Comparing gallup StrengthsFinder® and
VIA Character Strengths

Top 5 Differences between the Clifton StrengthsFinder® and Values in Action (VIA) Profiling Assessment Tools

Values in Action (VIA) is a free online test that measures a person’s character strengths or virtues. It is created by Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology”. The idea of the test came in 1999 and the test was launched in 2004.

Clifton StrengthsFinder® Assessment was launched in 1998 and it had research that dated back to the 1960s. Don Clifton the “grandfather of positive psychology”, created the Clifton StrengthsFinder® Assessment Profiling Assessment aimed towards helping people understand their talent themes and to have conversations on what they are doing right.

These two tools have been used in leadership development among professional, teachers and students. Here are 4 main differences between these two Strengths Profiling Tests:

1. Construct of the tests are different

(a)  Behavioral vs Moral emphasis

The Clifton StrengthsFinder® report is based on how a person intuitively thinks, feels and behaves in any given setting. The Clifton StrengthsFinder® tool measures a person's talent themes and teaches that when a person invest in their these talent themes, they will discover their strengths (areas of near perfect performances). 

Values in Action (VIA) character strengths measures a person’s moral and character virtues. Development of VIA has its roots in moral philosophers, religion thinkers from Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and the Judeo-Christian traditions.

(b) Strengths and Weaknesses

One key difference is that Gallup teaches that the 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes when used in a "basement" or "infancy" stage can be seen as weaknesses to others.  Only when the talent themes are at the "balcony" or "mature" stage are these themes seen as Strengths. VIA teaches that strengths are strengths and are not seen as weaknesses. (Quote on VIA website: "I find the concept of character strengths personally energizing. I like the idea that all strengths are strengths, not weaknesses and strengths." - Susanne, Health Coach).

(c)  Timed test vs non-timed

The Clifton StrengthsFinder® profile assessment by Gallup is a timed test, meaning a person only has 20-seconds to select an answer for each question. This 20-seconds time constraint keeps people from over thinking and analyzing and encourages people to respond naturally. The VIA survey is not timed hence you can take your time to answer the questions.

2.  Certified Coach vs Non-Certified coach

Gallup, who administers the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, provides a coaching certification and training course for trainers and coaches who wishes to use the CliftonStrengths profiling tools for professional and personal development or coaching. This certification course ensures a quality control on how the 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes are interpreted. Coaches who go through this certification course by Gallup go through an intensive 4.5 days Strengths coaching workshop to understand the vocabulary of the talent themes and their individual motivations. Coaches are also taught the philosophy of strengths and the basis behind the Clifton StrengthsFinder® tool and given extensive research data. To get the certification, coaches are required to attend the Gallup course, sit for an on-line exam and to complete six coaching sessions (with the coachees requiring to give a review) before acquiring the Gallup certification. Gallup-Certified Coaches are re-certified every 2 years to ensure that their understanding and knowledge are robust and up-to-date. 

Values In Action (VIA) currently has no certification program. A coaches guide is made available only if you purchase the Values In Action Pro. While guides are useful, information remains open to interpretation and accuracy of understanding amongst practitioners is a concern. 

Both assessments measure individual perspectives and recognize that every person, including coaches, is wired differently. Certification is the process Gallup has chosen to ensure that a practicing coach is able to interpret the information accurately and objectively devoid of the coach’s intuitive way of understanding.

3. Age Limits

The Clifton StrengthsFinder® tool requires a minimum age of 15-years and above to be able to take the assessment. For youth aged between 10-14 years old, there is another assessment called Strengths Explorer or most recently, renamed CliftonStrengths for Students. Unlike the Clifton StrengthsFinder® profiling tool which has 34 talent themes, Strengths Explorer only has 10 themes and this Gallup assessment gives the young person their top 3 themes instead of their top 5.

Values In Action has both students and adult versions. The student’s version is for persons from 10-17years old. The adult version is meant for persons above 17 years old. The two versions have the same character strengths but the assessment is administered differently.

4. Paid vs Free

The basic Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder® profile assessment is USD20. Upon taking the assessment, you will receive a detailed report of your Signature Top 5 CliftonStrengths talent themes. Included in your Clifton StrengthsFinder® account, you will also have access to the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and an action report on how you can begin to actively apply your talent themes in your daily life. Users have an option to unlock their 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes by paying an additional USD69. They will then be able to see their 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes ranked from 1 to 34.

VIA survey gives a free test and the results gives you a person the full 24 character strengths report ranked from 1 to 24. However, to have a detailed report, you will need to pay USD20 for the Signature Strengths report which is an 18-page booklet. For an in-depth report, the cost is USD40 and it comes with a guide for the coach.