Strength-Based Interview Questions: What They Are and How to Answer Them

June 24, 2021

This is an in-depth post about Strength-Based Interview Questions. With lots of potential answers for you to review, so you will be well prepared for your next interview.

So let start and find out about strength based questions.....

Some employers and human resource managers have adopted strength-based interviews. This is different from the usual competency-based interviews you may be familiar with.

Strength-based interviews are seen as a better way to determine any future potential in a job candidate. Note that the interview questions in this approach are more personal. Some would say that they dig deeper into one’s inner qualities rather than just assess qualifications.

In this guide, you will learn the following:

And yes further down we list a full list of questions, and answers

Strength-Based Interview

What Is a Strength-Based Interview? 

One of the ideas behind strength-based interviews is to identify your specific working style. If your working style is a good fit for the job, then you will be in a better position for getting hired.

This type of interview is called the “strength-based” interview simply because the questions are geared toward uncovering your strengths. It’s a relatively new style of interview and it is gaining popularity among decision-makers.

Interviewers who use it can get a better feel about your inner motivations. They also help them gauge how successful a candidate will be in the role that they will fill. In this type of interview setting, candidates get to highlight their natural strengths. They are allowed to convey the type of working environment that suits them.

The questions that you will encounter during this type of interview can sometimes be deeply personal. The questions are not designed to dig into your world. But they give interviewers a glimpse into your personality. 

It’s a give-and-take type of interview. Sure, the interviewer will pry into your inner workings. However, you can choose to highlight your natural abilities that are better suited for the job.

Interviewers will not be focusing so much on what you like and what you don’t like. The real focal point of their interest is to know what you’re good at. They also try to determine areas where you may be lacking. They also try to determine how well you respond to certain situations.

Why do employers do this? It is not a judgment call, mind you. Instead, they try to determine if you will be happy in your future work environment. If you are a good fit for the position, then you will overcome the usual challenges. You will also learn your job roles a lot faster, eventually, perform better, and you will tend to stay with the company a lot longer.


Parameters Measured

Parameters Measured During Strength-Based Interviews

There are certain qualities that these interviews will highlight. The questions tend to discover the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the candidate’s natural behaviours?
  • How will they respond to the day-to-day situations as they fulfil their future role in the company?
  • How likely will the candidate keep doing the job regardless of these situations? Remember, it’s not just whether you can do it or not. The more important detail is if you will be motivated to keep doing your job regardless of circumstances.
  • Will the candidate remain energized and motivated to do the job?

Why Recruiters Tend to Employ Strength-Based Interviews

Recruiters who go for this approach will want to know if a candidate will enjoy the work they’re signing up for. They want to know if you will be your genuine self when you work with the team. 

It makes sense. It wouldn’t be wise to hire someone who will be uncomfortable with the company’s culture. If you won’t enjoy life at work, then there is no reason to hire you. It will be a waste of time and resources to hire someone who will just leave a few months later.

Preparing for Strength-Based Interviews

Preparing for a strength-based interview will require a bit more time and effort. A lot of employers and interviewers believe that there is no way to prepare for interviews of this type.

We agree that there is no way to anticipate every question. You just can’t rehearse your responses and prepare for all scenarios. Nevertheless, you can plan certain responses that can best fit a variety of scenarios. You can have a set of strengths reviewed and rehearsed well enough so that you can highlight them to show you’re a good fit for the job.

The interviewer will ask one question after another, sometimes in rapid succession. This is done to prevent applicants from using memorized responses to interview questions. 

  • Don’t memorize your responses: What you’re looking to do during your preparation is not to prepare a memorized response. You need to prepare natural responses that come to you quite instinctively. This will take a lot of practice and a good understanding of your strengths.
  • Get an overall idea about strength-based questions: Having an overall idea about the type of questions that will be asked during a strength-based interview will help. With enough practice, you will become accustomed to coming up with quick responses on the fly.
  • Research the company and the job: Doing your due diligence and researching about the company will also help a lot during the interview. You should also understand the details about the job and role you’re applying for.
  • Match job requirements with your strengths: Job ads may include certain qualities that an employer is looking for. Make a list of your strengths and determine ways how they could benefit the company. Understand and identify the ways your strengths can help you succeed.
  • A well-rounded approach: Identify strengths from your academic background and practice recalling them. You should also do the same when you identify strengths in other fields. Look into your social achievements, volunteer work, hobbies, and the subjects that you’re interested in.

Common Strength-Based Interview Questions

Common Strength-Based Interview Questions

The following are some of the most common strength-based interview questions that you will encounter. Note that there is no way for anyone to predict exactly which questions will be asked. However, you can prepare by knowing your core strengths and how they relate to the job role that you will be playing.

