Sometimes the most straightforward interview questions are the most difficult to answer.
Although you can never fully anticipate what questions you'll encounter in your job interview, there are a few go-to classics, including the “What are your greatest strengths?” interview question.
At first glance, this may seem like a question you can easily answer on the spot. However, it carries a lot of weight — and it's the perfect opportunity to really impress the interviewer and showcase the value you can bring to the role.
Instead of getting caught unprepared, use this article to help you craft the perfect answer to this question.
What an interviewer wants to hear when they ask “What are your greatest strengths?”
Understanding the why behind an interview question can help you formulate the best answer. Chances are, when an interviewer throws out the “What are your greatest strengths?” interview question, they want to understand:
if your strengths align with the role.
how your strengths will play with the rest of the team.
that you can strike a balance between overly humble and overly arrogant.
your ability to self-reflect.
Because this is such a common interview question, you might hear different variations of it, including:
What makes you the best fit for this position?
What would your references say is your best quality?
What sets you apart from other candidates?
What will you bring to our company?
What is your greatest accomplishment?
What strengths will you bring to this position?
Once you answer the question, the interviewer might ask you a follow-up question. For instance, they might want to hear about a time you really showcased a specific strength or how that strength helped you achieve one of your greatest accomplishments.
How to determine what strength to highlight
Figuring out the strengths you want to highlight can be difficult. To start, here are some examples of strengths you may have:
If you're not sure where to start, grab a copy of your resume and highlight the hard and soft skills you included. If you're a recent grad or are changing careers, focus on your transferable skills that move with you from role to role and industry to industry.
With that, you don't want to just blindly choose which strength to showcase. When you're preparing your answer to this question, study the job description; you'll want to make sure your answer aligns with the role's requirements.
You'll also want to think about the skills that might set you apart from other job candidates. If you're applying to a programming role that requires you to know Java, then it's already a given you have that skill if you're called in for the interview. Instead, talk about your time-management skills or your ability to work well under pressure.
Another example is if you're applying for an administrative assistant role, you don't want your greatest strength to be “offering assistance.” That's a little too obvious; focus on your organizational or communication skills instead.
It's also worth noting interviewers often pair the greatest strength question with the greatest weakness question, so make sure you prepare for that as well.
How to answer the “What is your greatest strength” question (with an example)
When an interviewer asks this question, they're not looking for a one-word answer. You'll want to explain why this is a strength of yours and how it's benefitted you and your company in the past.
Once you pinpoint a couple of your greatest strengths, think about an example of a time you used those strengths and what the outcome was. How did it help your team and ultimately your company?
Consider any concrete results — it can really make your answer shine. If you need help thinking about these scenarios, use the STAR method:
Situation: Briefly talk about a situation or event where you used your strengths. This should be just a couple of sentences — clear and concise.
Task: Outline the task at hand and what exactly you were responsible for.
Action: Highlight what steps you took to ensure the tasks were completed or dealt with. Use these action items to show off your strength.
Result: What was the final result of the situation? Talk about your ultimate accomplishment. If you can, find ways to quantify your success with numbers.
Example: Administrative assistant
One of my greatest strengths as an administrative assistant is my organizational skills.
(Situation) For example, I played a key role in facilitating a big, last-minute move at my previous company.
(Task) We only had a month to move our headquarters across town, and a few of my big responsibilities included ensuring the new space was adequately prepared, scheduling the moving logistics, and acting as a point-person for our 150-person team.
(Action) This required a lot of juggling phone calls and schedules and answering questions. In order to stay organized, I created a spreadsheet in Google Drive. Here, I kept an exact timeline of what needed to be done. I also kept a running list of important contacts involved in the move. I was able to share this information with our team, so we could all be on the same page.
(Result) There was a lot of pressure to complete our move on time, and because I was so organized, we were able to accomplish just that. We actually got out of our old space two days early, which helped the company avoid thousands of dollars in late fees.
It's worth noting you don't have to focus on a singular strength. In this example, the candidate also highlights their communication skills. You might also tie other experiences into your answer. For instance, you could add that you were given this opportunity because you had experience coordinating a large project at a previous company, which shows you've used your strengths throughout your career.
In order to strike the balance between arrogant and overly humble, stick to the facts — just talk about what you did, how you did it, and the final outcome.
As you iron out your responses, you'll want to practice aloud. Grab a friend or family member to help you, or recruit a professional interview coach for expert feedback.
Want some professional insight on how to best answer this interview question? Enlist the help of one of our expert interview coaches today.