Behavioural vs Strengths-Based Interviews – What is the difference anyway?

There are a number of different approaches Interviewers can take and candidates often get them confused – or wrongly interchange the terms used to describe them. They are very different and designed to gather very different information. So let’s outline what’s involved in each!

Behavioural or Competency-Based Interviews

Are based on the assumption that past actions are a strong indicator of future performance. Every job will have a list of competencies that are required if an employee is to perform the role to a high standard and this is what they will test for at interview

The only way to give interviewers sufficient proof you have the competencies they are seeking is to give them a specific detailed example of when you demonstrated that competency or behaviour it in the past.

What do they ask? Here are some examples…

For example, if finding solutions to problems is a key criteria for being successful in a role you are being interviewed for, they are likely to ask you to:

Describe a time when you were faced with a problem that needed to be solved in a very short timescale. What did you do?

Other examples of Competency-Based Questions:
• Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it?
• Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
• Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.

It is not enough to talk about what you “always do” or “usually do”, you should recall an actual event and take the interviewer through how you dealt with the situation.

How can you prepare?

Construct your answer using the STAR model, which should ensure you give them what they are looking for – i.e. detailed proof and evidence that you have shown this competency in the past. The STAR model is simply a way for you to organise the information. Think of it as telling a story with a very definite Beginning, (Situation/Task) Middle (Action I Took) and End (Result).

On the other hand….

What if there is an interview where you cannot predict what the employer wants to hear in your answer? An interview where there are no right or wrong answers? Welcome to the strengths-based interview!

Strengths-Based Interviews

Strengths-based interviews aim to get to know you as an individual and to see how you might fit within the company and the role. Typically employers identify key personal strengths that come naturally to their existing top-performing employees. They then seek new hires that will fit well within the organisation and have a natural ability and enjoyment for what they are doing as they will perform better and stay longer.

That’s not to say that they are looking for all employees to have the same strengths, as there will be a different set required for different roles/departments within the organisation, therefore the questions they ask during a strengths-based interview may still differ depending on the role.

What do they ask? Here are some examples…

• What motivates you?
• What are you good at?
• What do you learn quickly?
• What gets left on your ‘to do’ list?

Though you can hazard a guess at certain things that you might not mention, crucially there are no right or wrong answers here, however, there is no point in guessing at what they might want to hear and pretending to be interested in certain things, honesty is definitely the best policy. The good thing about a strengths-based interview is that it allows you to see if you think you would be a good fit for the role and gives you more insight into the environment you would be working in.

How can you prepare?

There is little formal preparation you can do as it will be a conversation that comes naturally to you. The questions tend to be multiple quick fired questions with short answers so you may need to get your point across quickly and won’t have much thinking time.

However, you may want to spend a bit of time thinking about:
• Your strengths – why they might be good for the role for which you are applying and examples of when you have displayed these key strengths.
• Your Preferences – what are they and why do you enjoy these tasks or activities,
• Your values – how do they fit with the organisation’s culture and values
• Your weaknesses/areas for improvement and what you are doing to work on them.
• Your hobbies and interests and what motivates you so that you are not stuck for inspiration on the day.

So, before your interview…

If you have not already been told, ask the organisation/HR contact what the structure of the interview will be e.g. Competency-based? Strengths-based? Technical/practical based? or perhaps a mixture? This will help steer your preparation in the right direction and help you to know what evidence or examples you will need to gather ahead of the interview.

Practise talking about your examples out loud so that you can easily articulate your answers to avoid getting tongue-tied or waffling during the interview. Try to ensure you are relaxed going into the interview so that you can answer honestly and from a genuine place.

To find out more about our Interview Training Service click here or here to order a copy of our book, CV and Interview 101 – How to apply and Interview for Jobs.

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