A strength-based interview is a type of interview method focused on identifying and understanding a candidate's strengths and how they can be applied in the workplace.
Unlike traditional interviews that often concentrate on experience, competencies, and skills, strength-based interviews aim to uncover what candidates are naturally good at and what they enjoy doing.
Large companies like – Ernst and Young, Aviva, Standard Chartered, Reckitt Benckiser, and CB Richard Ellis are already using strength-based interviews as part of their graduate recruitment.
It’s harder to prepare for a strength-based interview because the questions are more personal and interviewers will ask quick-fire questions to prevent candidates from using prepared answers.
This doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself before the interview. Here are some strength-based interview questions and answers to help you ace your next interview.
1) What motivates you?
The interviewer is interested in understanding what naturally energizes and engages you, so reflect on your genuine sources of motivation and enthusiasm.
“I find that I'm most motivated by opportunities to solve complex problems and create efficient solutions. For instance, in my last role, I was particularly energized when working on optimizing our inventory management system. The challenge of analyzing data, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes that had a tangible impact on our operations was incredibly rewarding. This ties in well with the role at hand, as I understand it involves a significant amount of problem-solving and process optimization. I’m excited about the prospect of bringing this passion for problem-solving and efficiency to your team.”
This response not only clearly outlines your sources of motivation but also demonstrates how these align with the role you are applying for, making you a potentially great fit for the position.
2) What are you good at?
When answering this question, it's essential to focus on your natural abilities and talents. Reflect on the areas where you excel and feel most confident.
“I've always been naturally good at organizing and planning. I find it easy to see the bigger picture and break it down into manageable tasks. For instance, in my last role, I was responsible for coordinating a major project where I successfully managed timelines and resources, ensuring we met our milestones efficiently. I’m also quite adept at problem-solving, especially in team settings. I enjoy the process of brainstorming and finding creative solutions to challenges. This skill was particularly useful when I led a team to troubleshoot a recurring issue in our workflow, resulting in a 30% increase in efficiency. I believe these strengths in organization, planning, and problem-solving would be particularly beneficial in the [specific role], where managing complex projects and finding innovative solutions are key aspects of the job.”
This response clearly outlines your strengths with relevant examples and links them to how they can be beneficial in the role you’re applying for, demonstrating your potential fit for the position.
3) What are some of your achievements?
Focus on accomplishments that highlight your strengths and areas where you excel. Bonus points if you can make your answer relevant to the job position you’re applying for.
“One achievement I’m particularly proud of is leading a project team at my previous job to develop a new customer service strategy, which resulted in a 20% increase in customer satisfaction. This was a significant accomplishment as it not only showcased my leadership and strategic planning skills but also my ability to work collaboratively with a diverse team. On a personal level, completing my degree while working full-time was a major milestone. It demonstrated my time management skills and determination. These experiences have equipped me with a strong foundation in teamwork, leadership, and resilience, which I believe are crucial for success in the [specific role] at your company.”
This response demonstrates a range of achievements that highlight your strengths, and it effectively relates these accomplishments to the skills and qualities valuable in the role you’re applying for.
4) How would your friends describe you?
This is a great opportunity to share insights into your personality and strengths.
Reflect on the positive traits that your friends or colleagues often commend you for, and choose those that are relevant to the role you're applying for.
“My friends often describe me as proactive, supportive, and detail-oriented. For instance, they always point out how I take the initiative in planning our group activities, from organizing events to sorting out logistics. This proactiveness extends to my professional life as well; I’m always looking for ways to improve processes and solve problems before they escalate. They also see me as a supportive figure; I enjoy helping others, whether it’s offering a listening ear or assisting with challenges. Lastly, my attention to detail is something my friends rely on, especially when we’re working on projects together. They know I won't overlook the small things that can make a big difference. I believe these qualities are well-suited for a role at [Company Name], where initiative, teamwork, and attention to detail are highly valued.”
This response not only shares qualities your friends see in you but also ties these traits to how they can be beneficial in a customer service environment, demonstrating your suitability for the role.
5) What is your greatest strength?
When answering this question, focus on a core strength that aligns with the company's values and the specific role you're applying for.
