Strength based interviews explained

iStock_000012224388XLargeInterview waitJust when you worked out what a competency based interview are they go and start with something new… Strength based interviews!

Quote from an employer “Many candidates come to interview pretending to be the kind of person they believe we are looking for…My advice? Simply be yourself, because if you have to pretend to get a job you may have to continue pretending for an uncomfortably long time.”

Stength based questions tend to be more personal than a typical competency based one, but not vastly different, here’s the low down.

A definition of strengths is:

A strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving,
thinking or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables
optimal functioning, development and performance. (Linley, 2007)

Examples of strength based questions

1) What did you most enjoy doing at School? What did you excel at?
2) Do you get more enjoyment from working on your own or in a team? Which comes more naturally to you, working in a team or working on your own?
3) What work-related activities energise you and which ones do you find draining?
4) Do you prefer to start a task or finish it?
5) When are you at your best?
6) What do your friends think are your best qualities and, conversely, most annoying characteristic?

By comparison, an example of a competence question is:

Give an example of a time when you adopted a new approach to a task. Please give details, including what prompted the idea, the issues faced in implementing the approach and what the overall impact was. (Competencies assessed – innovation, initiative, motivation.)

Why are employers choosing to use strength based interviews?

  • Questions asked at strength-based interviews are harder to predict so applicants come less prepared and are more authentic.
  •  Interviewees are easier to ‘read’. For instance, it’s difficult to fake enthusiasm when describing something that isn’t genuinely a personal strength.
  •  Applicants need to have well-developed self-awareness in order to perform well at the interview. This is something that is necessary for success in the work place and can’t be done in a rush the night before an interview!
  •  There are no right or wrong answers, just answers that indicate whether an applicant is a ‘good fit’ for the role and organisation.
  •  Questions can, on the face of it, be easy to answer e.g. What activities come naturally to you? What on your ‘to do’ list are you likely to enjoy most?
  •  Follow-up questions are less likely to be asked so applicants need to try and give a full answer.

What the is recruiter looking for?

  • Body language – does the candidate look interested, engaged, are they animated, leaning forward etc.
  • Energy – does this appear to dip when talking about something that isn’t a strength?
  • Good examples to back-up points made – this is where STAR/CAR can still be used to structure answers
  • Tone of voice
  • Enthusiastic, descriptive language – ‘x comes naturally to me’. ‘I love…’ etc.

So how do I answer these questions?

It’s the same techniques: Answers should be supported with an example that is structured using the STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result – or CAR – Context, Action, Result – approach

It is important to build self-awareness and draw on this when answering questions about your suitability for a role and organisation. Recommendation: The Profiling for Success Type Dynamic Indicator questionnaire is available free on the careers service website and may help you develop greater self-awareness.

As with competency based interviews, you will benefit from drawing on experience gained from a range of activities, both on and off your course. It is therefore just as important for you to have an interesting and well-developed CV; you can’t simply rely on a very narrow range of experience.

Download our interviews guide here

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