Good Strengths For A Job Interview (With Example Answers)

By Chris Kolmar and Experts - Apr. 24, 2021

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If you’ve made it to the interview phase of your dream job, your hard work is far from over. Now it’s time for interview prep.

You may be thinking, “Eh, I’ll just wing it when I get there,” but that mindset could be the difference between landing the job and receiving a rejection.

Prior to the interview, it’s important to prepare yourself for questions you might be expecting. This type of important prep work includes reviewing the job listing, reading up on the company’s history and brand pillars, and answering mock interview questions.

Without a doubt, some of the most commonly asked questions in an interview will focus on your greatest strengths and weaknesses.

It’s not uncommon for applicants to be uncomfortable with these topics, which is why mentally preparing for them ahead of the interview is important. You’ll need to walk a fine line between bragging and underselling yourself when faced with these types of questions. The more honest and insightful you can be while remaining humble, the better.

Why Interviewers Ask About Your Strengths

“What is your greatest strength?” seems like a pretty easy and straightforward question after you’ve walked a recruitment manager through your resume, but there’s a reason the hiring manager wants to probe the topic based on your response. The manager is looking to:

  1. Determine if your greatest strengths and skills align with the company’s direct needs. This is why it’s important to have a clear understanding of the job description and make sure you choose a strength that is relevant to the position.

  2. Gauge how you are different from the competition. Sometimes two equally qualified candidates might have very similar resumes, but hearing the applicants discuss their own perceived strengths and weaknesses can help a company determine which individual will be the better fit for the company’s culture.

    Your answer needs to set you apart from the other candidates.

  3. Test your ability to provide an objective self-assessment. Great employees are aware of their strengths and know how to leverage them for success while also being aware of their weaknesses, so they can ask for help when needed and take steps to improve in areas where they know they struggle.

This question is known as a behavioral interview question, and based on the skills, habits, and personality traits revealed in an applicant’s answer; it can provide a hiring manager with a surprisingly accurate insight into the type of person they’re interviewing.

How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Before you start scripting out your answer, make a list of your top skills that align with the qualifications specified in the job listing. You want to make sure your answer is going to be relevant.

Carefully consider your soft skills and hard skills. Try to think of a past experience that would allow you to highlight both types of skill sets.

Once you’ve narrowed down your top three to five strengths or skills, think of how you’ve leveraged these strengths in the past and come up with short experiences, no more than a few sentences, that can put these strengths into context.

A winning answer is one that showcases how your strengths have led to professional accomplishments and how they will continue to advance your career goals while aligning with the goals of the company as well.

Tips for Answering“What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

As you consider your experiences to formulate your answer, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be cautious of accidental weaknesses. Some strengths can actually be weaknesses depending on the situation.

    For example, being a perfectionist can be a good trait in the context of being thorough and catching mistakes, but it can quickly turn into a weakness if you’re so fixated on the little details that you end up missing deadlines because you can’t manage your time efficiently.

  • Be relevant. Try to choose strengths and experiences that you know will be valuable to the company. Being able to hold your breath for eleven minutes underwater might be a useful strength to mention if you’re applying for a job as a snorkeling instructor but isn’t going to help you land a job in customer service for a phone company.

  • Discuss your weaknesses first, then your strengths if an interviewer asks about your strengths and weaknesses in a single question. This way, you can end the question on a positive note.

  • Take other people’s perceptions of your strengths into account. If you don’t have any good managerial feedback from past reviews at work that you can use as a reference, reach out to a colleague or friend and get an outside opinion on what you’re good at.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Equally important, avoid these pitfalls:

  • Don’t ramble. Long-winded answers going on and on about everything you excel at can give the impression that you’re the best at everything or your nerves are getting the better of you, and you don’t perform well under pressure.

  • Don’t brag. Try to keep a humble, matter-of-fact tone. Describe your strengths in a practical sense that focuses on your professional career or education instead of narcissistically going on and on about how great you are and how lucky the company would be to have such a talented, amazing, perfect employee.

  • Don’t make jokes. Unless you’re applying for a job as a comedian. Even then, it’s probably not a great idea to brush off a serious question with anything less than a serious answer.

  • Don’t lie. This should be a no-brainer but still needs to be said. You never know just how deeply an interviewer is going to check your references. Some hiring managers have been known to reach out to former colleagues through social networking sites like LinkedIn, even if those contacts weren’t listed as references.

    Plus, even if you don’t get caught in the lie right away, it’s going to be pretty embarrassing if you get the job and then have to admit that you don’t actually know something you claimed was one of your greatest strengths.

  • Don’t exaggerate. In most situations, it’s better to undersell and over-perform than vice-versa. You don’t want to set high expectations and then fail to meet them.

Follow-Up Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Not only is it a great idea to brainstorm some follow-up questions to ask the interviewer, but it’s also considered good interview etiquette.

Ideally, you’ll have a chance to tie these questions into your strengths, but it’s difficult to plan a smooth transition when you don’t know what kind of pace the hiring manager will set, which questions will be asked, and in what order, so it’s always good to be prepared for anything.

A few sample follow-up question examples that you can correlate to your strengths:

  1. In your opinion, what are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this job/position/company? Depending on the answer, cue a relevant experience you can share that demonstrates those qualities and shows that you’re a good fit for the position.

  2. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges in this job? Not only does this help you prepare for any unforeseen surprises before you’re hired, but it also may give you the opportunity to segway into a discussion about how you’ve overcome similar challenges in the past.

  3. Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years? Suppose a hiring manager is going to ask where you see yourself in the next five years.

