Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Strength?

Most interviewers like to hit you with one of those annoying little job interview questions like “What’s your greatest strength?” or “What’s your greatest weakness?” OK. I admit I use them too when I do an interview.

So when you’re in a job interview and you’re asked about your greatest strength, what should you tell them? Is there a right answer to the greatest strength question? You don’t want to sound boastful – and yet you certainly don’t want to come off so humble you look like you don’t believe in yourself.

Luckily, the greatest strength question is one where you can often hit a home run if you just prepare a bit ahead of time. Think about what your new employer would find most interesting about you – and most important to the job you are applying for. There’s no absolute right answer. Basically they just want to see if you know yourself and how well you express yourself.

Some possible work strengths in no particular order:

  • Strong leader
  • Good manager
  • Initiative (willing to take on new things)
  • Follow-through (seeing a task through to the end)
  • Good at bringing things in on deadline
  • Determination (as in seeing a project through to the end or in finding a solution to a problem)
  • Quick learner
  • Problem solver
  • Flexibility
  • Good at seeing the big picture even when dealing with the details
  • Good at details, but also know how to see the big picture
  • Strong at a given skill required by the job (like Java programming, project management, teaching, writing, web design, customer service, phone manner, math, public speaking, etc.)
  • Good people skills
  • Good team player
  • Ability to help influence change
  • Creativity
  • Good at finding ways to improve existing business processes
  • Good at resolving conflict

Or whatever you can think of. My main interview tip for this question is to have a really good story to tell about how you use that strength to make something good happen for your former employer or – if this is your first job – at school or in a volunteer role. Choose the particular job skill based on both what you think the employer is looking for and your strongest story. (Never hurts to artfully throw in a few extra job strengths while telling the story.)

Hint: To figure out what an employer is looking for, look at the job description.

In case you’re thinking “But I don’t have a good story” – please take some time to think some more. Ask friends or co-workers. You’ll be surprised what you aren’t remembering about yourself. Everyone has something good to tell about themselves. And when it comes to job interviews, that’s a really important time to believe in yourself!

One last point: Just so you don’t sound too full of yourself, you can start your answer with a phrase like “I guess” or “I’ve been told” or “I think” or anything that helps tone down the potential boast. Now you don’t want to act all shy and “gosh darn” to fake modesty (that would only work against you), but leading off with a gentle phrase at the beginning is a great way to answer this interview question.

And who knows…if your story is good enough, this annoying little interview question could turn into a grand slam home run that hopefully helps you stand out from the other candidates.

Good luck!

Ronnie Ann

More job interview articles I hope will help:

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. Hi Ronnie,

    Nice article. I agree, there’s a fine line between highlighting a strength and being too boastful.

    If you’re super extroverted, it might mean toning things down, but most people seem to have a the problem of not tooting their horn enough.

    Or they just don’t spend enough time thinking about a compelling answer and come up with something too dry or generic.

    Here’s another helpful article with some sample answers:
    http://biginterview.com/blog/2013/03/what-are-your-strengths.html

    Like you said, really dissecting the job description is important to understanding what competencies/skillsets you’re going to be asked about. That way you can tailor some of the stories from your background around the strength you need to be highlighting.

    Cheers,

    Alex

  2. Frustrated says:

    I have done all of these things in terms of the interview process and still difficult for me to get an offer. I have gotten all the way up to Last rounds at least five or four times and it’s been very challenging on what is the problem. on several occasions I feel that the vp level top boss does not understand how to utilize the skill set and finds me a strong personality. I’ve discovered that there’s an issue with personality connection. It hasn’t been so much the hiring manager that is the problem. Majority they have liked me. It has been the top top management level above hiring manager that feels maybe threatened.

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