Answering the Interview Question, “What Are Your Greatest Strengths?”
It’s almost guaranteed that during a job interview you’ll be asked: “what are your greatest strengths?”
On the surface, it may seem like a simple question, but it can be a bit tricky to answer.
On the one hand it’s a great opportunity for you to highlight the skills that make you stand apart from the competition. On the other hand, you may be worried that you’ll sound like you’re bragging or exaggerating.
Let’s look at how you can create the best answer to this common interview question.
What Your Interviewer Really Wants to Know
Most interviewers will ask about your strengths or some variation of the question (e.g., “how do you stand apart from other candidates?” “what would your former co-workers say are your best qualities?”)
No matter how they ask the question, interviewers are hoping that your response will reveal two things:
- If your strongest skills align with the responsibilities of the job and the needs of the company.
- If you’re self-aware enough to know what skills are important to the job you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re going for an accounting position, and you mention your graphic design skills as a strength, that will signal to your interviewer that you don’t understand the requirements of the job.
The bottom line is that you want to highlight the qualities that your potential employer will value most.
Helpful Tips for Answering “What Are Your Greatest Strengths?”
No matter what type of job you’re going for, these tips will help you formulate a good answer when asked about strengths:
1. Be thoughtful.
First, write down all your strengths. Then, look at the job description and think about which strengths of yours would be most important to the employer. Focus on developing talking points around those strengths.
2. Be prepared.
One you’ve decided on your strengths, write down your response to the question. Practice saying it a few times the night before your interview. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed but having a good idea of what you’re going to say will help your answer sound natural and polished.
3. Be sincere.
Avoid the temptation to tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. Seasoned employers can tell when candidates aren’t being totally honest. Talk about your real talents and how they’ve led you to success in previous roles.
4. Be concise.
Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear a list of strengths that’s a mile long. Focus on one or two strengths and keep your answer to two minutes or less.
5. Be specific.
Talk about the concrete skills you have that relate to the position you’re applying for.
Avoid generic responses with no explanation such as “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m a team player.” Responses like that won’t help you stand out in the interviewer’s mind.
6. Don’t brag.
A true strength is a believable skill or talent that can be backed up by examples.
Bragging is when you can’t stop talking about how great you are without proof. “I was the best salesperson the company ever had.” “My marketing ideas were genius.” “My brain is like a computer.”
Statements like that don’t sound true and you’ll likely take yourself out of the running for the position.
Character-Based Strengths vs. Skill-Based Strengths
When deciding on which strengths to focus on, it helps to know that strengths fit into one of two broad categories: Character-based strengths and skill-based strengths.
What is a Character-Based Strength?
Character-based strengths are sometimes called soft skills. These skills can apply to many types of jobs. For example, you might have the ability to identify and solve problems others may overlook. You may be great at conflict resolution. You may have a unique ability to work autonomously with little supervision.
When sharing a character-based strength, let the interviewer know how you specifically used the skill successfully at a previous job. Here’s an example:
One of my greatest strengths is my ability to solve conflicts. This skill served me well as the manager of busy call center. I was asked to deal with a customer who was dissatisfied with our service and upset at how she was treated by a junior customer service rep. By remaining calm, listening to the customer’s concerns, and empathizing with her, I was able to de-escalate the situation and keep her as a customer.
What is a Skill-Based Strength?
Skill-based strengths are those that focus on your technical experience. Maybe you’re a wiz with Excel, you’re a software coding expert, or you know content management systems like the back of your hand.
Again, when explaining your technical skills, provide specific examples of how you’ve applied your strength to drive successful outcomes. This way, the interviewer will see that you not only have the skill but know how to apply it to real-life situations.
Consider this example:
One of my greatest strengths is knowing how to use a variety of content management systems. In my previous role, I realized that the company’s marketing team wasn’t taking full advantage of everything their content management system could do. I showed them how they could easily maximize their SEO efforts, extract valuable analytics, and more. The marketing team was thrilled. They were able to use the CMS to its full potential and create more effective marketing campaigns.
Be Ready to Show Your Strength
Follow these tips and examples to create a credible, memorable response to one of the simplest, yet toughest interview questions. You’ll know exactly what to say the next time you’re asked: “what are your greatest strengths?”
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.