Part of that is having a general understanding of the questions that might be asked during a strength-based interview. You can practice answering the questions below. However, do not formulate routine or memorized answers to these questions.

Remember that interviewers can tweak the questions and you will have to go with the flow as well. The goal is to be able to highlight your strengths to match the situations that will be presented to you.

Here are the questions:

What do you do in your spare time?

If you were made to choose between double-checking data and giving a presentation, which one would you choose?

What energizes you first thing in the morning?

How would you persuade a customer who tells you that they’re not happy with the company’s service?

How do your friends describe you as a person?

What could you do to help a colleague who is struggling with a lot of complex decisions?

Which do you prefer, starting a task or completing a task?

How do you resolve sudden obstacles when they interfere with your plans?

Do you prefer to dig into the small details or look at the big picture?

What was your biggest failure in life?

Describe your most successful day and why was it successful.

What do you consider to be your most significant achievement?

What is the thing that you are really good at?

What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?

Would your friends tell me that you have [insert particular ability or strength]?

Can you tell me what your weaknesses are?

What tasks come naturally for you?

How can you tell if a project is a success?

What is success to you personally?

Which subjects did you enjoy in college?

How do you describe yourself when you’re already successful in life?

What would your perfect day be like?

What are your three biggest strengths?

What is the thing that you are most proud of?

When did you achieve that thing that you are truly proud of?

Are deadlines intimidating or motivating to you?

Do people describe you as an organized person?

What is your least enjoyable activity?

When do you feel that you’re most inspired?

How well do you keep your promises?

Do you feel that you have enough time to complete your to-do list?

Who is the person, and it could be anybody, you admire the most?

If you were given 2 hours off work, how would you spend that time?

Which tasks are usually left undone in your to-do list?

What makes you less likely to succeed?

How do you stay motivated despite challenges and setbacks?

Which tasks do you consider tiresome?

Have you tried to do something different when given another shot at it?

What makes you more likely to succeed compared to the other job applicants?

What do you do when you find a task boring?

How do you handle situations when you work with someone you don’t like?

Do you think this role will be a good fit for your strengths? How?

Do you believe that you need to be an expert at something to become a leader?

Can you say that you are a good listener?

and more

Strength-Based Interview Questions for Engineering Jobs

  • What is your most challenging engineering project?
  • How do you make other people confident about your strengths and skills?
  • What are the kinds of technical reports that have you completed?
  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership?
  • What engineering skills have you improved in the last three months?
  • How do you figure out design problems?
  • How do you stay abreast of the latest technologies?
  • Tell me about a time when things didn’t go well in a project?
  • What will be the biggest challenge you will face in this role?


Situational vs. Past-Example Based Questions

Strength-based interview questions can be categorized under two general categories:

  1. Situational questions
  2. Past-example based questions

Situational questions are those questions that theoretically place you in certain mock situations that may happen in the workplace. The goal behind these types of questions is to see how your strengths will play out given the situation being posited. Past-example-based questions on the other hand delve into how you used your strengths using real-life experiences.

Here is an example of a situational question. How do you respond when you are asked this type of question?

“You have a priority project that is due this weekend. You only have 6 days left and nothing is getting done. You’re working with two new colleagues and all of you have different ideas as to how to complete all the necessary tasks. However, the discussion during the meeting on the first day already got heated. How do you feel about this situation and how will you approach it?

The next sample question is past-example-based. Try to answer the question in the best way possible:

“Tell me about a time when you were the newbie in a group. You’re meeting people for the first time and you will have to spend a considerable amount of time with them. What was enjoyable about that experience and what about it that was challenging to you?”

Effectively answering both types of strength-based questions will require an understanding of the assessment process. Remember that your interviewer is looking for particular traits that will fit the role that you are applying for.

Understanding the Assessment Process

It would take several practise sessions before you become familiar with the questions listed above. As you practice answering those questions, keep in mind that employers and recruiters already have specific strengths they’re looking for.

The questions that they will ask will relate to one or more of these particular strengths. They will also be fishing for certain behaviors, values, skills, and attributes. These are the things that have been deemed necessary for the applicant to become successful in the role that they will be playing in the future. It makes sense to demonstrate that you fit well into these roles via your strengths, skills, and other attributes.

Here are some of the qualities that employers will be looking for:

  • Persistence
  • Resilience
  • Ability to pick up information quickly
  • The ability to learn a subject or skill fast
  • The ability to inspire trust in clients
  • Getting the confidence of colleagues
  • Relationship management

There are other traits that employers will be looking for and they will not always be the same set. It will all depend on the job or role that needs to be filled. Some questions will be process-oriented, some are people-centred, and others will focus on other job factors. Again, researching about the job and the company will help you answer strength-based interview questions effectively.

