(Updated March 2022)
With many graduate employers using strength-based questions to recruit, it’s good to get familiar with this type of interview.
How do strength questions differ from competency-based questions?
Competency interviews are based on the assumption that your past behaviour will predict your future performance: they assess what you can do by asking you to describe a time you’ve demonstrated a certain skill. Your answers can therefore be considered, planned and rehearsed in advance – and if you’d like some help with those, check out our interview guidance and the STAR model, both on our website.
Strengths, on the other hand, are innate, and talking about your strengths in an interview gives you a chance to demonstrate passion and authenticity. Questions are designed to look at what you enjoy doing and can provide employers with an insight into your personality. More significantly, these questions rely on you being on your toes and are harder to prepare for.
Example strength-based questions:
- What would you say is a successful day?
- Tell me about something you are particularly proud of.
- What do you find is always left until last (or not done) on your to-do-list?
- When would your friends and family say you are at your happiest?
- Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you.
For more example questions and some guidance, check out the activity on our website.
Why are strength-based interviews increasing in popularity?
Employers want to find individuals who fit with the values and culture of their organisation as they will be more likely to stay in the job long-term. They also want to identify potential, and you can really impress with your ability to think on your feet.
Plus, having relevant strengths increases the probability of you enjoying the role and getting true job satisfaction. Therefore, it also handily helps you to work out whether you would want the job if offered it. By default, if the interview goes well, you’re more likely to fit right in!
What to do before and during a strength-based interview
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?
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.
Take a look at our post about how to figure out your strengths.
If you find that the role you are applying for doesn’t really play to any of your strengths, consider if you would really enjoy it. There will be more suitable jobs out there!
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. If you attempt to reply in the way you think the recruiter wants rather than what you actually think or feel, you’re missing out on communicating positive body language, expression, and genuine enthusiasm!
If you don’t get offered the job, this interview style makes it easy to understand why. You can feel assured that you weren’t suited to the job and it wouldn’t have made you happy. It’s normal to face rejections in your job search – read our top tips on facing rejection.
We can help!
This article was adapted from a 2015 post written by Claire Wrixon, Careers Advisor.