No matter what your skills are and how experienced you are, every job interview is stressful. And it is only natural – whenever you want something and there is one chance to get it, the stakes are high, and the stress is only higher.
Although every interview is a unique experience and you can never be fully prepared, there are always a few questions that are bound to come up and “What are your strengths?” is one of the most popular, if not the most popular question. Nevertheless, the what-are-your-strengths interview question is also one of the most elusive ones.
Surprisingly, interviewees in general are a lot more comfortable talking about their weaknesses than their strengths. There is something about discussing our personal strengths which makes us feel like bragging. And since the general idea of a good interview is to present yourself as a well-rounded and balanced person, it is exceptionally difficult to walk the line between overselling and underestimating yourself.
Fear not – we’ve come up with a few handy tips in order to pass the what are your strengths interview question part.
It is surprising how many people have the tendency to veer towards irrelevant info when surprised with what are your strengths interview. Although you might be an absolute expert on the topic of, let’s say, surrealist literature, the interviewers would find that completely irrelevant (and even misleading) of you’ve applied for the position of junior manager at an accounting firm.
Your answer has to be relevant to the position you’ve applied for. You could discuss personal traits, skills, knowledge, experience, etc., but it has to be explicitly related for the position and distinguish you from other candidates.
The trick of the what are your strengths answers is simple – interviewers not only want to know what your biggest strength is, but how it could benefit the company as well.
Discuss Both Personality Traits and Skills
The task of the interviewers is not only to assess candidates as assets, but as personalities as well. Hence, your what-are-your-strengths answers have to be balanced between your strengths as a professional and your strengths as a person.
The best way to start is with a personality trait. That way you present yourself as an individual at first. Again, be relevant, but also opt for traits that people find endearing so that the interviews develop a liking for you as a person.
A few what are your strengths examples answers include: “I am a natural leader who always finds a way to inspire people to follow…”, “I have a friendly and outgoing personality and work well in groups…” etc. You do not need to focus on one personality trait, but discussing more than two could be perceived as a distraction from your skills.
Once you have an open way, you should proceed towards your skills. Taken that you have already closely studied the requirements for the position, you should be familiar with the skills the company deems high and which ones you possess. However, there are always some general professional skills which interviewers find relevant for any position – these what are your strengths answers include: “I am punctual and never miss a deadline…”, “Work ethics are my priority…”, “I am a great communicator…” etc.
Laconic answers are great when efficiency is needed and time is on the line, but during an interview you have to provide enough information in an articulate manner. And being concise is crucial for your what-are-your-strengths answer.
The high-pressure environment of an interview forces a lot of candidates to go into too many details and lose track of what is relevant, thus failing to be brief but comprehensive. Luckily, there is a simple and easy-to-use formula which tackles this interview question.
It is simply, really – express a strength, discuss your understanding of it, and back it up with context or a story from personal experience. Let’s say that you’ve applied for a job in HR and empathy is one of your most important strengths.
- First, you tell the interviewers that empathy is your biggest strength with a simple opening line.
- Afterwards, you “define” empathy, describing it as being sympathetic, understanding and compassionate with other employees in a professional context.
- Lastly, you provide evidence of an instance where your empathy has resolved a work-related issue, helped boost productivity, encouraged teamwork, etc.
The principle applies to every strength you would like to discuss. Not only does it prevent sidetracking, but it also presents the interviewers with the opportunity to broaden the discussion and experience you as the professional you really are.
This is maybe the most notorious pitfall of many what-are-your-strengths interview questions. Basically, after reading the CV and the motivational letter, one of the main tasks of the interviewers is to test whether a candidate is the epitome of the proverbial “all sizzle, no steak”.
No matter what you say during an interview, it is crucial to always provide evidence. And, obviously, this is especially important when discussing your strengths. Providing proof might be the difference between coming off as a “bragster” and being the candidate who is perfect for the position.
Providing proof is actually the most important part of the abovementioned formula. You cannot be neither relevant, not concise, if you do not provide context for your claims. Ultimately, supporting your strengths with suitable evidence portrays an image of professionalism, mindfulness, maturity and reliability.
We cannot emphasize this enough – always prepare for an interview! Preparation is the way to success. It reduces the risks of making mistakes which might cost you the job.
Preparation is especially vital when the question of what your strengths are rises. As previously mentioned, people in general are not comfortable with discussing their strengths in high-pressure situation. And without preparation even the best of answers might sound like utter lies.
The process of preparation is flexible – any number of the following steps might work for you.
- First of all, scrutinize the job description. All the answers of every possible question are hidden somewhere in the job description. That, in turn, will help you make a list of your strengths which are relevant. Then, visualize your strengths. Think about the times when those strengths helped you solve a work-related problem.
- Afterwards, write everything down and read it couple of times. Consider more efficient ways to articulate the same ideas. Moreover, it always helps to consult another person, especially a close one. Getting a second or a third opinion brings perspective into the loop and you can modify your answers to fit a wider audience.
- Lastly, drilling! Prepare a pitch and practice it: you can role-play with someone, practice your pitch in front of a mirror, or simply play out the possible scenarios in your head – it does not really matter as long as you get more comfortable with your own ideas.
These simple steps will help you prepare for any interview. What is more, they will help you articulate your ideas and will boost your credibility in front of any interviewer.
Have you ever thought about our suggestions? Have you used them in your interviews so far? Follow our fundamental tips and you are guaranteed to nail your next interview!