    In that case, it’s only fair that you have a good idea of where the company is likely going to be in that time, and this would also be a great opportunity to talk about the strengths you can offer to help the company achieve that goal.

  4. Can you discuss the projects that will need to be immediately addressed by the person you hire for this position?

    It helps to know if you’ll be going through a trial by fire or slipping seamlessly into a well-oiled machine, but this question also potentially sets you up to talk about how you can apply your strengths to quickly tackle these early projects with efficiency.

  5. Can you tell me more about this job’s day-to-day responsibilities? This will help to give you a better insight into what specific skills the company is looking for so you can tailor your reply and address any relevant strengths you haven’t already covered.

List of Strengths for Job Interviews

Good examples of professional strengths that you can list in a job interview, resume, and cover letter:

  • Action-oriented

  • Assertive

  • Collaborative

  • Committed / Dedicated

  • Creative

  • Detail-oriented

  • Determined

  • Empathetic

  • Entrepreneurial

  • Focused

  • Good listener

  • Leader

  • Lifelong learner

  • Honest

  • Innovative

  • Open to constructive criticism

  • Passionate

  • Patient

  • Respectful

  • Team player

  • Time Management

  • Versatile / Flexible

In some instances, it’s a good idea to provide plenty of contexts, especially if you’re highlighting strengths that may be good in small doses but become weaknesses in excess. For example, being detail-oriented is good. But being too detail-oriented and losing track of time sweating over the small stuff is not.

List of Weaknesses for Job Interviews

Reflecting on your past failures and points of struggle isn’t much fun, but if a hiring manager is asking about your strengths, chances are he or she is going to be asking about your weaknesses too, so you need to be prepared for that question.

Interviewers ask about your weaknesses to determine your ability to self-reflect, handle criticism, view your performance objectively, and gauge your level of motivation toward self-improvement.

Some examples of weaknesses you can discuss in an interview include:

  • Afraid to ask questions

  • Disorganized

  • Inability to balance workload

  • Introvert

  • Lack of confidence

  • Limited experience

  • Overly competitive

  • Poor communicator

  • Poor delegation skills

  • Procrastinator

  • Self-critical

  • Uncomfortable with public speaking

  • Tendency to take on more responsibility than you can handle

  • Too detail-oriented or not detail-oriented enough

  • Too focused or unfocused

  • Uncomfortable taking risks

Example Answers to “What Are Your Greatest Strengths?”

Remember to be humble, not braggy. Your response to this question needs to be approached objectively — State what you do well while also tying your strengths into your personal goals as well as the company’s growth and development goals.

  1. Leadership has always come naturally to me ever since I was a kid. With more than a decade of experience working in sales, I consistently exceed my KPIs and have been promoted three times over the last two years.

    I know I wouldn’t have been able to hit those goals every quarter if I hadn’t built, upskilled, and guided my teams to keep pushing their limits. Building upon my leadership skills and advancing into higher management positions are important personal goals for me.

  2. Collaboration in a team setting has always been where I’m most comfortable and productive. I’ve directed multiple teams in a variety of different projects and end goals.

    Since I assumed the role of manager for my current team, I’m proud to have improved employee retention by more than 50% and productivity by 18% over the last four years.

  3. I’m a good listener with an empathetic personality that makes it easy for me to connect with people and understand their needs. One specific incident that I feel puts these traits into context happened when I was on a support call with a customer who had lost her job and could no longer afford our rates.

    There was no way our company could meet her needs within her new budget, but rather than dismissing her, I discussed various other options, including some of our competitors who might be able to offer her reduced coverage and a lower rate than we could offer.

    In her feedback survey, she thanked us for our patience and understanding, and she praised the company for caring about the people they serve. She finished by saying she would continue to recommend our services.

    Many of my interactions with customers end this way. I am quick to explore every solution available within company policy, but if I can’t help, I still want to leave the customer feeling positive with additional resources.

  4. I’m highly organized and never miss a deadline. I take great pride in my work. In the last ten years working as a project manager, I’ve had only one late product launch, which taught me a crucial lesson about trade-offs when I had to dedicate extra time to correct a critical design flaw.

    Consequently, the delay pushed everything else back into the schedule, but it was a valuable learning experience. It gave me the opportunity to work on my communication skills when I had to let the stakeholders know about the upcoming obstacles.

  5. I have strong technical writing skills. Varying my sentence structure and using strong adjectives comes naturally to me, and with nine years of experience as a copywriter in several different industries, I’ve learned to find a balance between creativity and analytics.

    A strong writer can have a profound impact on the bottom line when it comes to advertising and PR in addition to other aspects of the company’s day-to-day function. I’m confident that my writing skills can fulfill your needs.

  6. I’m thorough and persistent in everything I do. To stay organized, keep track of project details, and meet my deadlines, I regularly make to-do lists and schedules so I can stay on track. This positive feedback is frequently listed in my peer and management feedback.

Final Thoughts

Interviewers know that talking about your strengths and weaknesses can be an uncomfortable topic for many candidates. But if you’re prepared for the question with well-thought-out replies, you’re going to have a major advantage.

Planning ahead will help ensure you tailor your strengths to reflect the needs a company is looking to fill. If you’re caught off guard with a question, just remember to be honest and be humble.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

Expert

Denise Bitler, CPRW, CDBW, MRW

Denise Bitler has 30+ years of HR experience working in various industries and with all level of employees from hourly through C-suite, as well as company Board Members.She is the founder of Resume-Interview Success, LLC and is an expert in best practices related to resume, cover letter, and Executive bio writing, LinkedIn Profile optimization, job search strategies, and interview coaching.

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