Strengths-based interviews for jobs and grad schemes

Find out what to expect from this new style of graduate job interview, which focuses on what you enjoy doing as a way of assessing your personal attributes and innate aptitudes.

Strengths-based interviews are a new approach that some graduate recruiters are moving towards as a way of finding out what candidates enjoy. While competence-based interviews focus on what you can do, strengths-based interviews focus on what you like doing.

Recruiters are turning towards strengths-based interviews because candidates were turning up to competence-based interviews knowing what to expect and giving well-rehearsed answers. This made it difficult for employers to find out what applicants were really like.

The strengths-based approach aims to be fresh, positive and engaging and to offer genuine insights into candidates’ innate aptitudes. Perhaps nothing is more revealing about who you are than what you enjoy.

What to expect from a strengths-based interview

The recruiter in a strengths-based interview is looking to find out what kind of activities engage you and energise you. When you are using your strengths, you perform your best and rapidly learn new information. If you enjoy what you are doing, you may become engrossed and lose your sense of time – the state of consciousness referred to as ‘flow’.

The questions in a strengths-based interview will take a wide-ranging approach to assessing your personal attributes. Interviewers may seek to identify your abilities, such as working with others and analysing problems, or look for pride in what you do. They will take note of your body language and tone of voice, which provide cues to what you have enjoyed. They may also ask questions relatively quickly in order to get a genuine response.

Job-hunters need not be alarmed by the shift away from the competence-based interview as a way of assessing candidates. Most people are likely to come across at their best when talking about what they enjoy. Candidates who have undergone a strengths-based interview often report that they found it interesting and satisfying, and interviewers have also welcomed the new approach.

How to approach a strengths-based interview

Consider the academic achievements and extracurricular activities you included on your CV or online application form. Think about what you most enjoyed, and why. When were you most engaged? What did you take most pride in?

Assessing what you most enjoy will help you to clarify what you want out of your career, as well as preparing you for contact with an interviewer who takes a strengths-based approach.

Examples of strengths-based interview questions

The professional services firm Ernst & Young is currently the only one of the Big 4 companies in this area that uses a strengths-based approach. Typical questions include ‘What do you do well?’, ‘When do you feel you are most like “yourself”?’ and ‘When are you at your best?’