Describe Your Greatest Strengths

By Joe Stein

A primary reason for the interview is for the Job Seeker and the Interviewer to exchange information while getting to know each other better. From a Job Seekers perspective, an important point to communicate is the positive strengths that you possess. This will serve to help support your candidacy. Especially important is any strength that will separate you from your competitors.
 
In this edition of our Frequently Asked Question series, let’s examine one that is almost always asked…”Describe Your Strengths”. 
 
Why Is It Asked?
 
·        Make Comparison Between Candidate and Requirements – This question allows the Interviewer to make a quick high-level comparison between your strengths and what is needed in the position. The Interviewer is looking for a match between their needs and your strengths.
 
·        Gauge Confidence Level – For many positions, a level of confidence in one’s abilities is needed to be successful. This question provides the Interviewer with a glimpse of the confidence level of the candidate and a view of how the person views themselves. This is especially important for sales and leadership positions.
 
·        Provide a “softball question” – In the eyes of the Interviewer, there are more challenging questions that will be asked during the course of the interview. This one may be asked to spur conversation and develop confidence for the candidate. 
 
How Should It Be Answered?
 
·        Change Is Good – Today’s work environment is usually one that requires excellent flexibility. Processes, policies, customers, and products all change rapidly and the modern worker must be adept at working through this upheaval. Stressing your ability to change is usually a very good strength to add. Provide examples in the past when you faced change and how you embraced it so the company could succeed. Exceptions to consider regarding “change is good” may be if the position is involving repetitive Data Entry or a fixed Assembly Line.
 
·        Love the Team – Most work environments will require you to work amongst others as part of a team. This question is a good time to stress how well you work with fellow team members. Once again, provide examples of when you participated in a successful team and describe your role.
 
·        Use the Eyes of Your Supervisor – It can be very successful to answer this question by placing yourself in the eyes of the Supervisor. By this, I mean describe your strengths as if you are your supervisor talking about you. You can start by stating, “On my last performance review, my supervisor told me…..” Interviewers like to hear your strengths from the perspective of your supervisor; I think it validates the opinion in their mind. Using this approach also may help you feel more comfortable talking about yourself since you are really just expressing the thoughts of your supervisor.
 
·        Tie Your Strengths to the Need – If you have been lucky (or savvy) enough to gather some clues regarding what the company really needs in the position then tailor your strength answer to what you have learned. 
  
What Not To Do:
 
·        Become Overly Modest – Many people really struggle talking about themselves. In most occasions, a person just does not feel natural talking about themselves, especially when it involves talking about our strengths. The interview, however, is not a time to slip into a shell and withhold important information regarding your strengths. 
 
·        Be Arrogant – On the flip side, this question is also not the time to enter into a long soliloquy regarding how wonderful you are. Try to focus on specific work-related strengths that tie directly to the position you are interviewing for.
 
·        Rely on Clichés – It will be very tempting for you to just spout out a series of generic attributes in rapid style fashion. Examples would be, “hard worker”, “fast learner”, “good listener”, “always on time”, etc. The real key in grabbing the attention of the Interviewer is to provide some context to your attributes. Do this by giving examples and detail behind the attributes you are presenting.
 
·        Lie – If you do not possess a certain strength, this is not the time to start ad-libbing and claiming you do have it. For example, don’t claim expertise in certain software packages if you have barely ever used them. Lies (even white ones) will quickly catch up with you and severely damage your reputation. 
 
The “describe your strengths” question is almost always asked and provides the Job Seeker with a tremendous opportunity to sell themselves to the Interviewer. Anticipate this question will be asked early in the process and be prepared to do well and place yourself in a position to succeed during the rest of the interview.
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.