One common interview question is: “What are your greatest strengths?” It can seem like an easier question to answer, but it's still one that people find challenging to get right. Being too modest, overly confident, unspecific or not aligning the strengths to the situation are all things which candidates fall into the trap of doing with their answers.
The interviewer is really asking the question to gain an understanding of whether your strengths align to the company and the role you're interviewing for. Having a read of the job description and 'requirements' is a good starting point for thinking about how your skill set fits in and making sure the examples you choose are relevant.
1. Be specific
“I’m a hard worker” is not specific. That’s a very general answer that everyone would claim. Instead, saying “Once I commit to a job I do whatever needs to happen to get it done,” is a better option.
Whatever strength you say you have, follow it up with a short, 1-2 minute story. How did this strength play out at your last job? In what way did you use your strengths and develop them?
If you’re having trouble figuring out what your strengths are, ask a friend or a coworker you trust. You can also go back and look at performance reviews or compliments from your boss. What stood out to them? That’s probably a strength you have.
2. Be realistic
Don’t come up with a strength that you don’t have. If you claim to know French fluently but don’t, you’ll be in big trouble if you’re asked to communicate with suppliers there. Google Translate will not serve you well for long.
You have specific talents and abilities. Don’t sell yourself short—or prove yourself a liar—by claiming a strength that’s not your own.
3. Be relevant
Since you’ve already discovered what your various strengths are, consider the position you’re applying for. Does it require a certain skillset? What descriptions about the job carry subtle cues as to what will be needed? Part of being able to sell yourself and what you can do well is knowing what the company needs. How do you fit this job with your unique strengths? If you can first understand that, then communicate it to the interviewer, you’ll leave an impression. Rather than just another interviewee wanting a job, you’ll be someone who knows what the company needs and knows how to fit that need to a ‘T’.
4. Be yourself
Your greatest asset for getting this job is knowing you. You are a unique individual, and no other candidate is exactly like you. That’s what you need to express. In what way do you stand out from the crowd? Let your personality show as you explain your strengths and weaknesses in the interview. Don’t allow stress or nerves to turn you into a robot.
With that said, you can also practice expressing what your strengths are. Write out what you would say, and go over that until you’re familiar with it, but not mechanical. Know how to communicate what makes you a valuable asset to their company. Develop your skills in this area. You may be like many others who don’t necessarily feel comfortable tooting their own horn. However, this isn’t a pride issue. Unless you ramble on and on about how you’ll be this company’s greatest asset ever, the interviewer will welcome you to explain more about yourself. After all, they won’t know unless you tell them.
Interviews can be a big blank spot for a lot of people. That doesn’t have to be you. When you learn what your strengths are and have the ability to communicate those properly, it will get you a long way.