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How to Answer ‘What Are Your Strengths?’

A smiling woman with a panel of interviewers during a job interview
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Talking about your strengths in a job interview can be tough – you don’t want to come across as arrogant if you say the wrong thing or unconfident if you say it the wrong way. And you definitely don’t want to use cliché adjectives like ‘hard worker’ or ‘leader’ (well, because, who isn’t both those things these days, anyway?).

So, how do you avoid falling into the trap of listing pointless descriptions and actually turn your response into a meaningful and insightful answer?

Well, here we’ve prepared a guide that will teach you how to perfect your answer and impress your interviewer with your strengths and examples.

 


 

The Purpose

The reason hiring managers ask this question is mainly to see if you are a right fit for the role. It’s pretty much the point of all common interview questions, but the difference is that this question focuses mainly on the skills that you possess; interviewers want to see if you have the strengths needed to perform well within the role.

They’re looking for a well-crafted answer with limited adjectives that is full of hard-hitting data. A glimpse of your personality is also advantageous – if you’re able to clearly communicate your achievements and experiences, you’ll be well on your way to securing the job.

 

How to Answer the Question

Use these tips to help you craft an ideal answer about your strengths.

1. Pick a Strength

Before you head to your interview, it’s a good idea to pick at least three strengths that are related to the job you’re applying for. This list can involve relevant achievements, qualifications or skills – the main point is for this strength to separate you from the pool of candidates with a unique example.

If no key strengths spring to mind, ask your friends or colleagues what they think your greatest strengths are. And if you don’t necessarily want to ask your workmates, think back to a time where you achieved praise from your manager, as that will likely be a good example to provide.

2. Prove Your Strength

It’s no good simply listing a strength – you need to back it up with a real-life example of when you shined to back up your claims. So, for each strength you list, you need to explain the situation, describe what impact you had and show the success that was derived from it.

To help you stay focused, you can prepare a script during your interview preparation to make sure that you keep your example to the point and authentic.

You should also try to focus on just a few key strengths. Although you'll want to show that you’re a star employee, you don’t need to cram 10 different skills in. It’s about quality, not quantity!

3. Relate the Strength to the Job

Although you may be proud of your killer vocals, unless you’re auditioning for The X Factor, you should probably leave that talent for after-work karaoke. After all, hiring managers want to know how your strength relates to the job you’re applying for.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a managerial role, you’ll be expected to have good time management skills. Therefore, a good scenario to talk about would be a time when you successfully led a project and launched it well within your deadline.

4. Practise Your Answer

As they say, practice makes perfect. So, if you’re feeling a bit anxious about your big day, it’s essential that you spend time preparing for your interview. Practise your answers with a friend or family member or record yourself to see if you come across the way you would like to.

5. Be Interesting

Although you’re specifically talking business, it’s essential to let a bit of your personality shine through. By making a connection with the interviewer, you’ll be able to leave a lasting impression. After all, as humans, we tend to relate with each other on a more personal level.

So, don’t be afraid to talk about your personal successes if it’s something that’s important to you - your interviewer may like to know something beyond your 9-to-5 achievements to see if you will be a good cultural fit.

 

 

Sample Answers

To help you form your own unique answer, we’ve listed some samples below that can be used as a guide.

  • One of my greatest strengths is people skills. Having worked in event planning, the best way to ensure things are done in time is by making key connections with all the suppliers. After having established this mutual fondness with all my suppliers, I was able to ensure that the trust was there and that we could rely on each other for our services. This, in turn, gave me the flexibility to deliver captivating and impressive events that increased the company's return customer rate.
  • I am highly adaptable to change. For the past 10 years working as a travel consultant, we have been using the same CRM system for our bookings. When a new system was rolled out this year, many colleagues complained about the change. Instead, I welcomed it and taught myself how to use all the new features. It has helped speed up the process, giving me more time in my day to focus on less important projects that were previously placed on the back-burner.
  • I’m a natural problem solver. I don’t panic under pressure, and I enjoy coming up with out-of-the-box solutions. When I realised that a colleague had booked a public tour instead of a private one for our clients, I tried to find a solution that ensured the clients got what they were promised. And although the tours were fully booked, I managed to speak to the tour organisers and convinced them to add an extra slot for the day, ensuring that no one was left disappointed!

 

Mistakes to Avoid

When forming your answer, be sure to avoid these common pitfalls.

1. Bragging

Although you should be giving real-life examples of where your strengths shined through, there’s no need for it to turn to overconfidence. You’re neither the first or the last person to have such achievements, and nobody likes a know-it-all. Instead, speak with humbleness and clarity – talk about where you shined and explain what you learned from it.

2. Rambling On

As well as bragging, you shouldn’t take too long when delivering your answer. Your answer shouldn't become a monologue of how fabulous you are or a spoken autobiography. Instead, it should be short, to the point and informative.

A great method to use when answering this question is to employ the STAR technique:

  • Situation: Give the context of the example
  • Task: Describe what your role and goal was
  • Action: Describe the actions you took towards the goal
  • Result: Talk about the outcome based on the actions that you took.

3. Reciting a Long List of Strengths

Simply listing adjectives without any concrete evidence to back them up will make your response forgettable and uninteresting. Many candidates have done that in the past, and many will continue making this mistake, but don’t become one of them! Think of strengths that will make you a good fit for the role and limit yourself to a few so that you can create a flawless answer.

 


 

Although this interview question can be tough, you can nail it with a little practice and a few key examples!

Have you ever had to answer this question in an interview before? How did it go? Let us know how you got through it in the comments section below!