Talking about one's strengths can be tricky, especially in a job interview.
Maybe you don’t know what your strengths are. Perhaps you don’t want to sound too braggy. Or maybe you simply don’t know how to start.
But the way you answer the common “What are your strengths?” question will have a great impact on your interview results.
So, how should you approach that question?
Today, we’ll give you a step-by-step walkthrough to finding your strengths and communicating them clearly. To make your life even easier, we’ll also give you a list of 5 practical example answers so you can ace that job interview.
Ready? Let’s start with the basics.
When employers ask about your strengths, they want to know more than what you’re good at. Sure, knowing your strengths is essential to understanding whether you’re a good fit for a given position, but there are other reasons too.
For example, being able to express your strengths clearly and without hesitation might indicate that you’ll be a confident and productive team member.
Also, your answer will help the hiring manager understand if you’re really excited about working for their company.
Employers want to find a candidate who understands their own core strengths, but also wants the candidate to understand and express why those strengths are important to the specific job they are applying to.
In essence, this job interview question aims to answer:
Are your strengths a good fit for the position?
Do you know which strengths matter for this particular role?
Does this job excite you?
By understanding the employer’s objective, you can craft a better (and smarter) answer.
We’ll explore what an actual answer should look like a bit later, but first, let’s talk about the common mistakes people make when trying to communicate strengths.
Many job seekers make four common mistakes when talking about their strengths:
Arrogance. If you’re arrogant when discussing your core strengths, you won’t leave a good first impression, as arrogance is a sign of low self-awareness. Broad statements like “I’m naturally good at everything I try” or “I’m just a natural winner” indicate that you don’t have a realistic view of your own strengths.
Lack of confidence. Don’t undervalue your strengths. Trying to be modest can make you seem insecure and less capable. A job interview is the perfect place to talk about your achievements.
Long-winded answers. Experts suggest taking no more than 90 seconds to answer questions about your strengths. Longer answers might sound unfocused or self-centered. Short, clear answers work best.
Vagueness. Instead of giving a vague, cliché answer like “I’m an empathetic person,” try to describe more concrete, situational strengths like “I always volunteer to support causes I believe in.”
The sweet spot is to “brag with humility.” Don’t undersell your strengths and achievements, but don’t come up as arrogant or too salesy, either.
The question is: How can you communicate your strengths without sounding like you’re bragging?
The secret lies in the context you add to your answers.
For instance, take a look a this example:
“I’m an extremely enthusiastic and proactive team player. I always do my best to encourage and support my colleagues and I love hard work.”
Now, compare that answer to this one:
“I’m an extremely enthusiastic and proactive team player. I always do my best to encourage and support my colleagues and I love hard work. In one instance, our team was having a really bad month. We were too far of meeting our sales goals and everybody was disappointed.
So I organized a party and invited our most important prospects so we could meet each other on a more personal level. That single party led to a big contract with a new client, which got us closer to our goals.”
In your opinion, which answer sounds more credible?
The second one is a much stronger response to your interviewer.
By providing context and examples that showcase your strengths in the real world, you’ll build credibility and give a more solid answer.
The first step to finding your own strengths is to understand what a strength really is. The problem is that many people confuse strengths for skills or use the two terms interchangeably.
So, what are the differences?
In short, a skill is something you can learn through repetition, whereas a strength is something you’re born with. For instance, everyone can learn math, but not everyone is naturally talented with numbers.
Also, people often use their strengths to develop different skills.
For instance, creativity is a strength you can find in people who like arts, like painting or sculpting. People who prefer sports, on the other hand, might have other types of strengths, like physical strength or the ability to work with others (on teams).
But strengths can also be more subtle and often hide behind your passions.
For example, playing an instrument might translate to strengths like discipline, creativity, and persistence. Or spending time with your dog can mean compassion and affection.
Think of the things you love doing and you’ll find a hidden strength(s).
Going for hikes = Overcoming challenges
Playing video games = Problem-solving, creativity, and patience
Cooking = Good at following instructions
Writing = Good at organizing your thoughts and ideas
Start by making a list of all the things you love and try to translate those things into strengths. By following this simple exercise, you’ll get better ideas for your interview.
Now, what if you can’t come up with any strength?
