Dec. 8, 2020

How to answer the interview question "What are your greatest strengths?"

How to answer the interview question "What are your greatest strengths?"

How do you answer the common interview question, "What are your greatest strengths?" How do you identify your key strengths and confidently talk about them during an interview without feeling like you're bragging?

In this blog post, I share an easy-to-follow process for answering this dreaded interview question in a simple and effective way. This straight-forward strategy will also help you build a library of example situations you can use to answer other common competency-based interview questions.

Asking the question in a different way

My first tip when preparing to answer the interview question about your greatest strengths is to look at it from a different angle.

I once helped a candidate prepare ahead of an interview, and he shared that he struggled to 'brag' about himself. Of course, in order to convince anyone that you're the right person for the job, you need to believe in that yourself first. This means you need to walk into the interview with real-life examples in your back pocket that show your key strengths in action. Only then, you'll be able to eloquently and confidently talk about them and convince your future employer.

To help him get over this obstacle, I asked the candidate to think about this question in a different way. I suggested he focused on what he'd achieved in his current job that he was proud of. He then shared he'd helped an intern get up to speed when she first started, and that, against all odds, he'd won a new client for his agency, generating an initial deal worth 200k.

When I asked about the key to his successes, with a little prompting and nudging in the right direction, he was able to tell me how he made these great things happen. Simply by asking himself different questions, he managed to identify three key strengths:

  • Being good at delegating tasks and helping people build a network.
  • Being persistent and perceptive to his clients' needs.
  • Effective at building trust.

Not only did the candidate manage to work his three key strengths out, but he also had solid examples to back them up!

So how would you prepare to answer this question on your own?

How to prepare to answer the interview question "What are your greatest strengths?"

Before you do anything else, it's important that you start to see, feel, and believe that you're the right person for the job.

If you walk into an interview with the intention of answering a list of potential questions, there's a risk the interviewer won't perceive your answers as genuine. And you won't be able to build trust with them.

A much better approach is to start with real-life situations and examples and use them to derive answers to interview questions. This allows you to better answer other competency-based interview questions, such as "Tell me about a time when you showed customer focus," or "Tell me about a time when you helped a peer."

Five steps to successful interview preparation

Step One:

Think about the last three years of your career and find at least five examples of things you have achieved and you are proud of.

If you're a student, you can focus on internships, extracurricular activities, or any other projects you may have worked on. Or, you can use examples from other areas of your life that forced you to move out of your comfort zone and deal with uncertainty. Whatever you pick, make sure it demonstrates skills and competencies that are relevant to the job you're applying for.

Step Two:

Now break that down. Look at the examples you've identified and make a list of skills and strengths that enabled you to achieve success. Do this with each example individually.

Step Three:

Take a look at the complete list of achievements. Are there any additional strengths or skills that you haven't listed when you looked at each achievement individually? Can you think of any more? Just like "Effective at building trust" in the example above enabled the candidate to do both, help the intern and win the new customer.

Step Four:

The next step is to talk to three other people. Discuss the situations on your list. You don't have to explain the situations in detail, and they don't even need to know it's about you. When looking at your list, ask them what they think someone might need to be good at in order to succeed in that particular task. Other people might be able to help you identify any skills you may have missed, so you can add them to your list.

Step Five:

Now go through the whole list of strengths and compare it against the Job Description. Which ones are the most relevant to the role you're applying for?

This process gives you a solid list of key strengths to talk about with examples to back them up. Plus, it gives you plenty of information to answer several other key interview questions. Not to mention you'll have all the confidence you need to answer these questions in the best possible way.

What other strategies have you used to answer the interview question "What are your greatest strengths?"