"My greatest strength is my analytical ability. I excel at dissecting complex data and extracting meaningful insights. In my previous role as a data analyst, I spearheaded a project where I analyzed customer satisfaction data to identify key areas for improvement. My analysis led to targeted changes in our service approach, resulting in a 15% increase in customer satisfaction scores. This strength is particularly relevant to the role at [Company Name], where making data-driven decisions is crucial for developing effective insurance solutions and strategies. I believe my ability to analyze and interpret data will allow me to contribute significantly to the [Company Name] goals of enhancing customer experience and optimizing business processes."
This response effectively demonstrates your understanding of your key strength and articulates how it has been beneficial in your past roles. It also shows how this strength can be applied effectively in the position you’re applying for.
6) What gives you energy?
This is another question that you can easily prepare beforehand. Focus on activities or aspects of work that motivate and excite you, especially those relevant to the job position you’re applying for.
“I find that I’m most energized when I’m working on complex financial analyses. There’s something about diving into detailed data, uncovering trends, and deriving insights that excites me. For instance, at my current job, I led a financial analysis project that identified significant cost-saving opportunities for our client. It was challenging but incredibly rewarding to see how my analysis translated into tangible business outcomes. This aligns with my strength in analytical thinking and problem-solving. I believe this aspect of the role at your company, which involves in-depth financial analysis and strategy development, is particularly aligned with what energizes me. It would not only keep me engaged and motivated but also allow me to contribute effectively, leveraging my strengths to deliver high-quality work.”
This response shows that you understand what motivates you professionally and can articulate how these motivations align with the responsibilities of the role in the company.
7) What do you enjoy doing the most?
Consider activities or tasks that you find genuinely enjoyable and engaging, especially those that align with the role you're applying for.
“One of the things I enjoy most is creative problem-solving, especially in the context of digital marketing strategies. In my current role, I love the challenge of devising innovative campaigns that resonate with diverse audiences. For instance, I led a project where we used data-driven insights to tailor our marketing approach, resulting in a 25% increase in engagement. This work excites me because it combines creativity with analytical thinking, areas where I excel. I see that the role I'm applying for requires innovative marketing strategies and a data-driven approach, which aligns perfectly with what I enjoy doing. Engaging in this type of work not only motivates me but also drives me to produce my best work, which I believe would be beneficial in this role.”
This response effectively demonstrates your passion for certain activities and how this aligns with the responsibilities of the position you’re applying for, showing the interviewer that you would be engaged and motivated in the role.
8) What do you enjoy doing the least?
Answering this question can be tricky. You want to be honest without casting yourself in a negative light. The key is to choose a task or activity that is less enjoyable for you but isn't a critical component of the job you're applying for.
“In my experience, I’ve found that I enjoy routine administrative tasks the least. I thrive on creativity and challenge, so repetitive tasks can sometimes feel less engaging. However, I understand that these tasks are essential for the smooth running of any operation. To manage this, I often try to find ways to streamline these tasks or integrate them into a more dynamic workflow. For example, when handling data entry, I use productivity tools to speed up the process, allowing me to focus more on the creative aspects of my job. I’ve also learned the importance of these tasks in maintaining organizational efficiency, which has helped me appreciate their value. In the role I’m applying for, I understand that while there might be some routine work, there's also a significant focus on areas I find stimulating, like problem-solving and strategy development.”
This response shows that you have a mature approach to less enjoyable tasks, focusing on efficiency and the bigger picture of your role, while also aligning your interests with the key aspects of the position you're applying for.
9) How do you stay motivated?
When answering this question, focus on the strategies and mindsets that help you maintain high levels of enthusiasm and commitment in your work.
“I stay motivated by setting myself clear goals and embracing challenges. For instance, in my last role, I was motivated by the goal of improving our customer satisfaction ratings. This led me to initiate a feedback system for continuous improvement. Achieving these incremental goals gives me a sense of progress and accomplishment. I also find that learning new skills is particularly motivating. I regularly set aside time for professional development, which keeps my work fresh and exciting. Also, I maintain motivation through organization; I prioritize tasks and break down larger projects into manageable parts. This approach helps me stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I believe these strategies will be beneficial in this role at [Company], where there are continuous opportunities for growth and a need for effective project management.”
This response demonstrates that you have effective strategies for maintaining motivation and shows how these strategies can be applied to succeed in the new role.
10) What are your weaknesses?
Answer this question by focusing on areas for development rather than emphasizing significant flaws. The key is to discuss a real area where you can improve and how you're actively working to do so.
