Preparing for Strength-Based Interviews

The Institute of Student Employers have revealed that 79% of companies use competency-based approaches when recruiting students. The idea is to find out if you have the skills and knowledge to do the job. 

But more and more employers are now including strength-based interviews and assessments as part of their selection process (43%). But what the f-word is a strength-based interview? 

Here is our guide to preparing for strength-based interviews...

What is a strength-based interview?

A strength-based interview will take place during a face-to-face interview or assessment centre. 

This form of assessment concentrates on what you enjoy and think you’re good at, rather than competencies you can provide evidence of.

The process will assess you against a company’s core values. Employers are moving towards the strength-based approach to assess you on your future potential instead of previous experience. And that’s good for you!

Have you ever NOT applied for a job because you thought you didn’t have any or enough experience? In a strength-based assessment, your lack of experience really doesn’t matter. 

Companies that use strength-based interviews

Here’s a list of just some of the companies that currently include a strength-based interviews as part of their selection process:

  • Aviva
  • BAE Systems
  • Barclays
  • Cisco
  • EY
  • GSK
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Nestle
  • Royal Mail 
  • Standard Chartered
  • Unilever

As mentioned in our captivating intro above, 43% of employers have adopted the strength-based approach for interviews and assessment centres. And that number is growing faster than a basil plant. 

That means it’s highly likely you’ll come across a strength-based assessment if you apply for a student placement, summer internship or a graduate role in the future - even if the company is not included in this list. 

So you best be prepared.

Found this useful? 

How to prepare

Strength-based interviews are designed to prevent you from planning or rehearsing answers, because you have zero idea what they’re going to ask. 

But there are some steps you can take to prepare:

  • Look at the desired strengths and skills listed in the job description. Can you align your own strengths with them?
  • Get an objective opinion of what your strengths are. During the interview/assessment, it's better to focus on on your genuine talents, instead of what you would like to think you're good at. 
  • Strength-based questions do not require you to use examples to back up your strengths, but it doesn't man you can't draw on past experiences. Be sure to use relevant examples that add value to your responses. 
strength based interviews

Here are some example questions

  • Do you think this role will play to your strengths?
  • How do you stay motivated?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy doing the least?
  • Describe a successful day. What made it successful?
  • What do you learn quickly?
  • When did you achieve something that you were really proud of?
  • What gives you energy?
  • Do you prefer to start tasks or finish them? 

For more champion advice on approaching an interview, read our guide to the STAR Interview Technique - which is really helpful for answering the most common interview questions. 

If you've got an upcoming interview, you also might want to check out EY's Interview TipsThese tips are applicable to interviews and assessment centres with any employer, even the milkman. 

How to answer strength-based questions?

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when you’re answering strength-based questions…

1. Be honest. That might sound obvious, but it’s incredibly tempting to exaggerate and oversell yourself in a job interview. In a strength-based interview it’s in your interest to be honest. 

Remember there are no right or wrong answers in this format. Employers are looking for your energy and engagement; they want to discover the real you - no matter how lame that sounds. By being honest, you will come across as more authentic - and authenticity is stronger than false brilliance. 

2. Try and avoid generic or clichéd answers. For example, if they ask you something like ‘What are your weaknesses?’ don’t say you’re a perfectionist, or that you’re too organised. 

Similar to the point above, it’s better to be honest. Give a real weakness, but explain how you are working to improve that weakness. 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question. If you misheard (or think you might have misheard) a question, don’t take any chances! Ask for clarification. It’s better to hear the question again rather than guess what the interviewer was asking. 

Other types of assessment


The most common form of assessment. It focuses on the alignment between your skills and knowledge and what’s required to perform a job.


Technical assessments are a more specific type of competency-based assessment, but look for specific skills, such as competence in a programming language or statistical technique. 

Focuses on if a candidate is aligned with the organisation’s values. An interviewer will press you on your ethical approach to business-related scenarios.

This video from a former placement student offers some cracking insight into what you might experience at an interview and assessment centre for a placement year. So give it a watch.