How to Emphasize Your Personal Strengths During an Interview
Interviews are your opportunity to tell employers why you are the best candidate for the job. To do this, it can be helpful to take some time before your interview to reflect on your personal strengths and why they make you uniquely qualified to succeed in the role. In this article, we will explain ways you can identify your strengths and integrate them into commonly asked interview questions.
Identify your personal strengths.
Before an interview, there are a few actions you should take to prepare. One of the most important steps is to review your strengths, skills and qualities as they relate to the job description for which you are interviewing. Your goal during an interview is to explain why your skillset is the best for what they need, why you are a good culture add both for the company and their team and what makes you uniquely qualified to succeed in the role. If you’re unsure about your strengths, there are a few thought exercises that may help you identify them:
Take notes of things you enjoy
Take a few minutes to identify the activities you enjoy doing the most and that come naturally to you, then think about the underlying components that make these experiences enjoyable. Decide if there are any shared skills or patterns among them. For example, if you enjoy doing crossword puzzles to relieve stress, you might be a strong critical thinker and problem solver.
Consider the feedback you’ve received from others
Think back to times when people told you something they liked or admired about you, such as your communication skills or how well you organize and lead a team. You might also consider any times you received a reward, promotion or other recognition and what skills allowed you to get there.
Take an online test
Colleges, universities and agencies that assist in job placement often have skill and aptitude tests available to help you identify your strengths.
Think about the strengths of your role models
Think of your personal and professional role models. Decide what strengths of theirs you admire and whether you find yourself demonstrating any of these qualities.
Identifying your personal strengths provides you with a list of choices to select from during the interview process, making it easier to share them with your interviewers.
How to highlight your personal strengths when interviewing
Once you’ve identified your strengths, practice weaving them into your answers to common interview questions. Here are two strategies for preparing an impactful answer with the STAR (situation, task, action, result) interview response technique.
While this answer format can be applied to nearly any open-ended interview question, the following sample answers are in response to the question, “What are your greatest strengths?”
Focus on quality, not quantity
Select three to five of your individual strengths to focus on and prepare answers for when you’re interviewing. Consider the skills required in your industry and identify personal strengths that complement them.
Example: “I believe my willingness to take initiative, along with my communication and organizational skills, are three of my biggest strengths. While completing my internship last summer, I was able to help manage various social media accounts. I wanted to make sure all team members understood our strategy and were in agreement about the tone and message we wanted to deliver. I initiated a weekly email for each account that went out to all team members that kept them up to date while encouraging feedback. The email was helpful enough that they kept this practice going, adding it to full-time staff members’ responsibilities.”
Back up your strengths with personal stories
Identify stories you can share to demonstrate previous experiences. Start by directly answering the question, then follow that up with a personal statement.
Example: “My curiosity is one of my greatest strengths. When taking on a new project, I enjoy asking clients questions about their hobbies and backgrounds. This helps me establish a personal connection with them while keeping communication easy and productive. I know how important establishing quality relationships with customers is for a sales program and company as a whole, and I feel I would fit into your climate well.”
Take time to think about how to answer a “personal strengths” question, plan out several answers and practice delivering them.
Provide original answers to routine interview questions.
While every interview is different, many employers use some of the same questions to get to know their candidates better. Preparing key points in response to these questions in advance can help you feel more calm and confident during the interview. Here are some examples of interview questions with responses:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your biggest strengths?
What is your biggest weakness?
How do you handle conflict?
Why should we hire you?
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is frequently the first question of an interview and your first chance to introduce your personal strengths to your interviewer. Prepare an answer that briefly addresses your professional history, accomplishments you’re most proud of and relevant career goals. The interviewer already has your resume, so provide them with the information they haven’t seen or heard about you yet.
Example: “As an HR manager I have spent the last six years managing all areas of the HR function, including recruiting, training and benefits for a Fortune 500 company. I have used this time to develop my managerial skills with Advantech Networking Solutions, where I have received numerous performance awards and three promotions. I enjoy solving customer issues and managing teams. While I love my current job, I’m ready to take on the challenges that come with leading a large team. Supporting others in a leadership capacity has been a longtime passion of mine and is something I want to focus my time and skills on as I grow in my career.”
2. What are your greatest strengths?
When interviewers ask about your greatest strengths, they want to know how your strengths can help their organization succeed. Take the time to review the list of responsibilities in the job description so you can tailor your answer appropriately.
Example: “I truly believe my strong work ethic is my biggest strength. When I commit to a deadline, I do whatever needs to be done to meet it in a quality manner. For example, last month we had a proposal due but got some information back late from our team in Atlanta. I worked all night to finalize the proposal to deliver it to the client on time.”
3. What is your biggest weakness?
Interviewers will likely also ask about your biggest weakness. Be honest about a real shortcoming while sharing what steps you’re taking to improve.
Example: “I sometimes rush through tasks so I can complete them quickly and move on to the next item on my list. I’m learning to take time and step back to put more emphasis on quality rather than quantity. In doing so, I’ve found ways to become both effective and efficient.”
4. How do you handle conflict?
When an interviewer asks how you handle conflict, teamwork or leadership, they want specific examples of experience so they can gauge how you might handle a similar situation within their organization. Have examples ready of times you had to deal with conflict at work. Explain the situation and how you managed it and include the final outcome.
Example: “When conflict arises, I find it best to consider the other person’s perspective and communicate calmly until we resolve. While working as a manager of a department store, I had an elderly woman request to exchange a top for a different size. Usually, this would be an easy exchange even without a receipt, except that the top wasn’t one of ours. I explained this to the customer, and she became very upset before finally leaving the store.
A short time later, a younger lady came in and asked to speak with me. She explained that the woman in the store earlier was her mother who was suffering from dementia and was often easily confused. She shared that once her mother came home, had time to calm down and realized what happened, she was embarrassed. I explained that I completely understood and that I had similar experiences with my mother. The mother and daughter continue to be regular customers of the store and will seek me out when I am working.”
5. Why should we hire you?
Generally, this is one of the last questions interviewers ask, and it is an opportunity to leave a powerful and lasting impression on them. Use specific skills outlined in the job description and provide examples of how your personal strengths allow you to succeed.
Example: “Based on the research I’ve done and our discussion today, your organization is looking for an administrative assistant with strong interpersonal and technological skills. My communication abilities will be useful in crafting client emails, talking to customers on the phone and during oral presentations. I’m also fluent in several current software programs, including spreadsheet suites and content management systems. I believe my experiences align well with your company’s mission and that I could bring a diverse set of skills to your organization.”
Taking time to plan out answers for routine interview questions like these will likely make you more confident in the interview and help you avoid common mistakes.
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