Here are some ideas to guide you:
Simply make a list of five to ten friends or family members and ask them to help you. You can text them a message saying something like this:
“Hey _________, I’m trying to find my strengths for an upcoming job interview and would love your help. In your opinion, what am I the best at in the world? What can you count on me for?”
The answer to these questions will give you solid ideas about your unique personality traits.
Personality tests are great tools to find out more about yourself and figuring out your strengths. For instance, Truity’s Big Five Personality Test is a free tool you can use to find your key traits.
The key here is to answer the test questions with honesty. Otherwise, you won’t get an accurate result.
Once you identify your strengths, how do you talk about them in a job interview?
Here are three tips:
**Make sure the strengths you choose relate to the job. **You might be a great leader, but if you’re applying to be part of a team, that might not be the right strength to highlight. Remember to tailor your strengths to the role you’re applying for.
Keep it short, and practice your answer. To give a good answer (and do it smoothly), you should practice in front of a mirror or a trusted friend.
**Provide a real-life example with the STAR framework. **STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Identify a specific example of a situation where you used a key strength to implement a task. What action did you take to solve the task? And what was the result?
Let’s see some examples.
If you need some examples to practice, we’ve got your back. We’ll provide you with five example answers for different strengths and situations using the STAR framework we covered earlier.
Let’s break them down:
Situation: Work-from-home job
Task: Send my work on time
Action: Woke up early to always meet deadlines
Result: Got promoted
Answer: “I’ve a number of qualities that I feel would benefit this role, but I think my greatest strength is my discipline. In my previous job, my boss was pretty strict about deadlines, so I always went to bed early and woke up at 6 am to finish my work on time, no exceptions. As a result, I got a new role with even more responsibilities. If you give me this opportunity, I guarantee I’ll never miss a deadline.”
Situation: Door-to-door sales
Task: Meet monthly sales quota
Action: Used my confidence to build trust with prospects
Result: Always met my quota
Answer: “I believe that my key personal strength is my self-confidence. You see, when I was a door-to-door salesperson, I never struggled to meet my monthly sales quota. Not because I’m that great at selling, but because people felt my confidence. That confidence helped me build trust with prospects. And I’m excited about using that same strength in this position to meet your sales goals.”
Situation: Accounting firm
Task: Collect and sort invoices and checks
Action: Always put exceptional attention to detail to my work
Result: Never got an error
Answer: “I’m a person who pays a lot of attention to detail. In my first job as an accounting clerk, I had to collect and sort invoices and manage tons of numbers. Even if a small number fell through the cracks, I’d cause a serious problem to the company. That’s why I focused so much on getting all my numbers right and putting exceptional attention to detail. Thanks to that strength, I never got an error.”
Situation: Unhappy customer with custom order
Task: Replacing non-returnable goods
Action: Not giving up after being rejected
Result: An extremely satisfied, repeat customer
Answer: “I’m extremely persistent. I once managed a situation where my customer was not happy with his furniture purchase. Despite it being a non-returnable custom order, I took the time to explain to the manufacturer that the samples we had in store were significantly different from the final sofa that was delivered. I had to explain the (same thing) details of the order to several people at the warehouse call center. Using calm and patience to reason with each person's objection, it took almost an hour on the phone to get a replacement. I am tenacious about my customer's trust and satisfaction.”
Situation: My previous job as a customer support rep
Task: Dealing with unsatisfied prospects
Action: Tried to see things from the customer’s perspective
Result: Found a win-win solution for both parties in 9 out of 10 cases
Answer: “My biggest professional strength is that I’m very respectful. For example, a few years ago, I was working as a customer sales rep and had to deal with tons of unsatisfied customers. I always treated them with respect and patience and tried to see things from their perspective. This approach helped me find a win-win solution in nearly 9 out of 10 instances.”
As you can see, “What are your strengths?” isn’t such a scary interview question after all.
Remember to practice your answer until you feel prepared. Also, avoid the common mistakes that many job seekers make.
Keep your answer short, and find a real-life example that highlights your strengths. And if you need help identifying a key strength, follow the tips we covered today. They’ll help you start off on the right foot.
You have the tools. You have the answers. It’s time to take a deep breath, find your next job, and nail that interview!