How to survive a strength based interview? Don’t worry – it’s in your DNA!

With companies like Ernst & Young, Barclays, BAE Systems and Unilever all using strength based questions to recruit, this type of interview is one that you need to get familiar with.

So how do strength questions differ from more traditional competency based questions?

Competency interviews are based on the assumption that past behaviour will predict future performance, they assess what you can do by asking you to describe a time when you’ve demonstrated a certain skill. Answers can therefore be considered, planned and rehearsed in advance.

Strengths on the other hand are innate, and talking about your strengths in an interview gives you a chance to demonstrate passion and real authenticity. Questions are designed to look at what you enjoy doing and have a natural aptitude for providing employers with a more genuine insight into your personality. More significantly they generate fewer fake, pre-prepared answers.

Questions you might be faced with include:

  1. What would you say is a successful day?
  2. Tell me about something you are particularly proud of.
  3. What do you find is always left until last/un-done on your to-do-list?
  4. When would your friends and family say you are at your happiest?
  5. Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you.

Why are strength interviews increasing in popularity?

Employers want to find individuals who fit with the values and the culture of their organisation as they will be more likely to stay in the job long term. They also want to identify potential and strength based questions allows them to do both.

If you’re using your strengths at work you’re more likely to perform at your best, pick up new skills faster and this in turn increases the probability of you enjoying the role and getting true job satisfaction. It therefore also handily helps you to work out whether you would want the job if offered it.

How to approach a strengths-based interview if you can’t prepare!

  1. Research the organisation’s culture and values, what do they stand for, what kind of people do they employ already. Consider the role, what strengths do you think are required to perform effectively?
  1. Understand and identify your personal qualities: consider your academic achievements and extracurricular activities: what did you enjoy doing most, and why. When were you engaged? What did you take pride in? Think about how these preferences fit with the organisation’s culture and the job. If you find that the role you are applying for doesn’t really play to any of your strengths, consider if you would you enjoy it? Are there more suitable jobs out there?
  1. Relax and be yourself: when answering questions be prepared to be honest and open, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Remember these questions don’t have a right or wrong answer, so if you attempt to reply in the way you think the recruiter wants rather than what you actually think or feel, it’s likely that your body language, expression and a lack of genuine enthusiasm may give you away.

And if you don’t get offered the job this interview style makes it easy to understand why. On reflection you’re likely to come to the conclusion that you wouldn’t have been happy in this role because it just doesn’t suit you.

Claire Wrixon
Careers Adviser

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