How to prepare for a strengths-based interview

How to prepare for a strengths-based interview

Employers are increasingly adopting strengths-based interview techniques to get the most value out of the application process.

These interviews look to understand the kind of things that you enjoy and that interest you. They are designed to stop candidates from feeling like they have to cheat the system or second guess what their interviewer wants to hear.

However, that’s not an excuse to go in cold without any preparation. It’s not about rehearsing perfect answers, but you still want to ensure that you shine in the best possible light. Here are some ways to prepare yourself for a strengths-based interview:

1. Begin with some self-analysis

Start by thinking carefully about what engages you and the kind of tasks and activities you enjoy. While you’ll already have an instinctive sense of the above, you want these ideas to be fresh and clear in your mind. Having this self-awareness will give you the confidence to deal with different types of strengths-based questions and provide fluid responses.

2. Revisit your application

It’s important to be able to link your core qualities and interests to real examples from different areas of your life. Go back to your CV and/ or application form; think about your experiences: was there a course or extracurricular activity that really engaged you? Did you thrive in a particular work placement, were there aspects of a previous role that made you feel positive about yourself and your job?

3. Get to know the company

While the focus is very much on you, there’s no harm in seeking to understand the qualities and values that your prospective employer holds dear. We’re not suggesting you deliberately tailor your answers to these, but it’s useful to see where your values align and the kind of qualities and strengths you should be drawing attention to. It might also help to identify the type of language you should be using to describe your experience.

4. Understand the questions and let them sink in

While every interview is different, it’s useful to have an idea of the kinds of questions you may face. Brace yourself for quite a few questions – it usually takes time to build up a rounded picture of your personality and qualities.

• What type of things are you good at?
• What kind of tasks do you most enjoy doing and why?
• Do you feel more energised at the start of a project or at the end?
• When have you felt most fulfilled?
• What achievements are you most proud of and why?
• What particular aspects of this role do you think you’ll enjoy?

Google ‘strengths based interview questions’ to pick up some more ideas.

Remember, your interviewer is looking for honest and genuine insight, not perfectly scripted answers. Rather than rote learning your responses you could try jotting down a few bullet points or using a spider diagram to brainstorm key ideas or experiences.

At the end of the day strengths based interviews are as much about your helping yourself to determine whether the role is right for you as about the employer uncovering their perfect candidate. Treat it as a mutual learning process, be honest and true to yourself, and you can’t go too far wrong

Do I still need a covering letter?

Every now and again the cover letter is declared dead. Whether concluded in the results of a survey or predicted after the rise of a new trend in the world of applications, the cover letter’s demise is often discussed – and sometimes even called for.

However, old habits die hard. For all the advances in technology, emailing and online employee profiles, a covering letter remains an essential component of most job application processes, so be careful before writing it off entirely.

While the style, structure and even method of delivery may have evolved in recent years, there are still plenty of employers who expect to receive a cover letter – or at least a well-crafted covering email – alongside a CV. This is particularly true of smaller businesses, which often employ a more personalised selection process, forgoing the use of standardised application forms, for example.

Some employers may describe the submission of a covering letter as ‘optional’, while others might not ask for one at all. If you have the option to include one, do it; you might miss out on a valuable opportunity to sell yourself and stand out from the competition if you don’t.

A carefully-considered composition can draw attention to your key selling points while outlining your enthusiasm for the role. If nothing else it shows you’re serious enough to have taken time for your application and come up with a persuasive argument for why you should be hired.

That’s not to say the old ways are always the best, however. Recruitment consultants in particular bemoan the overuse of stuffy, lengthy and overly formal cover letters that reveal little about the candidate and their interest in the job. While this might have ticked the boxes circa 1975, in the 21st Century a killer cover letter should look to fulfil the following criteria:

• Concise – keep it short – a single page is more than enough
• Direct – clearly spell out your suitability and why you want the job, thinking about key words and phrases
• Original – make sure the style reflects who you are rather than sticking too rigidly to standardised templates and syntax, but don’t go crazy
• Personal – make sure to address the reader by name
• Precise – employers value literacy and attention to detail; typos and grammatical errors are a definite turn-off

A cover letter may just seem like another hoop to jump through in your job search, but underestimate it at your peril. At the end of the day employers still want to hire human beings. Being able to give your application this personal touch should be to your advantage.

What to look for in a mentor – in quotes

When you’re just starting out in a new role, the help a mentor can provide can make all the difference to the progression of your career.
However, you need to know what you are looking for. What defines a good mentor? What qualities do they possess?

To answer that question, here are some quotes that get to the core of what a good mentor should look like:

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination”.
John C. Maxwell

“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!'”
Jim Rohn

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”.
John Crosby

“True mentors don’t make their mentees a clone of themselves”.
Bernard Kelvin Clive

“The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people”.
John C. Maxwell

“More than mere teachers, mentors are often emancipators, freeing artists from poor technique, clouded vision and personal uncertainty”.
Paul Soderberg

“We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout”.