“One area I’m working on is public speaking. While I’m confident in one-on-one interactions and small group settings, speaking in front of larger audiences is something I find challenging. To improve, I’ve been taking an online course in public speaking and have volunteered to lead presentations in my current role to gain more experience. I’ve noticed a gradual improvement in my confidence and delivery. Although public speaking isn’t a central aspect of this role, I believe strengthening this skill will further enhance my ability to communicate effectively in various professional contexts. I’m committed to continuous learning and growth, which I think is important in any role.”
This response acknowledges a realistic area of improvement and demonstrates a proactive approach to personal development, which can be a positive trait in the eyes of an interviewer.
11) What do you like to do in your spare time?
This question is an opportunity to share insights about your interests and how they might reflect your strengths and personality traits relevant to the job.
“In my spare time, I enjoy hiking and photography. Being outdoors and exploring new trails is not only a great way to stay active but also helps me to relax and disconnect. Photography, on the other hand, allows me to capture the beauty of these moments and challenges my creativity. Both these hobbies have helped me develop a keen eye for detail and a strong appreciation for perseverance and patience, as both hiking and capturing the perfect shot often require these qualities. I believe these skills are transferable to the [position] at [Company], especially in tasks that require attention to detail and creative problem-solving.”
This response gives the interviewer insight into your personality and interests while also tying these aspects back to skills and qualities that are relevant in a professional setting.
12) Do you most like starting tasks or finishing them?
When answering this question, it's important to reflect on your work style and preferences honestly while also considering how they align with the role you're applying for.
“I find a lot of satisfaction in finishing tasks. There’s a sense of accomplishment in seeing a project through to completion, especially when overcoming challenges along the way. For instance, in my previous role, I was responsible for leading a project from the planning stage right through to its successful implementation, ensuring every detail was taken care of. That being said, I also understand the importance of initiating tasks. Starting projects with enthusiasm and innovation is crucial, and I enjoy this phase too, especially in brainstorming and developing new ideas. In the [position] at [Company], I see an opportunity to apply both these strengths – initiating new projects with creativity and seeing them through to successful completion.”
This response shows a balanced understanding of the importance of both starting and finishing tasks, while also aligning your strengths with the needs of the role.
13) Do you prefer the big picture or the small details?
When answering this question, it's crucial to consider your natural inclinations and how they align with the role you're applying for.
“I naturally gravitate towards the big picture. I enjoy strategic planning and understanding how different pieces fit together to achieve long-term objectives. For instance, in my previous role, I led a project where my ability to keep the overall goals in mind helped us stay on track and adapt when necessary. However, I also understand the importance of small details, especially in ensuring the quality and precision of work. In the role I'm applying for at [Company], I believe this balance of big-picture thinking and attention to detail will be beneficial, allowing me to contribute to both strategic planning and the meticulous execution of projects.”
This response demonstrates your awareness of your strengths and preferences, while also showing an understanding of the importance of both perspectives in the workplace. It aligns your natural inclination with the demands of the role, illustrating how you would be an asset in the position.
14) Describe a successful day. What made it successful?
Focus on a specific instance that you consider a personal success and explain the factors that contributed to making it successful.
“A day I consider particularly successful was when my team had to meet a crucial project deadline under tight time constraints. We were working on a major presentation for a potential client. I started the day with a clear plan, prioritizing tasks and delegating responsibilities effectively. My role involved finalizing the presentation content and overseeing the design layout. Despite some last-minute challenges, including technical issues, I maintained a calm and focused approach, efficiently troubleshooting the problems. The success of this day was largely due to my ability to stay organized, communicate effectively with my team, and remain adaptable under pressure. The presentation was well-received by the client, leading to a significant partnership for our company. The skills and qualities I exhibited that day, such as leadership, problem-solving, and resilience, are ones I look forward to bringing to the [specific role] at [Company].”
This response showcases how you define success and demonstrates your ability to handle challenging situations effectively, reflecting the qualities and skills that are likely valuable in the role you’re applying for.
15) What did you enjoy studying at school or university?
When answering this question, focus on subjects or areas of study that genuinely interested you and try to relate them to the skills and qualities relevant to the job you're applying for.
“At university, I was particularly drawn to courses in economics and finance. I found the analytical aspect of understanding markets and financial trends fascinating. It wasn’t just about the numbers; it was about interpreting data and understanding its implications in the real world. This interest played a big part in developing my analytical and critical thinking skills. It’s also where I discovered my passion for data-driven decision-making, which I believe is a crucial skill for the [specific role] at [Company]. These subjects also taught me the importance of staying informed and continuously learning, which has been valuable throughout my career.”
