How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Strength?” (With Examples)

By Maddie Lloyd - Jan. 22, 2021
Articles In Guide

Find a Job You Really Want In

Articles In Guide

“What is your greatest strength?”

This may seem like one of the easier and more straightforward of the most common interview questions you’ll run into, but it’s also one of the most important.

When giving your answer, try to stay away from mentioning your perfect bag toss or your ability to run a mile in under five minutes.

This question is an invitation for you to talk about why you’re the best and most qualified person for the job.

Your answer to this question is a great opportunity to let the interviewer know how valuable you are as an employee.

The hiring manager is going to be doing one of two things: trying to figure out if you’re perfect for the job, or if you absolutely won’t fit — so don’t be shy. Continue on to see some tips for answering this job interview question, common mistakes to avoid when answering, and example answers to pull it all together.

Why Interviewers Ask the Question “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

There are a few reasons why hiring managers and recruiters commonly ask this question at job interviews:

  • Determine if your strengths align with the company’s needs. Like most questions you’ll hear at a job interview, a hiring manager is trying to determine if your skill set is what’s required for the open job. The strengths you mention better align with the job description, or you’re not taking full advantage of this question.

  • Set you apart from other candidates. Every candidate has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and some are more or less important to the company and the position they’re trying to fill. While two individuals may have the same resume, the way they talk about their strengths and weaknesses will help a company distinguish between the two.

  • Test your self-assessment. Recruiters and hiring managers are interested to see how self-aware you are as an employee. The best employees are aware of their strengths and leverage them to succeed in the workplace, while knowing when to seek help with their weaknesses.

How to Prepare Your Answer to “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

It’s important to bring up traits that qualify you for the specific job and make you stand out from everyone else.

Talking about your greatest strengths gives interviewers a look into your personality, what you value as an employee, and what you think gives you an advantage over other applicants.

Here are some tips to get you started thinking about how to answer this:

  • Make a list. Write down a list of your skills that line up with the qualifications listed on the job posting. This can include education, training, or past work experiences — jot down notes in your padfolio.

  • Consider soft skills and hard skills, and include a few of each. Soft skills are personal traits you need to succeed in the workplace. Some valuable soft skills are communication, leadership, multitasking, problem-solving, attention to detail, and time management — to name a few.

    Hard skills, on the other hand, are a set of skills that are job-specific and usually learned through education or training. Some common hard skills are writing, web design, computer programming, finance, etc. These are skills that can be evaluated and measured.

  • Determine what you’re best at. Think about the parts of your work that make you feel the most successful.

    What parts of your work do you like the most? What parts of your work are the easiest for you to do – particularly things that seem difficult for other people?

  • Figure out how others describe your strength. What do other people think your strengths are? An outside perspective from a friend or a co-worker can offer insightful and helpful answers. Ask about examples and put together a story.

    The interviewer wants to know what you consider to be your strengths and if they’re relevant to the position — not if you’d be a good party companion or a great fitness coach.

    Job interviews are not the time for modesty, but don’t just list off a bunch of positive qualities to describe yourself.

  • Narrow down your list to 3-5 strengths or skills. The qualities you choose to mention have to be relevant to the job or they won’t matter to the employer.

    The closer a match you are to the qualifications, the more likely it is that you’ll get a job offer.

  • Think of examples of when you’ve used each strength in the past. Being able to tell a story that demonstrates your qualities speaks more than just listing them, while also making you more memorable to the interviewer.

    This isn’t quite a behavioral interview question, but it’s still good to use the STAR method when answering this question (and other common job interview questions).

    When you can show your strengths and weaknesses in context, it shows greater self-awareness and paints a more vivid picture for the hiring manager or recruiter. Just remember to stay on topic — save your party stories for the water cooler.

  • Use your strengths to connect to the core values of the organization. If you can tell a story about how your strengths led to accomplishments in the past, and then look towards incorporating them into your career goals, that’s a winning answer.

Mistakes to Avoid: What Not to Say to “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Before we get into example answers, here are some things you definitely want to avoid in your answer:

  • Rambling answers. We get it, you’re a super-talented individual with a whole constellation of strengths. That’s great, but keep your answer to this question (and most other job interview questions) concise.

  • Exaggerations or lies. The interviewer might look into your references and discover that you have no tangible basis for claiming the strengths you claimed. Plus, why lie to get a job – it’s just going to be embarrassing for everyone when it turns out you’re not as skilled as you sold yourself to be.

  • Accidental weaknesses. If you tell a story about how you stepped up to the leadership position and discovered you were had some serious leadership potential, that’s great.

    But if your story goes on about how you micromanaged every element of the project and were the sole reason for its success, you’ll look like a bigheaded jerk instead of the hero you’re trying to make yourself out to be.

Example Answers to “What Is Your Greatest Strength?” Interview Question

It’s important to think strategically about what specific skills will make you the most qualified person for the job. Here are some examples of how you can use this question to your advantage:

  1. “What Is Your Greatest Strength?” Example Answer 1

    “I pride myself on my excellent time management skills, ability to self-edit, and my attention to detail.

    Working as a writer for a local newspaper, I had to be able to effectively make use of my time in order to meet deadlines. My attention to detail and editing skills allowed me to produce readable and entertaining content for a variety of publications.”

    Why it’s good: This is a good answer because the candidate has mentioned soft skills (time management, self-editing, attention to detail) as well as a hard skill (writing).

    They have told a story about working for a local newspaper to show how they put those skills to use, while also showing that they have written for several other publications.

    Let’s just hope they don’t pull out the manuscript for their novel.

  2. “What Is Your Greatest Strength?” Example Answer 2

    “I’m a highly organized and result-oriented individual with excellent communication skills.

    With my background in teaching at a secondary level, it was imperative that I was able to organize lessons, communicate with and listen to my students, and motivate them to do well in my classes. Because of my proficiency with these skills, students in my classes had a passing rate of 96 percent.”

    Why it’s good: This interviewee has also successfully managed to mention a list of soft skills (organization, result-oriented, communication) as well as a hard skill (teaching).

    They have told a short story about using their skills in their classroom and that these skills have led to the success of their students.

    It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that every class session ended with an applause of “O’ Captain, My Captain”.

  3. “What Is Your Greatest Strength?” Example Answer 3

    “I take great pride in my ability to resolve difficult situations, both internally and with customers. In my past roles in customer service, I’ve always attained a high rate of positive feedback and actually managed 100% customer success reviews in the first quarter of 2020.

    I tie this back to my conflict resolution skills, my ability to be empathetic to all parties, and my knack for staying calm under pressure.”

    Why it’s good: This person displays confidence in key skills necessary for a job in customer service and backs it up with quantifiable accomplishments from the past. They bring in the soft skills that they attribute their past success to and show why they’d be great for the job now.

  4. Final Thoughts

    When preparing your answer, use open-ended interview questions like this to make your response memorable with stories. Remember that the real concern behind the greatest strengths question (and all the rest of the most common job interview questions) is to determine whether or not you are the best person for the job.

    Use this question to your advantage and make yourself seem valuable as an employee with specific details. With some preparation and a little storytelling, you can take advantage of this question and leave a positive impression on your interviewer.

    How useful was this post?

    Click on a star to rate it!

    Average rating / 5. Vote count:

    No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

    Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.

    Author

    Maddie Lloyd

    Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

Find The Best Job That Fits Your Career

Major Survey Entry Point Icon

Where do you want to work?

Related posts