Competences v Strengths

You are probably familiar with the competency approach to interviews. This is the one where specific questions are asked to draw out your transferable skills from previous experience, for example: “Describe a time you have had to work effectively as part of a team?”

The strengths approach focus moves away from what you have done in the past to what you enjoy doing. It seeks to understand what energises and motivates you, as well as what you do well. So it includes interests. It’s still looking for the best people to do the job, but also people who will enjoy the work and the organisation and thus be happier in their work, and more likely to stay.


What to expect from a strengths-based interview

Strengths based questions try to find out what candidates enjoy doing rather than just asking them to repeat examples of things they’ve done in the past.  There are a wide number of questions that could be asked, so it’s harder to prepare and create answers. But if you talk from the heart, give natural answers it will be much easier for you.

Be prepared to answer a lot more questions than in a usual interview; as the interviewer is trying to find out about you. Questions can be asked quickly and you will be expected to answer promptly to provide a genuine reply. You could get up to 50 questions in an hour, even with 30 questions that’s about 2 minutes per answer. Don’t expect deep probing follow up questions (or indeed any follow up questions) so you will want to answer fully.

You can still use the STAR technique (Situation Task Action Result) as you answer these questions.

Some of the questions may be closed questions, but treat these as open questions. You won’t get good marks for answering yes or no!

Your body language and tone of voice is also being observed. This provides clues as to your level of interested in what is being discussed so allow your natural energy and enthusiasm to shine through.


How to prepare for a strengths interview

  • Think about what your friends and family would say about you, think about what you enjoy doing and think about what energises you. When do you lose track of time;
  • Think about your work experience, what you enjoy and why;
  • Know what you enjoy to do and your strengths and have examples ready that demonstrate this. Use examples from studies, work and hobbies;
  • Record yourself on your phone and playback listening to both the content and also the energy behind what you say.

Complete a Strengths based assessment

It can help to understand yourself and you could complete a strengths based assessment in advance to identify your strengths. You can identify your answers against 24 character strengths from VIA and get a free strengths profile via this link:

Want to go deeper into understanding who you are or help with career discovery or job search? Then get in touch with Denise Taylor, award winning career coach at



Image courtesy of Ambro at

Published On: July 25th, 2015 / Categories: Interviews, Job Search, Personal Development /

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