This response not only highlights the subjects you enjoyed but also ties these interests to valuable skills and qualities, showing the interviewer how your academic background aligns with the professional role you are pursuing.
16) Do you find there are enough hours in the day to complete your to-do list?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to understand your time management skills and how you handle workload and deadlines. It's important to focus on how you manage your time and prioritize tasks.
“While I strive to complete my to-do list each day, I recognize that it’s not always possible to finish everything due to unforeseen demands or challenges. To manage my time effectively, I prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. For example, in my last role, I regularly reviewed my tasks each morning and allocated time based on their priority, which helped me stay focused and productive. On days when I can’t complete everything, I reassess my list and adjust my plan for the following day. I’ve learned to be adaptable, understanding that priorities can shift. Continuously improving my time management is important to me, so I regularly explore new strategies and tools to enhance my efficiency.”
This response shows that you have a realistic approach to time management, are proactive in managing your tasks, and are adaptable when faced with changing priorities or unexpected challenges.
17) What tasks are always left on your to-do list?
This is an opportunity to discuss your prioritization skills and how you handle less favorable tasks. The goal is to acknowledge that while certain tasks may not be your strong suit, you have strategies to manage them effectively.
“In my experience, administrative tasks like filing or updating records tend to linger on my to-do list. I'm more drawn to dynamic, interactive tasks, so these routine activities can sometimes feel less engaging. However, I recognize their importance in maintaining organization and efficiency. To manage this, I allocate specific times in my schedule to focus on these tasks, often at the end of the day when my other work is completed. I’ve also found that breaking them into smaller, more manageable chunks helps to make them feel less daunting. Over time, I’ve become more disciplined in ensuring these tasks don't get overlooked. In the role I’m applying for at [Company], while my focus would be on [key responsibilities of the role], I understand the importance of these types of administrative tasks and am committed to handling them promptly and efficiently.”
This response acknowledges that while certain tasks may not be your favorite, you have developed strategies to ensure they are completed, demonstrating your professionalism and ability to manage a full range of responsibilities.
18) How do you feel about deadlines?
When answering this question, it's important to convey your attitude toward time management and your ability to work under pressure.
“I see deadlines as a crucial part of maintaining efficiency and structure in any project. They help me stay focused and organized, ensuring that I allocate my time and resources effectively. In my current role, I regularly handle multiple projects with overlapping deadlines. I do this by prioritizing tasks based on urgency and complexity, setting interim milestones, and regularly communicating with team members to ensure we’re all on track. For instance, in a recent project, we faced a tight deadline for a high-priority client deliverable. I coordinated with the team to accelerate certain phases of the project without compromising on quality, and we successfully met the deadline. This experience reinforced the importance of proactive planning and flexibility in my work. In the role at [Company], I believe my ability to effectively manage deadlines will enable me to contribute to the team's success, especially in a fast-paced environment where timely delivery is key.”
This response demonstrates a positive attitude towards deadlines and highlights your time management skills, planning abilities, and experience in working under pressure, all of which are valuable in a professional setting.
19) Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
This question is designed to assess your ability to learn from experiences and apply those lessons. Focus on a situation where you adapted or improved your approach based on previous experience.
“In my previous role, I was tasked with improving our customer feedback process. The first time I approached the project, I focused primarily on digital surveys. While we gathered some insights, the response rate was lower than expected. Realizing the need for a more engaging approach, I revised our strategy for the second attempt. This time, I incorporated direct customer interviews and incentivized survey participation. These changes resulted in a higher response rate and more detailed feedback. This experience taught me the importance of being adaptable and willing to revise strategies when they are not yielding desired results. It also highlighted the value of directly engaging with customers, which provided richer insights. This lesson in adaptability and customer engagement is something I believe would be valuable in the role at [Company], especially in projects requiring continuous improvement and customer interaction.”
This response shows that you can critically assess your work, learn from experiences, and adapt your strategies for better outcomes, which are valuable traits in any professional setting.
20) Do you think this role will play to your strengths?
This question allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the job and how your unique skills and abilities make you a suitable candidate.
Articulate how your strengths align with the requirements of the role.
