How are you similar to an Olympic champion at a time trial when you’re going into a job interview?
You both need to know and be ready to show off your greatest strengths if you’re going to succeed.
Sure, comparing your job interview to an Olympic trial may seem a bit much, but job interviews can be a real challenge to face too. There are a few questions that come up regularly in interviews, though, and if you prepare for them, you have a much stronger fighting chance.
One of the questions that come up most often is “What are your strengths?”. Some of the variations on this you might hear instead include:
- What is your greatest strength?
- What strengths would you bring to this position/ team/company?
- How would you describe your greatest (professional) strengths?
- What do you do best in your current position?
- What would your current or former managers/co-workers say is your greatest strength?
In this article, we’re going to:
- Explain why interviewers ask this question
- Show how you should (and shouldn’t) answer it
- Give you some examples of strengths you may have
- And as a bonus we’re including 6 examples of exactly how you can present them!
Getting prepared for interview questions is just one of the essential steps you’ll need to take to meet your career goals. We’ve helped 1000+ people succeed in their job search, prep for interviews, negotiate the details of their contracts, and hit their career targets. If you want to do a deep dive interview questions, or you're curious about other ways to better navigate your career path, check out our career counseling service.
What Interviewers Want from the “What Are Your Strengths” Interview Question
There are a few related reasons recruiters ask this question:
- To see whether your strengths are in sync with the role you’re applying to
- To better understand where they will or won't have to focus their training
- To gauge whether you’re a fit for the expected growth of the trajectory of the position
- And to see whether you fit with the company’s overall goals and vision
The recruiter’s goal is to make the best choice for the position they’re filling, and your strengths are going to play a big part in that. So while the reasons you’ll be asked this question are straightforward, they’re also critical to whether you get hired, and you really have to get this question right.
Since how you answer is going to influence whether the employer decides you’re right for the position at hand like with most parts of your job search, you’ll want to tailor your answer to the role. That means if you're applying for a Product Manager position, highlighting your strengths in autobody repair won't do you much good.
What you want to do is show the hiring manager that you’ve got qualities that will make you a superstar in the role you’re applying for. While there are some qualities that apply to every job, taking the time to look over the job description and responsibilities to find some key requirements will help set you apart from the competition.
You can prepare for this by combing over the job posting to
- Make a list of your soft and hard skills, education, training, and/or experience that match what the employer is asking for
- Trim that list down to 3-5 core strengths that apply - the more unique the better
- Jot down how you’ve actually applied that skill successfully in a previous job (or other) situation
Keep these four tips in mind when you’re choosing the right strengths.
Always be honest
Choose strengths that you actually have, not ones that you think they want to hear about. . You’ll be way more confident and do better in the interview if you act like yourself, and lie about what you can do isn’t going to help with that.
Make sure the strength applies
The first step in making your list should have done this, but check again, don't get tripped up by thinking you know what they want – double-check the job posting and make sure the strength is what they want.
Instead of vague skills like ‘Communication’ let the interviewer know you have “excellent skills communicating with all levels of stakeholder”, or that “you excel at writing clear and concise communique and memos to inform colleagues of important information”. If these are things they want, how many other people do you think are going to say that?
Be ready to back it up
Have a story ready for each of the strengths you come prepared by using a STAR approach. Being able to relate to offering the recruiter a real-life example of how you used the strength IRL, and what success came from it, is key to having it hit home.
Best “What Are Your Strengths” Interview Answers
As a quick reference, you can check the list we’ve put together for you here to see whether there are any matches between the job description you’re applying for and your own personal skills and strengths.
- Work ethic
- Written or verbal communication skills
- Attention to detail
- Sales experience
- Time Management
- Customer service skills
- Analytical thinking
- Interpersonal skills
- Organizational skills
- Multitasking skills
If you see some overlap, think of a strong example of how you demonstrate that quality and how it helped your previous workplace, and you’ll be in good shape for your interview.
What Are Your Strengths Interview Answer Examples
Now that we’ve covered some of the high-level ideas you want to keep in mind, let’s go over some specific examples of good answers. Here are a few strengths you may be able to apply, some ideas on how to describe them, and a quick description of what makes them effective.
I’ve got a really strong work ethic. While I was working as a personal assistant in my last job, for example, I would regularly start work at least an hour before my boss did. This let me be sure I had all of her requests from the night previous taken care of, and that I was able to ensure her schedule for the day was set without any hiccups or oversights.
Sharing an example of how one of your strengths ensures job success is always a good idea because it lets the hiring manager know they can rely on you for whatever they need.
