How to learn your character strengths and use them to improve your life and your job search

character strengths

While there are many ways to classify character strengths, this is how the VIA Institute on Character does it.

Just as taking an interest assessment can help you choose a job that you will enjoy, taking a character strength survey can help you focus on and improve the innate characteristics that make you who you are.

Knowing yourself better and taking action to strengthen your unique qualities can instill confidence and help you realize your strengths. It can make you happier, allow you to more effectively deal with other people and, in the end, be more successful, both in your job search, at work and in your personal life. And once you know your character strengths, you can search for the types of jobs that require them.

There hasn’t been much research on the value of emphasizing strengths in the job search. But Ryan Niemiec, education director of the VIA Institute, cites a study done in 2014 by Hadassah Littman-Ovadia of Ariel University which found that using character strengths as part of career counseling resulted in 20% more success in job placements compared to the way traditional career counseling is usually carried out.

Online character strength surveys

Here are a few examples of surveys that we tried out and that you can take for free. Some have paid options, but the free versions work just fine. So save your money for other things.

VIA Survey – This 96-question survey was developed by a psychologist for the VIA Institute on Character in Cincinnati, Ohio. It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and ranks participants’ 24 character strengths. Questions are related to one’s thinking and actions. For example, “I have many interests, I always keep my promises, and It is easy for me to stay disciplined.” For every question there are five options, each one indicating how much the statement is like – or not like – you.

After completing the survey, you’ll get the sample VIA Total 24 Character Study Report and activities you can do to put your top five strengths to work and live a better life. When we took the survey, we discovered that one of our strengths was bravery The suggested activity was to “Do something you have been avoiding, such as cleaning out a closet, making a doctor’s appointment or having a tough conversation with your spouse or child.” The activities make this survey quite useful.

Those who want to learn more beyond the initial report can purchase the VIA Tip 5 report for $19 or the Total 24 Report for $49.

Signature Strength Questionnaire – Offered by the Strengths-Based Resilience Program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, this questionnaire is very similar to the VIA Survey. It also takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and assesses 24 core character strengths. And like the VIA Survey, the Signature Strength Questionnaire gives a final report of your top five strengths – ours included appreciation of beauty and excellence, love of learning and social and emotional intelligence. It does not, however, give any activity recommendations or a chance to explore your strengths in greater depth.

The TypeFinder Personality Test – This assessment was created by Truity Psychometrics LLC, an Oakland, Calif.-based  company that develops and publishes online personality and career tests. Along with finding out your strengths, you will discover the 16 personalities created by Myers & Briggs. The TypeFInder takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. And many people do complete it – 1,670,163 during the previous 30 days when we took it.

The results include a list of three personality types that match yours. Ours was The Teacher, The Provider and The Protector. It then goes into various elements of your personality. These include introversion vs. extroversion, thinking vs. feeling and perceiving vs. judging. To get more detailed information you have to buy the full report for $19. The report also includes suggestions for making the most of your strengths and the best careers that could use them.

RedBull Wingfinder – Psychology professors from University College London and Columbia University developed this assessment for Redbull. Different than the three above, it includes groups of images you must choose from to answer the questions and seems to be geared toward young professionals. There are also the type of math questions that might be given to those applying for a tech job, as well as a scenario in which you are asked questions about how you would manage a ski team.

This survey is quite long – it takes at least 45 minutes to finish. After completing the questions, you can specify whether you are a student or professional. The free report is quite lengthy and compares each of your character strengths to those of a specific famous athlete. It gives suggestions at the end that can be used to improve both your personal and  your work life.

Consider bringing character strengths up in the job interview

Finally, just as we shared in our above mentioned article on utilizing career assessment evaluations in your job search, you may also want to bring up in the interview that part of your job search preparation included assessing your character strengths using free online surveys built by data scientists and expert psychologists. And the results of the surveys reveal that your particular character strengths are a strong match for the job. This could also be a convincing reason for the hiring manager to consider extending a job offer.

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