Strength based interviews: Who, what, why and how?

We spend a lot of time at work. In fact the average person will spend up to 90,000 hours there in their lifetime, so it is important that organisations have the right people doing the right jobs – and ones they are happy in.

Strength based interviews have grown in popularity in recent years, in line with employers taking more responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees from a cultural perspective.

This type of interview is commonplace at numerous global brands such as Barclays, Nestlé and EY, and with good reason! But what candidates are they for? What exactly are they? Why should employers explore the interview technique and how are they conducted? Here we bring you up to speed with all you need to know about strength based interviews.


Strength-based interviews work well for graduates, who are unlikely to have much work experience but have plenty to bring to the table regardless. A traditional competency based interview will not show such candidates in the best light, as their experience gaps will hinder their ability to answer the questions properly.

At the other end of the spectrum, managerial or senior roles lend themselves well to strength based interviews too. A list of near-identical work experience makes establishing a firm favourite quite difficult in a CV sea of sameness!

The personality behind the experience often indicates how experience and knowledge is applied in practice, providing a more accurate depiction of how a candidate will fit into your team.


Strength based interviews help employers to identify an individual’s values, likes and driving factors. They include a series of open-ended questions designed to allow interviewees to show their personalities and motivators.

Rather than listing and confirming skills in a monotonous checkbox exercise, strength based interviews focus on what a candidate enjoys doing, and therefore where their true strengths lie. It is often a much more genuine and enjoyable experience for both interviewer and interviewee. Strength based interviews add colour, personality and reality to an otherwise stunted and often rehearsed candidate.


Laying the foundations to a happier, more productive workplace should start with the interview process: before would-be employees even begin their first day.

It’s not necessarily about establishing what a candidate can do, but what they enjoy doing. If an employee enjoys their job, they will be more productive. In fact, one study revealed that happy employees are up to a whopping 20% more productive (Forbes), which is good news for everybody.

Evolving your interview process is also a good way to ‘future-proof’ your business. A recent survey indicated that 67% of millennials rate a positive workplace culture as the most important factor when seeking employment (Deloitte).  With millennials expecting to make up three quarters of the global workforce by 2025, it is crucial to consider this demographic when thinking about the future of your business – and who, and how, you recruit.


The interview itself is largely the same format as a competency based interview: a room, some chairs, a table and lots of coffee! The difference lies in the style of questioning, and the way in which employers gauge success. There isn’t necessarily right or wrong answers in a strength based interview, but as an employer, you should have a clear idea of what qualities you are looking to add or replace in your team, and seek these qualities in interviewees.

Rather than candidates who have memorised the job description and moulded themselves into that person for the duration of the interview, strength based interviews allow employers to see a truer – often more relaxed – version of the interviewee. Employers can use reactions to various questions to assess a candidate’s suitability. For example, picture a role that is composed of 80% client meetings and 20% creative work… if a person’s strengths are clearly in meeting people they would be a good fit for the role, if they light up more at the creative aspect of the role then there is a chance they will be unfulfilled by the job and this might not be one for them. This will save considerable time, resource and recruitment churn in the long run.

During a strength based interview, employers should discreetly look out for signs of genuine positivity or fulfilment in body language and tone of voice.

Examples of strength based interview questions include:

  • What are your hobbies?
  • What did you enjoy most at university?
  • What would your friends describe as your biggest strength?
  • What is one stand-out achievement that you are particularly proud of?
  • How do you feel about deadlines?
  • What motivates you?
  • How do you maintain your motivation?

We hope that you found this article useful. Do you currently conduct strength based interviews in your workplace? If you would like help forming or sharpening your intake process then please contact our team who will be happy to collaborate.

Read more: 8 Reasons Why Video Interviews Work