their peers. These individuals are driven to succeed by outperforming those around them, though remain gracious in their efforts.

  • Maximizer – These individuals find fulfillment in maximizing potential. They seek to identify and build on strengths in the pursuit of excellence, whether their own or those of others.

  • Self-assurance – Those with the talent of self-assurance are confident, both in their abilities and their judgment. They gladly accept new challenges and are guided by a sense of certainty in their own decisions.

  • Significance – These people long for recognition, and it’s this inherent need that drives them to achieve excellence in whatever they do. They are fiercely independent and find satisfaction when their achievements are of real significance to others.

  • Woo (winning over others) – Those with a talent for winning over others enjoy making new connections and building a rapport with strangers. They have an air of charisma and take energy from working a room.

What Is the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment?
What Is the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment?

Relationship Building Themes

  • Adaptability – Those with this talent are incredibly flexible and respond well when situations evolve unexpectedly. They tend to live in the moment and deal with things as they arise.

  • Connectedness – These individuals have a strong faith in unity and fate. They believe we are all connected and that every occurrence in life has a reason behind it.

  • Developer – A developer is someone who strives to help others reach their full potential. They see self-development as an ongoing process and find satisfaction in watching their peers grow.

  • Empathy – The talent of empathy refers to those who can understand the thoughts and feelings of others. They are intuitive and able to view the world from a range of different perspectives.

  • Harmony – This theme relates to those who look to mitigate conflict and bring people together based on what they have in common.

  • Includer – Includers believe in complete inclusivity. They are accepting of others and do their best to ensure everyone is welcomed into a group.

  • Individualization – Those with this talent see everyone as unique. They are gifted at spotting where an individual’s strengths lie, and how best to nurture them.

  • Positivity – This theme relates to those people with endless optimism and enthusiasm. They see the best in everything and instill the same energy in others.

  • Relator – These are people who look to build close bonds with a select few. They value true friendship and work hard on strengthening relationships.

Strategic Thinking Themes

  • Analytical – Those with this talent think logically. They rely on factual evidence and data to validate any given theory or point of view.

  • Context – This refers to those who understand the ‘here and now’ by framing it in the context of the past. They make sense of the present by looking at how it came to be.

  • Futuristic – A futuristic individual looks ahead at what could be. They take energy from future potential and are inspirational visionaries.

  • Ideation – This relates to creatives driven by the search for new ideas. These people look for connections that bring about new perspectives.

  • Input – The talent of input describes those with an inquisitive nature. These people love to explore, learn and collect evidence of their achievements.

  • Intellection – Introspective thinkers possess this talent. They enjoy reflection and make sense of the world by thinking through ideas and information.

  • Learner – A learner is someone who continuously looks to expand their knowledge and skills. They are driven not by the result, but by the process of learning itself.

  • Strategic – This theme describes those with a talent for strategizing – those who can spot cause-and-effect patterns with ease and use them to plan the best course of action.

It’s worth noting here that these talents do not exist in isolation, but are influenced by one another. The purpose of the CliftonStrengths assessment is to uncover your most dominant themes which, when combined, give a comprehensive talent profile.

What to Expect on the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment

A web-based assessment, the CliftonStrengths test determines your dominant talent themes by asking a series of self-descriptor questions, much like you’d find on any personality questionnaire.

You’ll see two statements presented at opposite ends of a scale, for example, “I find it difficult to talk to strangers” vs. “I am energized by meeting new people”.

For each statement pair, you’ll need to select which of the two you identify with more, and to what extent.

There are 177 statement pairs in total, specifically designed to measure a broad range of characteristics. These include how you process information, how you typically behave in social settings and your work-based preferences.

Each statement pair will remain on screen for a maximum of 20 seconds. This is to prevent overthinking and ensure your answers are instinctive – and thus a true representation of who you are.

On completion of the assessment, you’ll be issued a personalized report. You have two options to choose from if you are taking the test as an individual:

  • Top 5 CliftonStrengths report – Priced at $19.99, this offers a basic overview of your talent profile. Your five most dominant themes will be listed, along with a more detailed insight into how each relates specifically to your character.

  • CliftonStrengths 34 report – Priced at $49.99, this gives your complete profile. Each of the 34 themes will be listed in the order in which they relate to your character. Your five most dominant themes will be explained in detail, along with tips for how to make the most of them and how to avoid their potential downfalls. You’ll also receive an overview of themes six to 10, again with tips and possible blind spots. Since this report also lists your less dominant themes, it helps you understand not only how to apply your strengths, but also when you might need to seek assistance to build on your weaknesses.

As well as the above, there are also reports available that have been designed specifically for students. These include actionable ideas for building on your talent profile whilst still in education.

Tips for Taking the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment

Though often referred to as such, the CliftonStrengths assessment is not actually a test – that is to say, there is no pass or fail. It is a measure of your normal personality and the talents inherent to it.

With that in mind, it’s not something you can really prepare for. In fact, attempting to do so could be detrimental to the process. You can, however, follow the tips below to get the most out of the experience.

Take the Test in One Sitting

When you sit down to complete the CliftonStrengths assessment, make sure you have adequate time in which to do the whole thing in one go. Stopping and starting can lead to inconsistencies and may result in an inaccurate profile.

Give yourself at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, but preferably allocate an hour.

Remember, each question will appear on screen for 20 seconds, and there are 177 to work through.

Don’t Attempt to Preempt the Questions

With most forms of psychometric testing, preparation is key, but that’s not the case here. It is your unfamiliarity with the questions that yields the greatest insight, so don’t attempt to ‘revise’ or research what statement pairs might come up.

Answer Instinctively

Your gut reaction is an indication of your true behavior, so go with it. Don’t overthink things and don’t debate over your own behavior.

Be Honest

There’s no point in trying to ‘cheat’ the CliftonStrengths assessment. You may consider one type of behavior more preferable to another but that’s irrelevant.

As mentioned, there’s no pass or fail here. It’s not about picking the option you deem to be best, but about being true to yourself to uncover your natural talents.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons you may choose to take the CliftonStrengths assessment.

It can be a useful exercise in career exploration, helping you identify professions that align with your natural abilities.

It can be beneficial for interview preparation, allowing you to articulate your strengths and weaknesses constructively, and it can assist with both personal and professional development.

Whatever your motivations, there’s a lot to be gained from exploring your attributes and how they can be transformed from talents into strengths, making the CliftonStrengths assessment a highly valuable tool for everyone.