Strength based interviews – get ready for this new style of interview

superheroes-1560256_1280Graduate recruitment is constantly evolving, as global organisations look for new ways to select the very best from the talent pool. The competency approach has been found to generate fairly rehearsed interview answers, which is why in recent years, more and more leading graduate recruiters are trying a new interview approach: strength based interviews.

What are strength based interviews?

The strength based approach to interviews and assessment centres is designed to seek out where that individual excels and what motivates them. More and more companies are keen to find out what energises an individual and what they love to do rather than what they can do. This then gives them a better idea if that individual is naturally a good fit for the role, and the wider organisation.

Further, hiring new candidates is costly, so graduate employers are looking for ways to help anticipate whether a candidate is going to be happy in their organisation and therefore will be more likely to remain at the company for the longer term.

What is the difference between competency based questions and strength based questions?

Your answers to competency based questions will give employers an indicator of how you have reacted and dealt with different situations. You need to research the competencies for the role you have applied for using the job description and person specification. You will be asked to give an example of when you have used the competency, for example: “Describe a time when you had a difficult problem and what you did to resolve the issue.”

The strength based approach on the other hand, concentrates on what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Strength interviewing has its foundations in positive psychology. The theory is that by recognising your strengths you will be able to perform better in your role and enjoy it more. Employers are using strength based approaches more and more because they feel candidates are over rehearsed in competency interviews.

Which graduate employers are using strength based interviews?

Employers such as Aviva, Standard, BAE Systems, EY, Capgemini, Unilever, Royal Mail, Microsoft and Barclays International now use this form of interviewing.

If you’re not sure if your interview will be competency based, strength based or a mixture of both, contact the HR department of the organisation to ask this question ahead of your interview.

How can you prepare for a strength based interview?

The key to succeeding at strength based interviews is to take the time to reflect on your strengths and interests beforehand. It’s important for you to be honest with yourself about what you really enjoy and what you don’t, because there is no right or wrong answer. Remember, an interview is about finding the best fit between the candidate and the organisation, so a strengths based interview can help to ensure that you would feel comfortable, energised and at your best when at work. By identifying what you’re particularly good at and enjoy doing and matching this to the role, this will be a huge advantage when it comes to your future career enjoyment as well as your performance at work.

Prepare as you would do any other interview, but also think about how you would answer any strength based questions an employer may ask, such as:

  • When are you at your best?
  • What motivates you?
  • What would your best friend say are your greatest strengths?
  • What things give you energy?
  • What do you least enjoy doing?

Just as you would do when answering any other interview question, bring in examples from all areas of your life, including your studies, work experience, part time work, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, societies and sports.

Questions are asked at a quick pace and your tone of voice and body language will be assessed to sense your enthusiasm.

Want to know more? Further resources

  • For further example of strength-based interview questions, download the Assessment Day guide to strength-based interviews here.
  • The National Careers Service offer a great online job tool that assesses your skills, interests, personal style and motivation and matches these to a range of different job roles. Take the test here:
  • Understand more about which kind of job roles would suit your personality type with tests such as:
  • Book an appointment with a careers advisor here to practise your interview skills.