Most interviewers will, at one point or another, pose the commonly-asked question ‘what are your greatest strengths?’ If you’re someone who knows all of your best qualities and has no problem sharing this knowledge with the world; then this may seem to be a piece of cake. However, this question, like many others, has more to it than meets the eye.
Giving the right answer can be tricky. You may not know the line between being too boastful or not being confidant enough. Oftentimes, this question will lead or follow with another question, namely ‘what are your greatest weaknesses?’ These two go hand-in-hand because they both aim to find out what you can add to the company and why YOU are the right fit for the job.
Why the interviewer asks this question
It’s true – this question is used to throw you off your guard. The interviewer wants to find out about all your vulnerabilities and capabilities, so what better way then to have you tell them directly?
They know that you poured painstakingly over your LinkedIn account and CV so that you can look like the perfect candidates on paper. So, by asking this question face-to-face, your interviewer hopes to fish a little deeper for the REAL you.
Interviewers’ points of interest:
- What you believe your strengths are – this gives them insight into your personality and opinion of yourself.
- Your core competencies in relation to the job – this helps them see if you can perform the tasks required of you.
- How your assets fit the company’s needs – this gives them an idea of how suitable you are for the company.
- If you have the desired traits, skills, and work experience – this sets you apart from the other candidates
What NOT to say
Although you shouldn’t hesitate to list your attributes, coming across as too arrogant will not leave a good taste in the interviewer’s mouth. Then again, DON’T be too modest; you’re selling yourself so be expressive and confident.
Steer clear of being too vague – focus on the key strengths that you outlined so that you don’t ramble on for too long. DON’T list boring strengths; you want to stand out and be unforgettable.
Lastly, DON’T say what you think the interviewer wants to hear just because it’s related to the job position. To be believable you have a clear sense of self.
What’s the best way to boast?
So how can you sing your praises without sounding too off-key? The main thing is to not let your mind fly off… Don’t wing it!
Here are some steps to help you prepare:
The first step is just to brainstorm. Write down a list of core strong-points; emphasising on-target strengths, skills, and work experiences relating to the job.
Next, jot down your personal skills that fit under those categories. These skills fall under several categories.
- Soft skills (i.e. transferable skills): These are the skills which you can use in any job you go after. Examples: problem-solving, planning, interpersonal and communication skills
- Hard skills (i.e. knowledge-based skills): These are acquired through your education and experience. Examples: Training, technical aptitude, languages, computers skills.
- Personal traits: These are the unique qualities you possess. Examples: Easygoing, friendly, hard-working, expressive, professional and punctual.
Afterwards, make sure to get your number of skills down to the top five strengths that can each be elaborated on as specific personal stories. The stories you tell should show your strengths in the best light and display your achievements. Articulate the skills and examples which show why you are the PERFECT candidate.
Noteworthy strengths to mention:
No one’s asking you to be everything; but choosing a few key strengths can take you a long way. Rattling off a long list doesn’t make you superman – it just makes you look like you have your hands full and need to lighten the load. Remember to focus on the traits that describe YOU.
End your answer with style
The key to standing out is, essentially, finishing off your reply with proof as to how you have applied your strengths in the past. Choose your top strengths carefully and make sure they’re related to the job requirements.
Plan out how you will discuss when you used them to get ahead in your past work experiences. Once you have a strategy planned out in your head, then you can give an answer that’s just as strong as you are!