Nov. 27, 2020

What are your greatest strengths?

What are your greatest strengths?

How to identify your strengths and feel confident talking about them without feeling like a bragger? In this episode, you learn how to confidently answer the common interview question "What are your greatest strengths?" in a simple way (without feeling that you are bragging). You will also build a collection of example situations that you can use to answer other common questions.


Hi, everyone. Today's episode is all about your strengths. Let me start by telling you a story about a candidate who asked me for advice when preparing for his upcoming interview. While doing some research, he had found a list of the most common interview questions, and one of them was, "What are your three greatest strengths?"

He said he found it difficult to brag about himself, and that it felt wrong to make up things he didn't believe himself. I realized that - even if he came up with three strengths - he wouldn't be able to convincingly talk about them in the interview if he believed they weren't really true. So, I decided to nudge him away from the actual question, saying, "Forget about this question for a moment; instead, think about something you've achieved in your current job that you are proud of." He thought for a short while and said, "Well, when this new intern started, I took care of her, made sure she quickly was up and running and coached her th entire time. She grew a lot and produced impressive results." I responded, "That's a great example. Do you have another one?" He answered, "Yes. Just recently, I closed this new customer for our agency. No one thought we could win, but I created a great pitch, and now we have an initial deal worth 200K." “That’s another great example!” I said. “What did you do to make these two things happen? What was the key to your success?" He replied, "Well, when it comes to interns, I guess I'm good at explaining things, delegating tasks and helping them to quickly build a network. The key to success for winning that new customer was that I was persistent and listened to their needs." 

"Good," I said. "And are there any other things that helped you in both examples?" He couldn't come up with anything else, so I asked, "Would the intern have listened to you if she hadn't trusted you?" "No," he replied. "And would the customer have chosen you over your competitors if they hadn't trusted you?" "No!" he said. And after a while, he added, "You're right; I'm good at building trust!" "Great!" I replied. "Now you've created a list of strengths. What three would you say are most relevant for the new job?" He picked three and said, "Wow, this is true. These are my strengths. And I even have examples to back them up."

This conversation is an excellent example of how important it is to prepare for an interview in the right way. You need to see, feel and believe that you're the right person for the job. If you just try to answer a list of potential questions, there is a risk that the interviewer will not perceive your answers as genuine. And you will not build trust. I believe it's a much better approach to start with situations and then derive answers to interview questions from those. And by the way, the applicant from this example would not only answer, "What are your greatest strengths?" He would also be able to answer a lot of other questions, such as, "Tell me about a time when you showed customer focus" or "Tell me about a time when you helped a peer."

So, my recommendation is to start your interview preparation with the following five steps:

  • Step 1: Think about the last three years of your career. If you're a student, think about internships, extracurricular activities or other projects you've engaged in and identify what you're proud of. Try to find at least five achievements. You could even use examples from other areas of your life; for instance, you might have moved to another country, which forced you to go out of your comfort zone and handle uncertainty. Just make sure that all your examples are relevant to the new job.
  • Step 2: Make a list of skills and strengths that enabled you to achieve these great things. Start with each example individually.
  • Step 3: Look at the complete list of achievements. Are there any additional strengths or skills that you haven't listed?
  • Step 4: Talk to three people. Tell them about the situations from step one. You don't need to tell them that these are your achievements. If you prefer, you can talk in general terms, like, "To win a large deal with a new customer in a highly competitive market, what things does someone need to be good at?" If they say something that applies to you but that you'd missed, add it to your list.
  • Step 5: Go through the whole list of strengths and sort them by their relevance for the new job.

Congratulations! Now you have a list of your strengths with examples, and you can also answer several other interview questions. And, most probably, you feel much more confident than before. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.