I have excellent verbal communication skills. My experience as a server and then as a manager in the restaurant industry required that I speak to a wide variety of people, from customers of all types and ages to staff and suppliers. I also had to do this often under pressure and in unexpected situations, because you never know what’s going to happen during dinner service. I learned how to communicate so that everyone walks away feeling heard and understanding what needs to be done.
An answer like this will show the recruiter that you have real-life experience that you can apply in a wide range of situations, and flexibility like this is a great bonus in an employee.
Attention to Detail
My greatest strength is attention to detail. I’ve always been a detail-oriented person, and I love to use this aspect of myself in my work. While I’ve been a Client Management Specialist with Birkin Insurance, I have often had to manage 45-50 client portfolios at a time, each of which had ongoing changes in needs and expectations as they grew their business and things changed in their organizations. Being detail-oriented let me not only keep on top of everything I had to do for my clients, but I thrived on it, and that enthusiasm spilled over to the clients who could sense that and who always got what they needed.
This answer is great because it shows how the skill applies, but you’re also showing how it’s intrinsic to who you are. Because you’re passionate about it, it’s not something you’ll get tired of, it actually makes you love your job more
My greatest strength is my ability to close sales. In the five years I worked at Dale Auto I was ranked top salesperson of the month 12 times, and top salesperson of the year 3 times. I exceeded my sales quota every quarter I worked there and increased my sales over my time there by at least 5% every year.
This answer provides a clear example of how this strength can help a company. As well, by giving precise quantifiable information about the success you are able to show the recruiter exactly how much you have to offer the company.
My greatest professional strength is my ability to manage my time to mitigate pressure and meet deadlines. In my last position, I was responsible for ensuring I was able to meet the design needs of some of our top clients, who often need work done quickly or would change their minds and require edits, and I was always able to meet their expectations. I completed 100% of the projects I was assigned, which helped us win a further $1 million in further contracts from those clients.
Here we have a great example of clearly identifying a strength, indicating how it generally helped the business succeed, and also it includes quantifiable gains for the company. This answer shows how you can sell yourself on a few levels to the recruiter on a few levels.
My customer service skills are probably my greatest strength because of how they help me to resolve difficult situations. During the 3 years, I’ve been working as a customer service representative with Big Telecom I’ve had to resolve a wide range of customer issues effectively. I’ve learned how to listen to a customer’s needs and expectations, keep everyone calm, and how to provide them with the answers and service they want to keep them happy, while still maintaining the company’s regulations and profitability.
A response like this shows how you’ve used your on-the-job experience to meet the customers' needs while also understanding what the company needs to maintain success.
What Not to Answer When You’re Asked About Your Strengths
You can see from the answers we’ve given that the job candidates are direct, clear, and specific. These are things to bear in mind that you do want to include in your answer.
There are a few things you want to avoid when you’re answering this question, too:
- Being too humble
- Unrelated strengths
If you start telling the recruiter that you’re an actual superhero in your job, that there’s nothing you can’t handle, and that basically you’re going ot be leading the team in a few weeks, your chances of getting hired are zero.
You want to approach this answer with confidence, but still with the humility that says you are teachable and that you’re going to be a team player. One of the key reasons recruiters hire is for personality, not just skills, so you want to make sure you come across as someone they will want to work with on a personal level too.
Being too humble
Sometimes candidates can be too humble or just aren’t comfortable selling themself. This is even more so the case if you’re shy, introverted, suffer from impostor syndrome, or if you’re new to working or the industry.
The thing is - you have to get over it and get comfortable saying positive things about yourself. The steps we laid out above should help you find some honest strengths you have, and prepping in advance, maybe with some mock interviews, will make it easier.
Like we said at the start, choose unique strengths that are important for the job at hand. Avoid strengths that don’t specifically relate to the job description or that just about anyone could say they have.
At best, this mistake will make you look bland and forgettable. At worst, it can raise some concerns — who’s looking to hire someone whose greatest strength is being able to do the most basic tasks expected of them?
- This question WILL come up in an interview some time, so it’s always good to be prepared for it
- The reasons a recruiter asks this are straightforward, but also really important
- Present honest, specific, and job-related strengths with real-life examples to back them up
- Because the strengths should be job-specific, you need to think this over in advance
- Be confident about your strength
- Don’t be too arrogant or modest in your answers
We’ve helped thousands of candidates find their future with custom-tailored training, advice, and strategies. If you want to do a deep dive into other interview questions, or you're curious about other ways to better navigate your career path, check out our career counseling service.