Strengths Recruitment and Interviews

Strengths-based recruitment is increasingly popular with graduate employers and an approach that you may experience instead of a competency-based interview when you apply for a job. It is rooted in the idea that your Strengths are skills that you are not just good at, but that you find motivating and energising when you perform them. Strengths-based employers believe that if we work in roles that use our strengths, we perform better.

Some examples of strengths-based employers:

How can I get to know my Strengths?

Some recruiters use the words ‘skill’ and ‘strength’ to mean the same thing. However, Strengths in the context given above have been further defined by Cappfinity, a firm of talent consultants whose recruitment and development work is rooted in positive psychology. The performance + energy approach forms the basis of all their strengths assessments, and they have made a free version of their development tool, Strengths Profile, available online.

  • Get your strengths starter profile This will provide you with an opening insight into your Strengths, by asking questions about how well and how often you use certain skills, in addition to whether you enjoy them. A Starter Profile can be a good resource to engage with before a Strengths interview, to raise your awareness of the skills that most engage you.

You can also keep an eye out for Understanding Your Strengths workshops run by the Careers Service using CareerConnect, or check out the last recorded session on our YouTube channel.

How does a Strengths Interview work?

Recruitment using a Strengths framework has to test you on your enjoyment of your work, rather than simply asking for examples of when you have done something well. This is the basis for a Strengths interview.

A company using this technique will normally tell you so beforehand, perhaps even providing a list of the core skills on which they will be testing you. Strengths interviewers need to gauge whether you enjoy using your skills. So as well as looking for examples of what you do well, in line with their chosen Strengths they will also look at your choice of language, facial expression, body language and sense of enthusiasm.

Strong candidates will give spontaneous answers using active language – they will lean in and smile when talking animatedly about what they enjoy. Weaker candidates will give short, contained answers, without enthusiasm for the task at hand. These are the cues that a Strengths interviewer will be looking out for.

The components of a Strengths interview can comprise:

  • Calibration question, for example “Before we start formal interview questions, please can you talk us through an activity you really enjoy?” This question allows the interviewers to see you at your most engaged and enthusiastic. They can now judge your interview responses based on this, to see whether your enjoyment reaches a similar level again.
  • Short, open interview questions, for example “What does good communication look like to you?” The questions are deliberately open, to allow you to speak freely about whether you find this topic interesting or engaging. More about strength interviews
  • No follow-up questions. Your interviewers will expect you to continue speaking until you have covered all you want to, they will not prompt you for more information. You must therefore bring up your own examples to illustrate your Strengths, even if your interviewers do not ask for them.

How can I perform well in a Strengths Interview?

It is often said that you cannot prepare for a Strengths interview as you would for a competency one, but there are still things you can do:

  • Know yourself and your skills. This style of interview requires you to be self-aware, and able to articulate your Strengths and weaknesses. Consider areas you’ve grown or achieved the most in; these are likely to be your Strengths. Also ask your friends and family what they value about you, what support they to come to you for.
  • Know your employer. Understanding what strengths are important to your interviewers can be key to grasping company culture and how you will be expected to work. Research on the company, including speaking to its staff, is part of all good interview preparation.
  • Ask about the interview. If you’re not sure whether to expect Strengths-based questions, contact the company in good time to ask them. This allows you an opportunity to ask other useful questions, such as who your interviewers will be.
  • Profile yourself. Follow the steps above under “How do I get to know my Strengths?” Other skills auditing tools are also available, such as Prospects Planner and Profiling for Success.
  • Prepare your examples. Using the STAR or CAR technique for structuring your strengths examples is still a good use of your time. It will help you to cultivate the detail in your examples, and have them ready to offer during the interview.
  • Get some practice. You can book in for an Interview Simulation appointment with the Careers Service. Let us know what sort of interview you are expecting when you book, and we will look to prepare you for that experience.
  • Smile! More so than other interviews, your assessors will need to be able to read your expressions and gauge your enthusiasm. Be prepared to show them what matters to you through your tone and behaviour, as well as your choice of words.