Self awareness

How to crack strengths-based interviews-part 2

Since I last wrote about Strengths, (How-to-crack-strengths-based-interviews ) there has been a steady increase in the number of organisations using Strengths-based recruitment in order to determine which candidates will be the best fit. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, around 40% of top graduate recruiters are now using a strengths-based approach. It’s therefore important that you are aware of how this impacts on the recruitment and selection process, as it’s different to the more traditional competency-based approach to interview questions.

Which recruiters use strengths-based recruitment?

Running silhouette with the word strength

Organisations which have adopted a Strengths-based approach include EY, Barclays, Nestlé, Sky, Severn Trent Water, Cap Gemini and Microsoft – recruiters popular with many students. This post will therefore concentrate on how the process is designed to identify candidates who are the best fit for roles and organisations. However, be warned that unlike competency-based questions, strengths interview questions are not something that you should try to rehearse. The point of strengths questions are to elicit the authentic, not the ‘scripted’ version of you, as this clip demonstrates:

How do competency and strengths-based questions differ?

Competency-based questions provide an opportunity for you to give examples to demonstrate how you can do the job, by describing times when you solved problems, communicated effectively or worked as part of a team. In contrast, strengths-based questions will aim to establish your motivation and which particular qualities you will bring to the role and organization. Vin Bhabra, Campaign Marketing Manager for RBS, where Strengths questions are used at the telephone interview stage says:


‘We want to explore applicants’ career aspirations and find out why they see RBS as the place to achieve their potential. We take a strengths-based approach to the interview so we can find out what candidates do well and what they enjoy doing. Using or talking about strengths makes people feel energised and enthusiastic, and it gives us a chance to focus on what makes them unique- to understand their passions.’

Puzzle parts forming a cube shape

The recruiter is likely to have a list of strengths that they will be recruiting against, so questions will be designed with these in mind.  Interviewers will not expect all successful candidates to fulfil each and every one of these. Rianna Powponne, Graduate Recruitment Assistant at Law firm Clifford Chance, says strengths-based interviews are used as part of their assessment process for summer vacation schemes and training contracts. She advises:

Do not over-prepare your answers to strengths-based questions as they are designed to catch you off-guard and are sometimes quite obscure. Remember the onus is on yourself to answer, so do give detailed examples and be positive when detailing your experiences, as body language and tone are also taken into account. Be honest! If it is not a strength of yours do not waffle trying to make something up on the spot. We do not expect candidates to always demonstrate strength in every competency we are looking for.

How can I prepare?

If it’s not possible to prepare for strengths questions what else can you do? You may be able to de-code or find some of the strengths recruiters’ value by researching their websites. It’s worth reflecting on whether the description of the organisation and the job role you are considering fills you with energy or drains you. If you are applying for positions because you feel you should, rather than because you really want to, then the process will find you out! Consider saving your energy for those posts you’d genuinely enjoy and be good at.

How can I succeed?

So- what will help you crack-strengths based interviews? Knowing what you are good at and enjoy will make it easier to decide what kinds of roles and working environment are likely to make best use of your strengths. Having an understanding of your particular strengths makes it easier to describe yourself authentically and with greater ease to others.

Volunteer teacher reading to a class of preschool kidsYou can complete a free online Strengths profile by registering with and selecting ‘your abilities and fit’.

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