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What is the right interview style for you?

By: Aquent

LAST UPDATED: April 7, 2023

There are two main interview methods: competency-based questions and strength-based questions. Neither style is right or wrong.. that will depend on the type of role you're hiring for and how you (the interviewer) feel most comfortable. Here's a bit of insight into both styles to help you pick which is best for you.


Competency based interviews (also known as structured, behavioural or situational interviews) are probably the most common interview style. They work on the principle that past behaviours are the best indicators of future performance. Questions usually start with something like ‘…so tell us about a time when you…’, ‘give an example of…’ or ‘describe how you…’ and you are looking for candidates to give you a relevant example of a situation or task, the action they took and the result. Because this style is a bit more formal, it's the style preferred in recruitment for less creative roles (though that doesn't mean you couldn't shake things up a bit).

Start by creating a list of the skills and competencies that are required for the role, then choose questions that you feel will help to determine if the candidate possesses those qualities. The skills that you'll want to see demonstrated will vary depending on your industry and the role for which you are recruiting, but some examples could be:

  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Accuracy
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Independence
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Problem Solving
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork

Our top 5 competency based questions:

What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Give me an example of a challenge you faced in the workplace and tell me how you overcame it.
Describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you’d never attempted previously.
How do you influence people in a situation with conflicting agendas?
Tell me about an occasion when you had to complete a task with a tight deadline.


A strength-based interview focuses on what candidates enjoy doing, rather than what they can do or have done. This method has more of a basis in psychology, the theory being that by identifying strengths and matching them to the role, candidates will be happier in their work, performance will improve, they're likely to learn more quickly, and stay with the company longer.

When candidates talk about what they like and dislike they, in turn, give you information about what they’re good at and not so good at. This also gives you an insight into the personality of the candidate – not just through their answers but also their passion, body language and tone of voice. It’s a great way to determine if they would be a good fit for your team. 

Strength-based interviews can be a good method to use if you are hiring at a junior level, as candidates with little or no work experience will struggle to answer competency based questions. You are also more likely to get genuine and passionate answers as candidates are unable to prepare for these questions. Even though the candidates will not have been able to prepare for the questions, there should still be evidence that the candidate has researched the role and your company, and real life situations should still be referenced in their answers. 

Our top 5 strength based questions:

What energises you?
What are your weaknesses?
What tasks are always left on your to-do list?
Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
Do you think this role will play to your strengths?


Whilst these are the main 2 interview techniques, there are many more that you could also consider. Other popular options include:

Problem Solving / Puzzle Interviews

Designed to test problem solving abilities by giving candidates a random question that they need to work out during the interview. This is not about the answer but how the candidate goes about solving the problem. These aren't only limited to mental riddles, but also small physical challenges like design challenges, origami, or wooden puzzles. Be careful not to create a problem too distracting if you plan on integrating another interview style whilst the candidate attempts to solve the challenge.

Stress Interviews

This is used by companies when candidates will be required to work in high stress environments. Candidates are either given a task to complete in an unreasonable time frame or are put into a stressful situation and asked questions to see how they respond under pressure. It is worth noting that with this interview style it often isn't expected that the candidate complete the task (though that's an added bonus), but react in a practical and rational way – even in the face of impossibility/defeat.

For more complex or innovative roles, consider utilising a composite interview style. If you take this approach, make sure that you know what skills you are assessing. The more creative the role, the more flexible these styles can be. It's not uncommon to throw creative candidates curve balls by asking seemingly bizarre questions. Again, these typically display rational thinking and how the candidate might process unfamiliar problems. There's never a right answer! Some of the best we've heard include:

If you could be any animal and keep your human brain, what would you be and why?
Would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or a 100 duck sized horses?
The person you're meeting arrives late to the office distraught, as they've just been robbed on the tube. What do you do?
What vegetable would you be and why?
How many planes are there in the sky right now?

If you need any help or advice on interviewing (or hiring), please don't hesitate to get in touch and we'd be happy to help!