“What is your greatest strength?”
On the face of it, this is an easy question that most people hope to face in a job interview.
After all, everyone loves to talk about what they’re good at, right?
But there are some nuances to be aware of when answering this one, and we’ll cover each of them in this article.
Variations Of This Question
Before we start, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different variations of this question so you don’t get caught off guard.
Here are the most common:
- What is your biggest strength?
- What are your top 3 strengths?
- What areas do you excel in?
- What would a former employer say is your best attribute?
- What do you consider to be your best professional attributes?
What The Interviewer Really Wants to Know
Every interview question has an agenda. It’s used to gauge a specific facet of your life, be it your experience, problem-solving ability, or just your general outlook on life.
When an interviewer or recruiter asks what your great strength is, they actually want to know:
What Relevant Strength Do You Bring To The Table?
When communicating your biggest strength, make sure it aligns with the position you’re interviewing for.
The interviewer is gauging if you’d be an asset, and how harnessing this strength can help the company achieve its goals.
For example, if you’re applying for a remote sales position where you’re working by yourself 99% of the time, you’ll need to have strong self-starter and organizational skills.
Telling the employer you always get along with your co-workers wouldn’t be a relevant strength in this situation.
By zeroing in on a strength relevant to the position, your value goes up as someone who they feel has the potential to do the job properly.
Are You Confident?
The interview process is the only time a potential employer has the chance to “size up” a person they might be hiring.
Being confident and comfortable in your skin will help differentiate you from those gunning for the same position.
Projecting confidence isn’t just about dressing well, having a firm handshake, and displaying alpha body language – although that certainly helps.
Instead, it’s about being in command of yourself and having the faith in your abilities (strengths) to be the right person for the job.
Can Your Strengths Survive Bad Days?
There will be tough days at any job. A potential employer wants to know that your strengths will help you push through until things turn around.
Interviewers hear things such as “I have a great attitude” all the time, but when push comes to shove, is that actually you?
Will you be excited to go to work every day or are you just looking for a steady paycheck? Be honest not only with the employer about your strengths but with yourself.
How to Answer: “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”
This answer has 3 main parts to it. Let’s explore them.
1. Choose Your Most Relevant Strength
Identifying strengths is something a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing. It requires you to look inward and shine the spotlight directly on yourself.
Most people are good at a bunch of things, but great at only a few.
Set aside time before going to your interview and examine your past experiences relevant to the position you’re interviewing for.
Highlight strengths you’ve acquired from your education, soft skills and hard skills you’ve learned, and any previous jobs you’ve worked.
Common strengths may include:
- “I’m a quick learner”
- “I am a stickler for the little details”
- “I always communicate effectively with my co-workers”
- “I can make tough decisions if required”
- “I have a high tolerance to stress and overwhelming situations”
- “I’m adaptable and flexible”
2. Give An Example
Providing the employer with a real-life example helps them make the connection to see your relevant strength in action.
The key is to be truthful.
Humans can always tell when something doesn’t quite pass the sniff test, so you’ll want to start off on the right foot rather than stretch the truth.
An example of this might be talking about your experience in sales, and how you regularly hit your bonus targets by exceeding your monthly quotas. This shows you have a strong focus, determination, and execution when given a task.
3. Stay Focused On Your Positive Qualities
The interaction during an interview should be overwhelmingly positive.
But, for the most part, you’ll want to keep the conversation leaning toward your positive attributes and how it would be in the company’s best interest to bring you on board.
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
That’s the theory covered, but how do you actually put this all together in a real interview scenario?
Below are some examples to give you an idea:
Example #1: Excelling At Writing
“I’m a strong writer.
My last job employed me as a content writer for their website. I discovered I could make more money writing sales copy, and after a trial period they permanently expanded my role.
Challenging myself to write copy for sales brochures and online ads confirmed what I already knew. That my writing skills could be used to boost company sales and also take me to the next level of my career.”
Example #2: Resolving Difficult Situations
“I enjoy solving other people’s problems.
I worked as a customer service representative for 5 years in my previous job. This role made me the go-to person when customers had issues with an order, or even just basic inquiries about our products.
Working with the public isn’t for the faint-hearted, and you have to develop a thick skin pretty quickly. Most people are great when connecting one-on-one but there’s always a few bad apples in the bunch.
Listening to their problem and understanding where they’re coming from makes a world of difference in diffusing the issue, and puts them on a path to resolving the conflict amicably.”
Example #3: Work Ethic
“One of my biggest strengths is my work ethic.
My parents taught me from an early age the importance of serving others, and giving 100% to your work at all times.
There are days where it can be a struggle, but doing the job right the first time means I won’t have to repair any mistakes down the line.
I also get a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that I’m being productive and helping others solve their problems.”
How NOT to Answer
We’ve talked about the right things to do, but it’s worth mentioning some of the mistakes people often make so you can avoid them.
Don’t Eat Humble Pie
You can sell a big part of yourself by just doing those three things alone, but you’ll also need to sell your skills.
Now is not the time to be humble.
Here, you want to project yourself as someone who knows what they’re doing, where they’re going in life, and that the strengths you bring to the table will be an asset to the company.
Arrogance Doesn’t Work Either
On the flip side of being too humble, one can come across as too arrogant in their interview.
You may say things that you think are working in your favor, but actually backfiring. These can be any of the following:
- Taking all the credit
- Not acknowledging coworkers contributions
- Over exaggerating past wins
Unless you’re looking for a job as a Wall Street day-trading shark, a brash, cocky attitude will usually work against you.
People simply do not want to be around someone who is solely focused on themselves. You want to come across as even-tempered and confident, not boisterous or conceited.
- Learn the different variations of this question
- Familiarize yourself with the most likely lead-up questions
- Choose a strength that’s relevant to the role
- Talk about how this strength benefits you with an example
- Stay positive (this is not the time to be self-critical)
- Keep yourself in check (don’t be too humble or arrogant)