It’s easy to assume that when an employer asks about your “greatest strength” all you need to do is come up with a fairly standard (and therefore presumably safe) answer that you think any employer would want to hear. Makes sense, right? Well, not exactly.
This is an opportunity to impress them with your answer – and just as easily a chance to fall flat on your face. But fear not. To ace this one, you just need to make sure that you prepare for and practice your answer as part of your preparation for commonly-asked interview questions.
Why does an interviewer ask this question?
Most employers know that by asking traditional questions, including ones about your greatest strength (or greatest weakness), it’s simply a chance for them to learn more about you. But they don’t REALLY want to know your entire life’s story or things like how great you are at video games.
In fact this isn’t all that much about you, except for how it might affect them. Employers want to know what you have to offer that meets THEIR NEEDS. And maybe a little extra for added flavor or memorability. Something that helps paints a picture of a person they want to work with – not a small thing.
But please remember to come up with something real. You don’t want to pretend that you have a skill they’re looking for if you aren’t any good at it. Being fired from a job early on for having misled them is not great for your ego – or your resume!
So how do you approach this particular question?
As I said before, this is a good question to think about ahead of time, while you prepare for the interview.
What are your strengths? Think about things you’ve done in prior jobs, or if you haven’t had any jobs yet, volunteer work, internships and even projects that you’ve started or been part of. (Use your resume to help spark ideas.)
- Make a list of things you’re particularly strong at.
- Now compare them to the job description.
Is there something that you’re especially good at doing that’s also one of the key requirements for the job? Great. If not, do your best to find something as close as possible to what they want in a candidate.
- Now come up with a memorable story that shows how good you are at this particular skill – and maybe even an example of how you used it to help solve a work problem or find a way to improve how things are done that resulted in a positive outcome for your employer.
- While you’re at it, practice telling it with energy & interest in your own story, in a way that also shows how much you enjoy this aspect of work.
Once again, you want to help them see how well you and your attitude match with the job and their company. (Use your research to get a feel for company culture.)
Some final thoughts
When you talk about your greatest strength(s), you are helping to fill in the picture they’re forming of you. So in addition to helping them see things you’re good at, you want to make sure you’re still painting a picture of someone who knows how to work well with and respect others.
That means, when you talk about yourself when answering this or any question, don’t seem like a one-person show. Yes … you want them to see that you have a lot to offer and can work independently when needed. But no one wants to hire a know-it-all or do-it-all!
See this as a chance to tell them something that will help them see the match – and remember you in the best light!
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