Strength based questions are commonly used in recruitment, so it's very likely you'll face some in your upcoming interviews and assessment centres.
They are used to help find the most suitable candidate for the role based on their interests. They are increasingly taking over from competency-based interviews which would look at previous experience in certain situations, and measure your competency in a job rather than the enjoyment gained from that role.
What are strength-based interviews?
You will be asked questions that are designed to find out what your interests and strengths are. Strength-based interviews are based upon the premise that someone who has genuine interest and strengths in certain areas will be more suitable for a role than someone whose interests don't match up with the role. Someone who will simply do the task because it is part of the role will inevitably lose motivation.
People who love what they do are likely to have such motivation that is not possible to match with just dilligence.
As the saying goes, "A happy workforce is a productive workforce", employers are utilising the fact that if you enjoy what you do, you will be better at it. It is known that when an individual enjoys carrying out a task they will often get into a "flow"; this is where they will be lost in the activity they are undertaking and so perform better as they lose a sense of passing time and seem to have a knack for the job at hand. During this flow, work will be completed to a higher level, quickly, and new information should be picked up by the individual while completing the task.
Example strength-based questions
This type of interview will include questions such as:
- What subjects did you enjoy most whilst at University/School?
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
- What do you feel you are good at?
- Tell me about an achievement you were particularly proud of.
- What kinds of tasks boost your energy?
- What would your closest friend say are your greatest strengths?
As well as questions that assess what you are most happy doing at work, and enjoy in life, you could also be asked what you find is always left until last or incomplete on your work-day checklist; this is a clever way to find out what you do not enjoy doing, and therefore can be used to find what role you would be most, or least suited to.
Another question typically asked (in all types of interviews) is, "what are your weaknesses?" a common response to this is, "I am a perfectionist, so have to make sure everything is perfect before moving on". This kind of answer is a cliché and would be picked up on as fake, so ensuring only real weaknesses, which can be counter-balanced with strengths, are given, will ensure a good reaction from the interviewer.
Mock strength-based interview and advice
Business psychologists have kindly produced an information document for us, which you can download below. Feel free to download the documents, print them out and conduct a mock interview with friends or colleagues. Or read them and practice responding on your own. Please respect our copyright though; if you want to use this for anything other than personal use you will need our permission.
Download Free Strengths-Based Questions (PDF)
Use the instructions document for taking part in the exercise. Use the candidate guidance document to get an insight into what assessors typically look for and for help with reflecting on your own performance.
Advantages of strengths-based interviews
More genuine account of yourself
With other methods of interviewing, such as using competency-based questions, the responses from candidates can all be compared and do not allow for much personality to show through; strength-based, however, gives a real insight into the candidate that the interviewer is talking to, and adds depth to the interview. Other methods can be well rehearsed beforehand, and can therefore come across as fake to prospective employers, but strength-based is a more honest account of how an individual feels they work best.
Although you cannot necessarily rehearse the responses you would give in a strength-based interview, it is important to know the strengths you do have, and the tasks you enjoy most, as trying to think of things to say will cut into your limited time. If you have the basics of each answer, it will free up time during the interview for you to add in your personality, rather than having to think of examples.
However, remember to be honest, do not practice responses that you feel the interviewer will want to hear; if you start talking about an activity you enjoy doing, but actually have no interest in this, it will be obvious to the interviewer who will be skilled in looking for certain deceptive indicators such as body language.
More relaxed and greater rapport
There are various benefits to holding a strength-based interview, including shorter amount of time needed for interviews; greater rapport between interviewer and candidate; larger degree of honesty from candidate; a higher likelihood of finding the best candidate for the job; fairer selection; and finally, happier interviewee.
This method is also highly beneficial for graduates fresh from a degree, who may have very little or no work experience in their chosen field; previous experience has been found to be a low predictor of an individual's later work performance, so having an interview that doesn't take this into consideration will be better for both prospective employer and candidate.Also, due to the method used during this style of interview, candidates will usually feel more relaxed which will lead to better responses as their stress and anxiety levels will be lower.
There are some opinions that suggest using this method will lead to more time and money being wasted by companies having to train people to pick up on others' strengths and body language; however, from the shorter interviews needed, and the higher chance of the right person being picked for the job, these negative views are outweighed.
Our final parting advice
Although the interview is based on finding out how you personally feel towards certain activities, and the areas you excel most in, they are designed to assess whether you have certain strengths highly regarded by the company. For example, a company that relies heavily on teamwork will be looking for those who enjoy activities that involve others; if you find that working alone is the only way you can efficiently get tasks done, then this type of role would probably not be suited to you.
When preparing for your strength-based interview it would be helpful to talk to friends and family; often, others can have a clearer picture of your greatest strengths and weaknesses, than you can.
You may also feel you perform particularly well at a certain task, when in fact, this is not your best strength, but you cannot see it yourself, through factors such as ego, etc. Getting an unbiased, objective view of yourself is crucial, particularly when applying for jobs, as you could be putting yourself up for a job role that you are entirely unsuitable for; similarly, you may be unconfident in applying for certain roles when others can see it would be a perfect match for you.
As with any interview, it's important to prepare, stay calm, be polite, and dress smart!
But remember - interviews are usually just one part of an application process. Some will have psychometric tests for you to complete, whilst others may be longer and have assessment centres.
Assessment Centre Practise
We have compiled an assessment centre pack that is designed to make you prepared for all tasks you may face during an assessment centre. This includes: Group exercises, Role-plays, Presentation exercises and case studies among more.