In this guide, MockQuestions walks you through answering one of the most common interview questions, What are your greatest strengths? We break down a simple method to frame your answer, discuss what to avoid, give you tips for responding, and provide a few answer examples, too!
THE PURPOSE BEHIND THE QUESTION
When an interviewer asks, What are your greatest strengths? they want to identify if you have the skills required to do the job successfully. For this reason, you must be ready to communicate the connection between your skills and what the company needs to find in their next hire.
The interviewer also wants to see:
- Your belief that the company's needs and your skills are a match.
- Your readiness to make a specific contribution to the company.
- That you have a solid understanding of the role’s accountabilities.
Most interviewers ask the question, What are your greatest strengths?
(plural) or What is your greatest strength?
(singular). While these are the most straightforward ways to ask this common question, your interviewer might also phrase the question as:
- What is the greatest strength you will bring to our company?
- What are your strengths, and how will they benefit us?
- What stand-out strengths do you have?
DIFFERENT TYPES OF STRENGTHS
With a broad question like What are your greatest strengths?
it's challenging to know what the interviewer wants you to focus on when responding. You have many strengths, after all!
There are different types of strengths, including:
- Hard skills such as technical expertise or project management skills.
- Soft skills such as time management and critical thinking.
- Personality traits such as being adaptable, kind, and self-sufficient.
- Knowledge-based skills such as speaking multiple languages.
4-STEP APPROACH TO PREPARE
Take a careful look through the company's job posting, position description, website, social media posts, and other available resources.
As you comb through these resources, write down which strengths you believe the company needs most in a team member.
Go through your list and consider which of those strengths you possess. Think about which 3-5 strengths will ensure your success in the job and with the company as a whole.
Draft a response that highlights the 3-5 strengths you chose from your list. Tie these strengths into the company's needs and support your answer with an example from your life or work history.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN RESPONDING
GIVING TOO MANY STRENGTHS.
Try sticking with 3-5 strengths if the question is asked in plural form (What are your greatest strengths?) Stick to one primary point if the question is asked in singular form (What is your greatest strength?).
GIVING AN ANSWER TO THE WRONG QUESTION.
A common mistake is to think you will get extra points if you offer more than one strength when asked this question in the singular form. However, it's essential to answer the question asked. For instance, if asked, What is your greatest strength? focus your answer on one compelling point. This way, you show the interviewer that you have actively listened to how they phrased the question.
GIVING A CLICHÉ OR OVERUSED RESPONSE:
Cliché and overused responses include phrases like:
- I am an excellent communicator.
- I am a hard worker.
- I am a fast learner.
- I am a team player.
- I am extremely organized.
The interviewer wants to see how you stand out from other candidates. These types of responses don't stand out because they are overused and sound insincere. The traits listed above may indeed be your greatest strengths; however, you can re-phrase them in a unique and attention-grabbing way. For example:
Instead of saying that you are a fast learner, you could try: I am adept at gaining new knowledge and skills.
Rather than commenting that you are a team player, you could remark: I am an adaptable and collaborative professional who enjoys participating in group efforts.
If you are incredibly organized, you could say: I am thoughtful in planning my day. I set myself up with the right tools to ensure maximum productivity.
GIVING AN ANSWER THAT IS WAY TOO WORDY.
The more aware you are of your greatest strengths and how they will benefit the hiring company, the more concise and to-the-point you can be when you respond. Perform enough research and practice your answer until it's punchy and memorable.
GIVING AN ANSWER THAT IS OVERLY HUMBLE.
It can be challenging to speak highly of ourselves for fear of sounding like we are bragging. Being humble is appreciated in certain situations; however, a job interview is your time to shine. Focus on the attributes the company is looking for, then provide an example of how you emulate those qualities. Your response will feel much less like bragging and more like telling a great story.
GIVING AN ANSWER THAT IS BRAGGADOCIOUS.
The opposite of being too humble is giving inflated responses or overstatements. Avoid dramatics or giving unmeasurable statements. This includes phrasing such as:
- I am the BEST at...
- I get along with EVERYBODY…
- I have so many strengths; it's hard to choose just one...
Bragging can also include talking about your strengths in a way that makes other people look incompetent. Avoid giving examples of your strengths that make you the workplace hero who fixes other people's mistakes.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUILDING YOUR ANSWER
YOUR ANSWER SHOULD HIGHLIGHT STRENGTHS THAT MATCH THE JOB.
Your answer to this common interview question should be slightly different for every company with whom you interview. The strengths that Company ABC appreciates most will be different from what Company XYZ needs. Overall, the answer should clearly highlight your top skills that match the specific job requirements.
