A strength, not just competent

For quite a long time now the fashionable interviewing technique, especially for early career professionals, has been competency interviewing.  Lots of questions along the lines of ‘Tell me about a time when you have worked collaboratively’.  These questions are based on the idea that what someone has done in the past they are likely to do in the future (which may or may not be true, but that’s the topic for another blogpost).

One of the problems about this technique is that sensible interviewees do their research, find out the competencies the recruiter is interested in, and then practices their answers.  A good interviewer takes account of this with their follow on questions, but, especially in volume recruitment for graduates or interns, lots of relatively unskilled or unpracticed interviewers are used, which has meant the risk of not truly understanding the candidate and putting the wrong people through.

An approach that seems to be growing in use is Strengths-based interviews.  These build on opening competency questions with set questions that then focus on how well the candidate does the skill, how often they’ve done it and whether they like doing it – i.e. are they just competent, or is it a strength?  E.g. anyone can get lucky and take a good photograph, but good photographers regularly take good photographs, and get a real buzz from doing it (I’m really pleased with myself that I haven’t used a sport analogy!).

Good interviewers will no doubt think that this is just a new name for what they’ve always done (which it is) – others will really like the additional structure that the approach gives.

What is means for the candidate is simple – do your research and understand what the recruiter is looking for before you apply – and only apply if you think that you have strengths in the areas they are looking for.  If you haven’t then apply for something else.

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