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  • Writer's picturebeckywebber

Increasing in popularity - The Strength-Based Interview

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

With jobs evolving, disappearing and being created, major employers are starting to adapt the way they recruit to assess prospective candidates on their capabilities and natural aptitudes and strengths as opposed to judging them purely on their previous work history.

Currently, many employers rely on the traditional recruitment approach; a CV that will inform them about the candidate’s previous work history and a competency-based interview that evidences how a person will react based on previous experience. As we progress into the future, this hiring method will become less and less effective.

The Strength-Based Interview is a great step forward because it allows job seekers to be assessed on their true capability rather than being judged purely on experience, opening up more opportunities for all of us for our future careers.

What is a strength-based interview?

A strength-based interview focuses on what you enjoy doing, as opposed to a competency-based interview, which highlights what you can do now. If we cast our mind back to when we were at school and choosing our options, it was likely we were told by our parents and teachers to select subjects we enjoyed doing because we were more inclined to perform better at them. The same thought process applies to strength-based interviews. If hirers recruit candidates who naturally enjoy their job, they are more likely to excel in their work.

Strength-based interviews are also more personal, allowing hirers to gain a genuine insight into the personalities of candidates and whether they will be a good ‘fit’ for their company.

pensive thinking pretty lady

How to prepare.

The strengths that hirers will look for will clearly depend on the job. For example, if you were applying for a customer-facing role, you’d be expected to enjoy, and be confident in, communicating with a wide range of people and have experience that will back it up. For someone with minimal work experience, supporting examples could include volunteering with community groups, part-time retail or hospitality work or being a member of a university debate team.

Part of the attraction of this type of interview for hirers is that this technique prevents you from preparing, planning and rehearsing your responses, unlike competency-based interviews. Therefore, hirers are more likely to see the real you!

Despite me saying it’s not as easy to prepare your responses to potential interview questions, this doesn’t mean don’t prepare at all. All other interview preparation is vitally important which includes researching the company and the role in advance.

For clarity on your own strengths and those required for the role, prepare the following;

1. Read through the job description and person specification to identify the strengths and qualities required for the role

2. Make a list of your own strengths to include;

- Academic achievements

- Work-related achievements

- Extra-curricular achievements

- When are you at your best?

- What motivates you?

- Which subjects your enjoyed learning the most?

3. Also, in contrast, consider what you don’t like doing and your weaknesses

Typical strength-based interview questions

Unlike competency-based questions where you would expect additional probing questions, the opposite happens in strength-based interviews.

Expect to be asked lots of questions quickly. The purpose behind this is that the hirer is looking for genuine responses. They will also be observing your body language and that it is as authentic as your response.

Here are some typical strength-based questions;

- Which subjects did you enjoy most whilst at school/college/university?

- What do you like to do in your spare time?

- How do you stay motivated?

- How would your close friends describe you?

- What would your close friends say are your strengths?

- Tell me about an achievement you were proud of

- What are your weaknesses?

- Do you most like starting tasks or finishing them?

- Do you prefer the big picture or the small details?

- Describe a successful day. What made it successful?

- What do you enjoy doing the least?

- Do you find there are enough hours in the day to complete your to-do list?

- What tasks are always left on your to-do list?

- How do you feel about deadlines?

- Have you ever done something differently the second time around?

- Do you think this role will play to your strengths?

How to answer strength-based questions

As previously mentioned, the strength-based interview has been designed to draw out your natural preferences so it’s important that you are honest with your answers. This is just as important for you, as it is for the hirer. You need to be happy in the next job you accept.

As with all interviews you will need to back-up your answers with examples but remember to consider all areas of your life, not just your previous work experience.

If you are asked questions about your weaknesses, think of where you have struggled in the past and what you have done to overcome it. How you use your strengths to compensate for it and always end your response on a high. Here’s an example for you;

“I can get nervous speaking in front of people. Normally this isn’t a problem, but I’ve noticed that there have been times during meetings that I have kept quiet and not shared my ideas and insights. The consequence of this is that things that should have been addressed earlier on weren’t, causing more work for me. I have learned that my voice is important in meetings and this has prompted me to push myself out of my comfort zone and speak up. Whilst it hasn’t been easy, it’s made me more efficient in my job and resulted in improved productivity for my department overall”

In summary, I believe this technique is a ‘breath of fresh air’ for both hirers and job seekers. If we had the choice, we would all prefer to do a job we are passionate about and enjoy because it plays to our strengths. As with any interview, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Be honest with yourself about what’s most important to you and stick to it like glue.

handshake at interview


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