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You may be familiar with the popular competency based interview that employers use as part of their selection process. You go through the job description, highlight the key competencies, think about your evidence for the competencies and practice them aloud using the STAR technique. Ready for the interview…nice and prepared.
But what if there was an interview where the employer said it required no preparation? An interview that you could not predict what the employer wanted to hear in your answer. An interview where there were no right or wrong answers? Welcome to the strengths based interview.
Strengths based interviews
Strengths based interviews are quick fire questions aimed 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 of their existing top performing employees. Strengths that come naturally to the individual and tasks that they enjoy doing. It makes sense then that these employees will tend to be happier in the workplace, perform better and stay longer. It also follows that employers would want more of the same – employees who would fit well within the organisation and have a natural ability and enjoyment for what they are doing.
It’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.
So what do they ask? Here are some examples…
What was the last book that you read?
Describe your favourite movie to me in 5 words?
What do you like doing in your spare time?
What motivates you?
As you can see, there are no right or wrong answers here (although you could hazard a guess at certain things that you might not mention!). Although you want to show yourself in the best light, you also want to give genuine answers. There would be no point in guessing at what they might want to hear and pretending to be interested in certain things. If you do, when it comes to being in the environment and performing in the role, you may not enjoy it and find it difficult to excel or to motivate yourself. Perhaps if you were not offered the job after a strengths based interview then the role just wasn’t for you. 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 perhaps 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 conversation that comes naturally to you. Who best to talk passionately about your favourite things and what you enjoy, than you yourself?
However, you may want to spend a bit of time thinking about:
- Your hobbies and interests and what motivates you so that you are not stuck for inspiration on the day.
- Why you enjoy these certain tasks or activities.
- Your strengths and why they might be good for the role for which you are applying. Have examples of when you have displayed these key strengths.
- Your weaknesses/areas for improvement and what you are doing to work on them.
- Complete a personality / MBTI test online to get you in the frame of mind for thinking about your key strengths and motivators. You may learn something interesting or useful that can be used in the interview!
- Practice talking about these things out loud so that you can easily articulate your answers to avoid getting tongue-tied or waffling during the interview. The questions tend to be multiple quick fired questions with short answers so you may need to get you point across quickly and won’t have much thinking time.
- 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.