Finding a magnificent mentor is one thing, but you won’t get the most out of the relationship unless you put the work in:

“What you want in a mentor is someone who truly cares for you and who will look after your interests and not just their own. When you do come across the right person to mentor you, start by showing them that the time they spend with you is worthwhile”.
Vivek Wadhwa


Make your bio count

Make your bio count

A professional bio is a summary of your skills and services that can be used in a variety of settings to market your career or business. It’s a way to gain visibility with a few choice words: an elevator pitch that will sell you to a potential employer or client.

The trick is to have a range or different length bios on hand to suit the occasion. This might include the summary above your CV or LinkedIn profile, the intro to your personal website, or even the blurb sent out to participants at a conference or public speaking event.

Whatever your bio’s purpose, you need to make sure it hits the right note. Here are our top dos and don’ts:


Start strong
Your bio may be the difference between a new job / business lead and a missed opportunity. It will usually take a recruiter or potential client fewer than 30 seconds to decide if you are the right person for the job so beating around the bush isn’t an option. Start with a bang; a few choice words that sum-up your key qualities and achievements.

Think different
Your bio needs to sell you as an individual and set you apart from the competition. Consider what makes you different: it may be you are fluent in Chinese, have a degree from a top-ranking university or business school or an article in a leading journal. Whatever it is, get it out there.

Include links
With your reader’s attention now on you, your goal is to keep it there. Think of your bio as a stepping-stone to your other platforms, whether a personal site, blog or professional portfolio. Aim to make the path as clear and accessible for the reader as possible.


Go into too much detail
As interesting as it may be, no one needs to hear you life story. There’s really no need to list every accomplishment you’ve had since high school. Remember, differentiation is key so there’s little point in citing everyday skills such as Microsoft Office or Photoshop.

Let it fester
Whether going along nicely as you are or actively looking for new opportunities, you’ll need to keep your bio ticking over. Aim to go back to it every few weeks, adding in any recent changes or developments. Keeping it fresh means you’ll be ready to move should a new opportunity arise.

With a plethora of job hunting and social media platforms now out there, your bio may represent just a small part of your professional branding. However, if used correctly, it can be one of the most effective tools in your locker

8 tips to speed up your job search

  1. Start by managing your expectations
    Although you might be hoping that randomly sending out your CV to all your contacts might land you your next job, the reality is that there’s a small chance of this actually happening. Be realistic about what you want to achieve and what you have to do to get there. Instead of targeting the masses, carefully consider who you want to build a productive, reciprocal relationship with, and put in the work to achieve this goal.
  2. Get organised
    A cluttered work space will obstruct your job search – both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. Clean out your desk space, declutter your inbox and make sure your CV and cover letter templates are easily accessible for speedy forwarding.
  3. Create a set schedule
    Reserving a few hours out of your day for job hunting is a great way to keep your search going. Set aside time to look through job listings, update your CV and social media profiles, and stay up to date with your contacts. A consistent approach will help you break down the process into smaller, more manageable pieces, and avoid time-wasting.
  4. Network
    With an overwhelming amount of jobs being found via networking, it should really be a top priority on your to-do-list. Building productive relationships with other professionals may take some time and dedication, but without them you risk your search falling flat.
  5. Use social media
    As more and more recruiters take to social media to find new candidates, having a solid social media presence is extremely valuable. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram all present great opportunities for reaching out to and getting noticed by potential employers. Make sure you keep your profiles fresh and regularly catch up on what your contacts, followers, and friends have been doing; the information they share could make all the difference to you.
  6. Go mobile
    Job hunting is no longer an activity that restricts you to sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea as many of the bigger job boards now have mobile applications, allowing you to search on the go. Whether you’re on the train or waiting to meet a friend for lunch, use these moments to quickly check out some job ads.
  7. Customise your search
    Having to root through hundreds of irrelevant job listings is time-consuming as well as unproductive; it’s the virtual equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack. Customising your search is easy to do and will save you loads of time. Most job boards have ‘Advance Search’ options, which allow you to target those jobs most relevant to you, based on title, location, level of experience etc.
  8. Be responsive
    Whether it’s following up with a new contact, replying to an email, or applying for a role, don’t waste any time getting the job done. You want to avoid burning any bridges or missing out on new opportunities, so always aim to respond as soon as you can. A timely response will show your dedication and reliability.To make your job hunt a success you need to be dedicated and consistent, reserving a few set hours for it every day. Just remember that you are the driving force behind your search, and a half-hearted approach will be mirrored in the results.


Attachee (Harare)
A not-for-profit organisation that provides life skills to young people through work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy is looking for attachees. 
The candidates should be studying towards a degree in Entrepreneurship, Development Studies or equivalent.
The person should be:
  • Analytical
  • Team-players
  • Proactive
  • Results oriented
To apply
Those who meet the above criteria are invited to submit their applications together with an application letter and Curriculum Vitae by Wednesday 26 April 2017. Applicants should email to or 
Females are encouraged to apply.

