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Interview Question: "What Is Your Greatest Strength?"

July 27, 2020

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Answering the question “What is your greatest strength?” is an opportunity to highlight the talents and accomplishments that make you the best fit for a role. But, if you don't feel comfortable discussing your achievements or worry you’ll sound like you’re bragging, you may find this question challenging. By preparing ahead of time, you can ensure your answer achieves a balance of humility and confidence. Here’s how you can best answer this question and leave the interviewer with a positive, lasting impression.

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What interviewers mean when they ask “What are your greatest strengths?”

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re assessing how well your strengths align with the role you’re interviewing for. In other words, they don’t expect (or want) you to list everything you do well but they do want to hear about the specific attributes or natural talents you’ll use to excel in the position. 

Also, like the question “What is your greatest weakness?” employers use this question to gauge your self-awareness and understanding of the role for which you’re interviewing.

Related: Interview Question: “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?”

Other versions of this question

Hiring managers don’t always ask, “What are your strengths?” but they may use similar questions to uncover the same information. For example, they may ask, “What qualities set you apart from fellow candidates?” or “What makes you the best candidate for this position?” Another common question is, “What would your previous employers say are your best qualities?”

By preparing a general answer to this question, you can make sure you’re prepared to discuss the best attributes you bring to the table, no matter how the question is asked.

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Choosing your strength

Everyone has a wealth of positive attributes and talents but it’s crucial you are selective your list of strengths. You should focus only on those that apply to the role. For example, if you’re interviewing to be an accounting clerk, it wouldn’t make sense to discuss your graphic design skills. 

In some cases, you’ll be asked to share one strength but other interviewers may ask for multiple examples. The best way to prepare is to select one “greatest” strength and then choose two to three additional attributes you can share if necessary.

Strengths can be skill-based or character-based. If you’re providing multiple answers, it’s good to include a mix of both.

Related: What is a Personal Leadership Philosophy? Definition, Benefits and How to Develop Yours

Skill-based strengths (with example)

Sharing skill-based strengths allow you to align your technical experience directly with the job’s qualifications. When explaining technical skills, it’s important to provide specific examples of how you’ve applied your strength to drive success for an organization. This shows the interviewer you have a thorough grasp of a primary requirement for the job and know how to apply this knowledge to real-life situations:

“One of my greatest strengths as a content manager is my expertise in using a variety of content management systems, including popular enterprise-level solutions and proprietary tools. In my last role, I noticed the marketing team wasn’t using their CMS to its full potential. Because I had experience with this type of software, I was able to teach the team how to use the solution to manage SEO efforts, track analytics and more. This saved the company more than $50,000 per year in additional tools and ensured they were getting the most from their investment.”

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

Character-based strengths (with example)

Character-based strengths are soft-skills that might apply to multiple roles but can be tailored to fit one position. Examples include interpersonal communication skills, problem-solving skills and a strong work ethic.

This strength might be a natural talent you’ve had all your life or it might be something you developed throughout your professional experience. When sharing this type of strength, be sure to use specific examples of how you were able to leverage your strength to solve a challenge that’s relevant to the role for which you’re applying. Here’s an example:

“One of my greatest strengths is my perceptiveness. I’ve always had a natural ability to pick up on changes in people’s emotions by noticing body language or facial expressions. This is something that’s served me well over the past two years in a leadership position. When I was promoted to manager, the sales department was facing high turnover. I was able to identify when my team members were angry, frustrated or stressed out, and address the problem on the spot. To date, my team has the lowest turnover of any sales team in the company.”

Related: Top 125 Interview Questions and Answers

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Helpful tips to keep in mind

  • Be honest. Ensure your answer is sincere. Don’t make up strengths just because they fit the job description. This is your opportunity to showcase your real talents and show the interviewer why you’re the best candidate.

  • Be prepared. Outline your speaking points ahead of time and practice them until you’re comfortable with your response. Having an idea of what you’re going to say before your job interview will help your answer sound polished and natural.

  • Tailor your answer to the position. Remember, the interviewer is only interested in your strengths as they relate to the job. Make sure your response aligns with the needs outlined for the role.

By using these guidelines, you can make a great impression and increase your likelihood of advancing to the next step in the interview process.

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