updated on 11 February 2020
Strengths-based interviews are increasingly popular with graduate recruiters for a number of reasons. A strengths-based interview focuses on what you are good at (ie, your strengths) and also what you enjoy doing. Strengths-based interviews tend to be more forward thinking than competency-based interviews, which have a tendency to ask you to reflect on past experiences and provide an example of when you have performed well (eg, ‘Give me an example of when you have worked successfully as part of a team’). In a strengths-based interview, you may be given a scenario and asked how you think you may react, or asked how you would feel about being placed in that situation (eg, ‘Imagine that you are currently a trainee solicitor with us. You are busy working on a research task and see that a paralegal in your team is struggling to meet a deadline. What would you do?’)
Strengths-based interviews are considered to be an inclusive and fair way to assess applicants. In theory this is because everybody has their own strengths, so are able to perform well regardless of their past experiences or opportunities. It is also more difficult to prepare rehearsed answers for strengths-based interviews, so assessors are more likely to receive more genuine and energised answers to each interview question.
How to prepare for strengths-based interviews
As you cannot rehearse answers for a strength-based interview, you may go into it feeling slightly more apprehensive about what to expect. However, there are ways of practicing this interview method without preparing rehearsed answers.
How can you succeed if faced with a strengths-based interview?
Remember that there is no right or wrong answer with strengths-based interviews; in theory each answer should be personal to each individual as it will assess what you're naturally strong at, what you enjoy doing or what you are passionate about. Bearing this in mind, you should always try to explain your response fully and try to link back to the question you've been asked. Assessors will not only be assessing your response, but also looking at your body language to assess whether you genuinely enjoy each strength, so you should also bear this in mind when giving your response.
As a consequence of this style of interviewing, it is not necessary to provide examples of previous experience for each answer. However, if you feel you have a suitable example, you are able to use it. As an example, if you were asked about something that you enjoy doing, you should first try and answer why you enjoy the task and then provide an example to support your statement if it's relevant. If you fail to answer why you enjoy the task and solely provide an example, you could lose out on some marks.
Make sure that you fully understand what the question is asking you before answering. With a competency-based interview, you may be able to easily pick out key words such as 'teamwork', and instantly provide an example of when you have demonstrated teamwork in the past. With strengths-based interviews, you will need to understand the full question in order to prepare the most effective answer. If you need to ask for the question to be repeated, or you need a little bit longer to respond then don't be afraid to say!
Finally, don't be put off if the interviewer doesn't engage with you much during the interview. During a competency-based interview, an interviewer may ask you to provide an example and then probe/ask additional questions off the back of the example that you provide. As you don't necessarily have to provide examples in strength-based interviews, it's likely that interviewers will be asked not to probe for additional detail during any of your answers. Again this keeps the process fair, as it means that someone who provides an example isn't given an additional opportunity to give a more in-depth and rich response.
With this in mind, you should make sure that your answers are detailed and that you offer as much evidence as you wish to provide. The interviewers may not probe you for more information, so it might be your only opportunity to provide the desired level of detail.
We're looking for partners of the future; applicants who are excited about the opportunities that being a trainee at DWF would present, and who can demonstrate this accordingly. You should ensure that you do plenty of research about DWF before your interview, and are able to demonstrate why you are passionate about potentially joining us. We hope that the tips in this blog will help with your preparation and wish you the best of luck in the recruitment process!
Charis McGowan is the emerging talent officer at DWF.