How to Answer the Interview Question “What are Your Greatest Professional Strengths?”

Tips for answering a question about what makes you a valuable employee.

Maddie Lloydby Maddie LloydGet The Job, Guides - 7 months ago

“So, what do you consider to be your greatest strengths?”

This may seem like one of the easier and more straightforward 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 cornhole 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 interviewer 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.

Deciding Which Strengths to Mention

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’s how you can decide what to tell them:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. What are you 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?

4. How would others describe you?

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 for 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.

How to Prepare Your Answer

Job interviews are not the time for modesty, but don’t just list off a bunch of positive qualities to describe yourself. If you want your interviewer to believe what you’re saying, you need to have proof that you actually possess these strengths. Here’s how you can prepare to show them off:

  • 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. 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 your personal values reflect the company’s, be sure to mention that when talking about your strengths.

This guy must be listening to a great story.

Sample Answers

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:

“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.”

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.

“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.”

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”.

Things to Remember

When preparing your answer, use open-ended questions like this to make your response memorable with stories. Remember that the real concern behind the greatest strengths question is 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.

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