Best way to answer the interview question –  What are your strengths?

Job interviews can be nerve-racking, so it is important to prepare for them thoroughly – not just in terms of researching the company, but ensure you look at the job description in relation to what the company does, and think about how the duties may relate to the industry the business operates in.  From this prepare some common interview questions that you may be asked, so that you’re able to give clean, polished answers.  Preparation will give you peace of mind to perform better at the interview!

Why do interviewers ask this question?

This is a common interview question, the response to this question should be aligned to the needs of the company and job responsibilities.  In answering this question, you are clarifying to the interviewer if your strengths are a good fit/required by the company.  Therefore, it is always best to prepare before the interview as the question isn’t as simple as one might think at first.

Common mistakes when answering this question

So, you’re really eager and want the job, some of the mistakes many make in answering this is:

  • Giving a list of strengths to the interviewer that may be generic and have no relevance to the position or the company. Focusing the answer on one or two examples will be more informative, interesting and impressive.
  • Being too modest and not giving much away will not allow you to stand out from the crowd. Your developments and achievements should be discussed, along with anything that didn’t go well which you recognised and moved forward by working on this to continue your achievements.
  • Long-winded answers can sound unfocused, ensure you answer in a structured manner, questions should be answered within 60-90 seconds with examples.

How to answer well

In order to answer the question well, you need to find out what your strength/s really are. First, you need to understand the meaning of strength as it can be confused with ‘skills’.  Skill is something that is learnt, whereas, strength is something you are born with.  Strengths can lead to other strengths which is why it is an important interview question, i.e. playing an instrument means being disciplined, creative, persistent and loyal.  If your strengths are cooking, this can lead to being good at following instructions, being creative, having a knowledge of different foods and ensuring good presentation skills.

To prepare for the question, think about the things you love to do, recall any praise/feedback you’ve received, look at the strengths of other people in similar roles and yourself and see if you have these.  Thinking about how these strengths relate to the job description and company will impress the interviewer.

It is recommended to use to STAR method to answer questions – explain the Situation, explain the Task, what Action you took and what the results were.

Examples that work and why

Preparing questions and practising your answer is so important prior to an interview.  In preparation think about giving examples that highlight your strengths, examples make it easier to answer a question and can give the interviewer more insight into how you work and what you’ve had to get involved in, and how confident you are in the duties due to your experience. Real-life examples will help your responses feel natural and unscripted.

Examples of answers:

  • Adaptable to change: Last year I was asked to work at a different location to my usual one, this new location is one that I was aware that other staff have refused to work at due to the issues with residents that reside there and high risk of challenges faced by staff.  I accepted the work there as there was no one else to go, I decided to be mindful of comments I had heard from other staff but also to keep an open mind.  I risk assessed my environment, spoke to the staff at the location to get as much information as possible,  and I took time out to talk to residents but was firm when required so that they didn’t get away with anything just because I was new to the location.  I also spoke to my colleagues at my original site when I was there and spoke about the residents and the positive experiences I had, I explained why negative experiences occurred and what had been put in place so they had a better opinion of the site.

This example shows how the employer benefits from the employee but also demonstrates further strengths of wanting to help others from their experiences and creating a positive impression about other sites.

  • Attention to detail: dealing with payroll, I need to ensure all details are correct before processing to avoid unhappy staff and queries on payday. I like to organise my workload and ensure all relevant data is received and query any differences with managers and question any inaccuracies.  Before submitting payroll, I will recheck, I have also created a spreadsheet with notes for each month of payroll so if there are any queries in my absence, these can be answered by referring to this spreadsheet.  So far, 9 times out of 10 payrolls has been processed without any errors.

This example shows the employee has good attention to detail but also has other strengths like good organisation, has relationships built to challenge and communicate with managers and is good at forward-thinking, for example, the creation of the spreadsheet.

List of other questions that may relate to your strengths

  • What strengths would you bring to the company?
  • What are your greatest professional strengths?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment or the project you’re most proud of completing?
  • What do you do best in your current position?
  • What would your co-workers say is your strongest area of expertise?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What makes you a good fit for the company?
  • What do you feel sets you apart from the competition?
  • What traits do you have that make you suitable for the role?

Some interviewers will ask what your weaknesses are in the same sentence as your strengths.  To answer this question, again you need to prepare because the interviewer doesn’t just want a list of your weaknesses.  Interviewers want to see if you can recognise your own weaknesses and what you have done or are doing to turn these into strengths.  For example, you may not be good at conducting presentations, but to turn this around, you have booked yourself on a train the trainer course or you may be shadowing a training to gain your confidence around large groups of people.  Remember just because you have weaknesses it doesn’t make you a bad candidate!


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