“What are your strengths?” is a question often asked in interviews. Many candidates do not answer this question well. You should anticipate and prepare for this question as it is an opportunity for you to highlight your capabilities and differentiate yourself.
Interviewers ask this question to determine whether you have the skills and knowledge to do the job, will be an excellent addition to the team, fit with the culture of the organization and have long-term potential.
Candidates frequently do not demonstrate self-knowledge and have not thought about what the role and organization requires. People are frequently not comfortable talking about themselves positively and miss great opportunities to highlight their capabilities and achievements. Sometimes candidates talk about things that are not meaningful strengths e.g., arriving at work on time.
If you have a job description set up a table with two columns. In the left column put the responsibilities and accountabilities, or whatever they call them, and the requirements for the role. You should visit the organizations website to see if you can identify other things they might be looking for (review the Mission/Vision/Values statements.
If you do not have access to the job description or if the company website does not address what they look for in employees, you will have to fall back on what research has identified companies are looking for:
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
- Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell and influence others
Put the three or four of the above that you think are most relevant in the left-hand column.
In the right-hand column identify an experience that you have had that demonstrates that skill.
Be prepared for the possible follow up question “Tell me about a time you demonstrated this capability”. You will need to tell a story about a situation that he used your new techniques.
Respond using the STAR format:
Situation – what was happening.
Task – what you needed to do.
Action – what you did.
Result – what happened.
Suppose you said that leadership was one of your strengths. Here is what your story could look
One summer I worked for a student painting company. I led a team of 6 student painters.
My job was to ensure that projects were completed on time in a quality manner.
Every morning I held a little team meeting and talked about the progress we had been making and whether or not we were on schedule and any problems that had arisen. I talked about what we wanted to accomplish that day and assigned specific tasks to each member of the team. I circulated during the day checking in with team members to see how they were doing and if they were having any problems. If one of the team finished their task early I asked them to help another team member who needed some assistance. I took the team for a few beers when we completed a project and always shared the customer feedback we got with them.
My team was one of the highest rated in the area earning an average score of 4.6 on a 5 point scale.
“What are your strengths?” is a common interview question for which you can prepare. Your response provides the opportunity to showcase you capability relative to the requirements for the role,