“I strongly believe that this role aligns well with my strengths. One of my key strengths is my ability in data analysis and problem-solving, which I understand is vital for this position. In my previous role at [Company], I successfully led a project where my data analysis skills contributed to a 15% increase in operational efficiency. Another strength is my collaborative approach to work. I’ve consistently been part of cross-functional teams and have thrived in environments that require joint efforts across different departments. Given that this role at [Your Company] involves working closely with various teams, I'm excited about the opportunity to bring my collaborative skills to the table. I’m enthusiastic about the prospect of leveraging these strengths in a dynamic environment like yours, and I'm confident that I can make a significant contribution to your team.”
This response demonstrates a clear understanding of both the role and your strengths, and it articulately conveys how your abilities make you a strong candidate for the position.
21) What makes you more likely to succeed in this role than other applicants?
This is an opportunity to differentiate yourself by emphasizing what sets you apart positively and confidently. Focus on highlighting your unique strengths and experiences that directly align with the job's requirements.
“What sets me apart for this role is my combination of in-depth industry knowledge, proven leadership skills, and a track record of innovative problem-solving. In my previous role at [Previous Company], I led a team in a project that required navigating complex regulatory challenges, similar to what I understand this role entails. My ability to analyze intricate compliance issues and devise effective strategies was key to the project's success, resulting in a 20% reduction in compliance-related costs. Also, my innovative approach to problem-solving has enabled me to develop creative solutions in challenging situations, a skill I believe is crucial for this role. My enthusiasm for this industry and commitment to continuous learning will drive me to consistently deliver high-quality results. I am confident that my unique blend of skills and experiences positions me well to excel in this role and make a meaningful contribution to [Your Company].”
This response effectively communicates your relevant strengths and experiences, demonstrates how they align with the role's requirements and shows genuine enthusiasm for the opportunity.
Why do employers use strength-based interview questions?
Employers use strength-based interview questions for several key reasons, each aimed at enhancing the recruitment process and ensuring a good fit between the candidate and the role:
Assess a candidate that doesn’t have work experience
Strength-based interviews help identify a candidate's innate strengths and talents.
Unlike competency-based interviews that focus on skills and experiences, strength-based interviews aim to find out what a candidate naturally excels at and enjoys doing.
Assess the candidate for cultural fit
Understanding a candidate’s strengths and how they like to work can provide insights into how well they will fit into the company culture and team dynamics.
Reduce rehearsed answers
Candidates have fewer opportunities to prepare and rehearse their answers, making interview questions more effective in revealing the genuine interest, motivation, and aptitude of the interviewees.
Interviewers will look at body language and listen for other signals like voice tone and speed to identify whether someone has pride in what they have been doing or has a specific interest or passion for a subject.
Focusing on strengths can help reduce unconscious bias in hiring decisions. It shifts the focus from what candidates have done in the past to what they have the potential to achieve in the future.
Make the interview process more enjoyable
Strength-based interviews often lead to a more positive interview experience.
Candidates get the opportunity to talk about what they enjoy and do well, which can be more comfortable and enjoyable than traditional interview questions.
How to prepare for a strength-based interview
Many recruiters believe it's impossible to prepare for a strength-based interview, but I beg to differ. The key is to focus on your strengths and how they align with the role you're applying for.
Here's how you can effectively prepare:
Identify your strengths
Well before the interview, reflect on your strengths.
Consider what tasks you excel at, what activities you enjoy, and where you consistently achieve good results. Use the provided questions as a guide to identify your key strengths.
Prepare strong examples
Prepare descriptive examples that showcase when and how you've used these strengths. Think about how these strengths could be beneficial in the organization you're applying to.
A great tip to provide excellent examples is to use the STAR method. It consists of Situation, Task, Action, and Result which makes your response well-structured.
Draw from diverse experiences
Your examples can come from various aspects of your life, including academic achievements, voluntary work, involvement in clubs/societies, paid employment, and experiences from gap years or travel. This diversity of experiences can provide a well-rounded picture of your abilities.
Keep your answers concise
Unlike competency-based interviews, strength-based interviews don’t require lengthy answers. However, you should still have succinct, clear examples ready to support your claims about your strengths.
Answer truthfully about your strengths and preferences.
Pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to a poor fit for both you and the organization. Authenticity is key to finding a role that suits you well.
Show natural energy and enthusiasm
Let your genuine enthusiasm and energy shine through in your answers. Strength-based interviews often focus on understanding what truly motivates and excites you.