The how-to's for strength-based interviews

Strength-based interviews - what to expect and how to handle what is thrown your way.

While competency-based interview questions look at if you have the basic ability to ‘do the job’ based on previous experience or achievements. Strengths-based interview questions are all about trying to predict your future potential, what you are good at and what inspires you.


What does a strengths-based interview assess?

They look at 3 key areas;

  • How well you are likely to do the job

  • Whether you would be motivated in and energised by the job,

  • Your natural behaviours: how you typically respond to situations you would face in the role.


Why use strengths-based assessment methods?

Essentially recruiters are looking to hire graduates who would be a long-term investment for the employer. They also want to hire the right graduate for the specific roles.  Employees that enjoy the work and have the freedom to use their strengths and be who they are, tend to be more successful in the role and more committed to the company.

This is also a way of leveling the playing field. The questions are not designed to require multiple examples of extracurricular activities or internships, so provide graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds with an equal opportunity to succeed.


What are some example strengths-based interview questions?

There are 4 types of strength-based interview questions;

  • Closed - only requiring a ‘yes’/ ‘no’ answer

  • Open - requiring a longer explanatory answer

  • Hypothetical - focusing on how you might act in a situation

  • Behavioural - focusing on your behaviour, or how you act

Typical  examples of strength interview questions include:

  • What motivates you? Or, conversely, what do you find draining or tiresome?

  • Who do you admire the most?

  • When do you feel most inspired?

  • Do you find deadlines motivating or intimidating?

  • What would your perfect day look like?

  • How do you judge success?

  • Would your friends say you have [a strength/ability, eg the ability to learn quickly]?

  • What has been your most significant achievement?

  • What has been your biggest failure?

  • How do you feel when you are faced with a sudden obstacle to your plans? What do you do to resolve it?

  • If a colleague was struggling to make a complex decision, what would you do to help?

  • If a customer was unhappy with the service they’d received, how would you persuade them to keep on using your business?

  • Given a choice, would you prefer to be giving a presentation or double-checking data?


What happens in strengths-based video interviews?

Videos may typically be used instead of telephone interviews and online aptitude tests. The idea is that they give you an immersive experience of the job, both its highlights and challenges, that you would be doing. A typical process of doing a strengths-based video interview is to watch a video about the work and answer questions (either multiple choice, require a text answer or a video response) about what you have seen throughout the video.


How do recruiters score you?

Before the interview, recruiters will have previously identified the strengths they wish to assess and the questions will relate to one or more of these strengths, skills, values or behaviours to be successful in the job. Common ones include:

  • Relationship management and building

  • Inspiring the trust of colleagues and clients

  • The ability to pick up new information and learn quickly

  • Resilience

  • Persistence

Your answers will help recruiters to gauge whether you would do well in the role (your capability or ability) and how energised or drained you are when you use that strength (your engagement level). Engagement levels are normally asses by looking for verbal and body language clues. When we are energised/ motivated by what we are talking about we tend to give longer and more detailed answers, while using positive language in an enthusiastic tone. While our body language is also naturally more expressive and genuine.


How do you answer strengths-based interview questions?

Unfortunately, they are much hard to prepare for, unlike competency-based interview questions. Strength-based questions normally are designed to capture your instinctive, true response. But there are some tips to help you put your best foot forward;

  • Don’t answer until you have read or listened to the question, and listen or read CAREFULLY. The questions in strength-based interviews are much more quick fire and can end up asking something subtly different to what you might have expected at the start of the question.

  • If you are face-to-face then do not be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat the question, or to elaborate on a scenario given in a question, or take your time to think. Although do indicate to your recruiter if you are thinking about the question or if you need longer rather than just leaving a long awkward pause.

  • Although not competency-based, bring in some examples when answering to give you more to talk about and show evidence of previous capability and organisation.

  • While your enthusiasm will shine through throughout the interview, do try to keep in mind what recruiters look for when assessing engagement but don’t focus on this.

  • Don’t worry if you are an introvert, shy and/or just plain nervous. When assessing engagement levels, interviewers will have been trained to look beyond this. If taking part in a video interview have a look at how to prepare.