“What are your strengths?” This is the one question you can be guaranteed to be asked at a job interview in some way, shape or form. Regardless of what role you are interviewing for you should prepare yourself to answer this question.
The reason why this is a popular interview question is that it enables the interviewer to assess the candidate’s confidence and self-awareness.
Therefore the interviewer is seeking to determine:
- If you are the best candidate for the role
- That your strengths fit the company’s needs
- If you possess the skills and qualities that make you stand out from the competition
- If you can perform in the position and work well with the team
The strategy in answering this question is two-fold. Firstly, in your pre-interview preparation, you should analyse the job description and seek to match your strengths. Secondly, early during the interview, you should dig for information that will help you to find out who their perfect candidate is.
The Job Description
Firstly, studying the job description carefully will help you to identify the strengths that are relevant to the role. Try to match your strengths as best you can to those required for the job.
You can determine your own strengths based on the following:
- Your Experience: In a particular industry, marketplace or with a similar product/service.
- Your Skills/talents: proficiency in a language, record in achieving high sales, expertise in a computer software etc.. Other skills including problem-solving, team building, leadership, negotiation or communication are all relevant.
- Your Education/training: anything relevant to the job that you gained from your study or training, including group work, internships or special recognition.
An example might be if the position involves working as part of a team you might say the following:
“I am a confident and diligent person who enjoys working in team environments. In my previous role, I introduced a new online work tracking system that helped to improve the communication and productivity of the team.”
On the contrary, if the role requires you to take on supervisory or management duties you could answer:
“I am a confident motivator and communicator. In my previous role, I encouraged my team to provide continuous feedback, which helped to improve productivity. I have a good understanding of the intrinsic motivators and previously encouraged my team to express their ideas in weekly meetings and monthly one-on-one catch-ups. “
Then after the initial preparation, the next step is to find out as much information you can during the interview. Early on in the interview ask the interviewer to describe what type of person they are looking for. Simply enquire, “What kind of person does well in this company?”
This will help you to find out key facts about their ideal candidate. Furthermore, the interviewer may reveal information that wasn’t in the job description.
For instance, the interviewer might reveal that creative and innovative people do well in the company. This will give you the opportunity to discuss any creative projects you previously worked on. One example might be:
“In my previous role, I conceptualised and customised a suite of new digital properties. This resulted in a 50% increase in traffic to the existing website, 20% increase in customer conversions and a 30% increase in quarterly revenue.”
- Focus on four or five key strengths to describe and demonstrate.
- Ask an old colleague or manager to help you identify your strengths.
- Root out previous performance review documents or employee feedback documents.
- Always have examples prepared of how you applied these strengths in previous roles.
- Only pick strengths that you actually possess, be specific and truthful in your answers.
- Don’t be too humble. Be clear and confident about what your strengths are.
Finally, it is worth noting that recruiters may ask a version of the question ‘what are your strengths’. For example, they may ask you to, “describe how your greatest strength will help you succeed in the role.” Or they might phrase the question, “what challenges you” or “why are you the best person for the job?”.