YOUR ANSWER SHOULD HELP THE INTERVIEWER MAKE A DECISION.
The purpose of a job interview is for the hiring manager to determine if they want to move forward with your candidacy. The answer you provide should bring the interviewer closer to a 'YES.'
YOUR ANSWER SHOULD HIGHLIGHT HOW YOU STAND APART FROM OTHERS.
We talked about chiché statements earlier in this guide. Cliché responses such as, My greatest strength is that I am a hard worker, also fall into the boring category. This is because they are answers that most interviewers hear repeatedly. Make sure that the strengths you choose are unique and memorable.
YOUR ANSWER SHOULD BE SUPPORTED WITH EXAMPLES.
It's 'show and tell' time! Tell the interviewer that you are the right fit for the job, and remember to offer real-life examples of your strengths in action. After stating your greatest strengths, present an example of these qualities in action. This approach ensures that your response is supported by proof of performance.
HOW TO ANSWER IF YOU ARE NEW TO YOUR CAREER
If you are new to your career, it may feel impossible to know your greatest strengths, especially regarding what you can offer an employer. Here are a few exercises to try:
- Take some time to consider the qualities people often comment on when they give you praise or encouragement.
- Think of the words your peers or relatives have said about your teamwork and performance after a big game.
- Perhaps you have won an award or earned recognition for standing out in a particular area, such as fundraising for a local charity. Consider what you did to reach this achievement.
- Once you take the time to consider your non-work-related wins, write down some of the stand-out strengths you used to succeed in those experiences.
Whether in sports, school, church, volunteer work, and more, the goals you have already achieved are examples that demonstrate your strengths.
AN ANSWER TEMPLATE TO TRY
"My greatest strengths are [list 1-3 most important skills according to the company's needs]
. These strengths help me to [discuss how these skills ensure peak performance in the workplace]
. I can see that [discuss what you believe are the company's greatest needs]
. The skills that I mention will be a great fit because [discuss the ways that your greatest strengths will benefit the hiring company]
ANSWER EXAMPLES FOR 'WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?'
ADMINISTRATOR EXAMPLE: "My greatest strengths include being adept when it comes to gaining new knowledge and skills. For instance, I recently learned our company's new CRM in one weekend and now help others on my team to learn the systems' functions. I am also adaptable and collaborative. I enjoy participating in group efforts such as our annual holiday community fundraiser. I have volunteered on the social committee for three years. Lastly, I am mindful of how I plan my day. I am sure to set myself up with the right tools to ensure maximum productivity. My favorite organizational tools are Google Drive and Asana, which I understand your team uses."
SALES EXAMPLE: "My greatest strengths are in my perceptiveness and ability to be observant of the needs of others. These strengths are part of what makes me an excellent performer in a client-facing role. I understand from the job description that you seek a sales professional who brings a heartfelt and empathetic approach to customer engagement. These strengths that I mention align very well with this need."
RECENT GRADUATE: "I'm a driven person, and I have learned to work well under pressure. For instance, I took over 18 credit hours in college while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. My ability to thrive in time-sensitive situations, and my calm demeanor, will help me succeed in the fast-paced environment you described to me today."
MANAGER EXAMPLE: "My greatest strengths include my ability to boost the confidence of my team members. I like to excite the team at the beginning of the day with my enthusiastic, go-getter attitude. I am also self-aware and a mindful listener, which helps gain the trust of my team. I easily relate to others and get to know them and their needs. My employee retention rates are the second-highest in my company, which is due to these interpersonal strengths. I understand that your company requires a manager who can boost employee retention rates. I am confident that these strengths will be a fit for your company's goals."
NEW TO THE WORKFORCE: "I believe that my greatest strengths are my natural ability to lead, encourage others, and see a goal through to the end no matter how challenging. I am resilient and do not give up on myself or my team. One example of my leadership skills was when I was the captain of my university basketball team. I encouraged the team even when we were exhausted or knew that we would likely lose the game. These skills will greatly help me as I face the learning curve of being new to the workforce. If hired at Company ABC, I will use my natural leadership abilities to uplift others and encourage my teammates as we work towards our goals."
Common interview questions such as, What are your greatest strengths? are challenging to answer. They take research and practice; however, you will see yourself quickly progress and feel more comfortable when you dedicate some time and effort.
The more you research the position and customize your response for each company, the better you will communicate your unique value. This approach will lead to a compelling answer the interviewer won't forget!
If you want more interview coaching, MockQuestions has various available resources, including our set on the most common (and challenging!) interview questions
View all of our answer examples for: "What are your strengths?"