Future of Work in Africa May 15 – 2017

future of work zimbabwe event-1

“At the beginning of the century, Ray Kurzweil, Futurist and Chief Engineer at Google, predicted that 20,000 years of progress would be crammed into the next 100. If anything, progress and change have accelerated even faster than that.”1 Across Africa, this fast changing pace of change will have unprecedented ramifications, particularly on young people. In less than 3 generations 41% of the world’s youth will be African, and by 2035, Africa’s labour force will be more than China’s. Further, over the next 10 years, there will be 108 million more school age children in Africa.

However, sectors that drive GDP are not creating more jobs. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, it is the informal sector that represents more than 80% of the total employment. Further, as the level of education increases in Africa, there is a corresponding increase in youth unemployment.

What does the future of work look like in this landscape? From across Africa, we identified and worked with innovators who working with young people to create a future that is:

  • More Sustainable: A private sector that is long-term oriented and employees who demand for sustainable and secure work.
  • More Socially Responsible: Young people build profit-driven businesses that also solve social problems
  • More Empathetic: Young people apply empathy and other “soft skills” to stay relevant and valued
  • More Purpose-Driven: Career paths are more meaningful and young people who feel confident working in positions that speak to their innate inclinations and passions.
  • More Practical: Education is more experiential and skills-based and peer exchange is the norm.
  • More Hopeful: Young people hope and dream in order to imagine a new future for their community and for Africa.

At the Future of Work event in Johannesburg, and Harare, we will have the chance to experience some of these innovations, and discover new possibilities for the future of work, and youth employment in these regions. The core of the event would be to bring together those that are reimagining the future of work in the region, are demonstrating new forms of leadership and are offering concrete opportunities for young people to take charge of their future. These could include leading social entrepreneurs in the region who are part of the Ashoka network, corporate entities who are re-imagining how they work with young people, and young people who are creating their own futures, driving a new wave of youth-in-charge.

Further, Ashoka will also launch “Youth Unstuck: Social Innovations Transforming Livelihoods and Leadership in Africa,” offering ideas, insights and solutions from across the continent. Through this event, Ashoka aims to trigger conversation, create a platform for learning and exchange, and offer opportunities for young leaders to partner, collaborate and grow their ideas.

The registration link (here:

Marketing Interns Wanted

A local construction company in Harare is seeking for highly energetic young people aged between 20 to 28 to be part of a sales team. All those with a qualification in Sales/Marketing qualification and possess Sales experience with skills including innovative, creative, problem solving, with vision to send CV to by Monday 6 March 2017.


Department: Various
Type of Contract: Internship
Duty Station: Accra, Ghana and Harare, Zimbabwe
Deadline: Tuesday, February 28, 2017


The Foundation has internship opportunities at its headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe and in Accra, Ghana for students and/or recent graduates to join the Foundation.

The internship offers opportunities to:

  • Work with a major international institution driving Africa’s capacity development;
  • Participate and gain a deeper understanding  of ACBF’s work in Africa;
  • Work collaboratively with experienced professionals in a multi-cultural environment;
  • Strengthen individuals’ educational backgrounds with practical work experience as they contribute to ACBF’s work.

SELECTION CRITERIA (required skills and knowledge)

Selection will be on a competitive basis and the following minimum qualifications and competencies are required.

Applicants must be enrolled or recently completed an advanced degree in a wide range of fields such as Business Administration, Communication, Economics, Human Resource Management, Information Sciences, Finance, Law, Library and Information Science, International Development, Public Administration, Psychology or any related Social-Sciences field.

  • Ability to work independently under minimum supervision and be accountable.
  • Fluency in, at least, one of the Foundation’s working languages (English or French).
  • Excellent research , critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Excellent interactive and interpersonal skills, and the ability to work in a multicultural environment
  • Excellent computer skills (MS applications)
  • Demonstrated mastery of subject matter;
  • Efficient in meeting commitments, deadlines and achieving results;
  • Good communication skills

The Foundation will pay a basic allowance to all Interns. Interns will be responsible for their own transport and living accommodations.


Applications, quoting the reference “Internships – 2017” including a curriculum vitae with and a one page personal statement should be received at the address below by 28 February 2017.

The Executive Secretary

The African Capacity Building Foundation

2 Fairbairn Drive, Mt Pleasant

Harare, Zimbabwe


Only candidates under serious consideration will be contacted.

Qualified female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

ACBF is a smoke-free environment.

Graduate Internship Programme

Deadline: Friday 16 December 2016

An organisation that empowers young people with work readiness and financial literacy skills through graduate internships is looking for interns. The program targets university and college leavers from various institutions that would have graduated but looking for the first taste of work. Interns will be trained on employability and as opportunities arise in their field of study placed in other organisations as graduate interns.
The interns should:
  •  Hold a Degree, Diploma or Certification from a Tertiary Institution in Marketing, Social Sciences, Business Management, Finance, Accounting and IT.
  • Be young people aged between 20 and 30 years without work experience but looking for such.
To apply
Those who meet the above criteria are invited to submit their applications together with an application letter and Curriculum Vitae. Applicants should email to:
  • copying if resident in Harare 
Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
Females are encouraged to apply.