We have spent the last decade or so being told that competency interviewing is a fantastic way to get a picture of candidate’s skills. This is true. But how do you know if what the candidate is telling you is something they actually enjoy? Being good at something is different to actually enjoying it.

When a candidate talks about a weakness or an activity they do not enjoy they often display:

  • low, slow paced voice
  • closed body language
  • brief answers

However, when a candidate talks about their strengths they often display:

  • elevated voice
  • open body language
  • open, honest answers
  • preparedness to talk more openly about their weaknesses

How is strengths based interviewing helpful?

So, we understand that strengths based interviewing focuses on what a candidates enjoys doing rather than can do. How is this helpful to you?

If a candidate enjoys something, it usually leads to a state of consciousness known as flow. When people are “in flow”, they are more engaged and personally motivated to perform well. The business benefits for having engaged and personally motivated staff are fairly obvious; higher productivity, higher quality standards and an increased openness to further learning and innovation.

Apart from the business benefits of using strengths based questions, there are other benefits too:

  • You can use them for recruiting staff who do not have much experience, for example school leavers, apprentices and graduates.
  • They are useful for using with senior managers too, as their passions and motivators can affect the company culture irreparably
  • You will start to identify candidates who have similar passions and may fit your company culture.
  • You will receive fewer pre-prepared answers from candidates.
  • You will get a real feel for who the candidate is as they are likely to show a more natural side to their personality.
  • Even if a candidate is not appointed, they are likely to feel like they had a positive interview and connected with your company.

Examples of strengths based questions

  • What does a good day at work look like for you?
  • Describe a successful day you have had at work.
  • Tell me about an activity/task that you really love doing.
  • Describe a situation where you have felt most at ease.
  • How would a close friend describe you?
  • When would your family or friends say that you are at your happiest?
  • What do you love doing in your spare time?
  • Tell me about something you are particularly passionate/excited/proud of.

You can see that the questions are open, not closed, and not necessarily about work-based situations.

How and when to use strengths based questions

We do not recommend you fill a whole interview using a strengths based technique. Instead, it is better to use one or two questions early on in an interview, after the initial introductions, as a means of getting the candidate relaxed and talking freely about themselves.

They work well used in a relaxed setting early on in a whole selection process – as an initial interview or telephone interview perhaps. Try not to lurch into them (“and now I am going to ask you about your strengths”), but make them part of a flowing conversation.

Even though you are trying to make the interview conversational, it is really important that you still take notes of what they say. And still listen carefully for the candidates’ attitudes, motivators and natural aptitudes. At the end of the day, strengths based interviewing is still an interview technique subject to legal rigour. You still want to be able to decide if those attitudes, motivators and aptitudes are helpful or unhelpful to both your company and the role being interviewed for.

To discuss how you can improve your interviewing technique, please contact us: 01768 753001 or info@peopledecisions.co.uk.