Keep in mind that employers will also look at your engagement level and your capabilities. Engagement level refers to how energized you are while making use of your strengths. It also measures how drained you are after focusing on your tasks and doing certain behaviours. Capability refers to how well you perform on the job.

Graduate Students

Strength-Based Interview Tips for Graduate Students

The following are general tips and best practices that might be helpful to you. 

  • Before coming to the interview, make sure to review all your strengths. Use the questions included above to help you determine the strengths that you will want to highlight.
  • Keep calm and come to the interview radiating positivity in your facial expressions, your mannerisms, and your tone of voice. Listen to motivational material to ignite your enthusiasm if you have to.
  • Answer each question honestly. Don’t even think that you can get away with a little lie. Even if you do get away with it, the job may not be a good fit for you. You will end up being miserable in the end.
  • Practice brevity—if you can say it using fewer words, then that will be better.
  • Be prepared to back up your claims during the interview. It is one thing to claim competence and another to show it during a one-on-one conversation. To prove a claim, prepare answers from actual scenarios that you have experienced.
  • Remember to ask clarifying questions. Your interviewer will appreciate it. It also helps to slow down the pace of the interview if it is going on too fast.
  • Draw examples from different aspects of your life and not just in the workplace. Your interviewer will also be interested in other subjects like places you’ve travelled to, volunteer work, experience in academia, family, clubs you’ve joined, sports, and recreation.
  • Make sure to pay attention to each question. Answer directly and avoid providing derivative details. There’s no need to flaunt your expertise in any subject.
  • Find ways to relate your strengths and experiences to the job you’re applying for. Use action words when describing these examples. Highlight how your strengths can benefit the company.
  • Always put your best foot forward. There will be times when your strength or trait won’t be in the best position for the job. To turn things around, provide a solution that you have used, changes that you are making, and things you have learned in the process.

Sample Strength-Based Interview Questions with Answers

As it was mentioned earlier, there is no single answer to every strength-based interview question. To give you an idea of how to best answer these types of questions, here are sample questions with probable answers.

Question: What do you do when given a couple of hours of spare time?

Answer: I like to make the most of every minute of my time. I would spend that time reading a book, taking an online class either on Mind Valley or Udemy, and maybe jog or run—if not that, maybe go to the gym.

Question: What are times when you feel least confident?

Answer: I’m a naturally shy person. That is why I feel less confident when interacting with managers and other teammates. However, back in high school, I attended an improv acting class. And that experience helped me overcome my shyness and allow me to speak my mind, especially when brainstorming solutions.

Question: You don’t like math? What if the job will require you to crunch some numbers?

Answer: Math wasn’t my strongest subject. I didn’t see how it would apply to me later in life. However, when I got into the working world, I realized I needed to be analytical and that meant dealing with math. I invested in myself and took online classes to improve my math skills. With the skills that I gained, I was able to improve the sales analytics in one of our marketing campaigns in my previous job.

Question: What is your greatest strength?

Answer: I was always a natural-born leader. In my previous job function, I was able to improve the KPIs of my sales team. I understand that my success as a leader involves ensuring the success of each individual team member. Today, I still look for opportunities to improve my management skills by attending seminars and workshops online.

Question: What do you think are your greatest weaknesses?

Answer: I have to admit that I am very critical of myself. I became aware of this habit in college and it went on until my graduate days. One solution to this habit of negative self-talk that I have found is celebrating small victories. This new habit has helped me raise my self-esteem and has helped me recognize and appreciate the achievements of my teammates.

BIG HINT: When answering a weakness question, don’t forget to mention a skill, habit, or trait that is helpful to you to resolve it. You can follow the three-step pattern in the example above. You should first mention the weakness (and be candid about it). After that, mention the context of how your weakness came about (it can be at work or in your personal life). 

Why do you have to give a contextual background? Remember that the goal of a strength-based interview is not to judge you or your character in any way. Providing a context about any trait (positive or negative) gives your interviewer or potential employer a bird’s eye view into your self-awareness.

It shows them that you know where you are lacking. And then finally, providing actions that you are taking at the moment to overcome said weakness reveals your commitment to personal and professional growth.

A Final Word

Strength-based interview questions can’t always be answered by replies that you have prepared and memorized. What you need is a core understanding of your strengths, values, habits, traits, and weaknesses. Take the time to practice answering the common questions mentioned above. As you gain a better understanding of your traits, you will answer any questions of this type effectively.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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