“What is your biggest strength” is one of the most common interview questions. Navigating it should be straightforward, but it can be a deceptively tricky question to answer.
This basic question will tell the interviewer a lot about you and whether you’re the right candidate–or, more importantly, a stronger candidate than others who are also qualified. So, it’s a good idea to spend time planning out how you might respond to this interview question ahead of time.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
Interviewers want to understand whether your greatest strengths are the same ones that are the most essential to succeed in the role. If communication is the most important skill to the interviewer but you spend your answer talking about your strong creativity, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not qualified. However, it could indicate you won’t have a strong enough focus in the area that’s most critical to success.
Interviewers also want to gauge whether you understand your own strengths. If you hold an entry-level job and talk about what a great leader you are, it’s probably a sign that you’re a bit lacking in self-awareness.
What hiring managers look for in an answer
When they ask about your greatest strengths, interviewers aren’t looking for you to tick off a list of positive qualities, bullet-point style. Instead, they want to hear in detail about one or two of the strengths that best characterize you as a worker. You should be prepared to give real-world examples to support the strengths you choose.
If you’re unsure about your greatest strengths, think about the various jobs you’ve held in your career. What one or two qualities have defined your performance in every position? These are the best options to zero in on.
Here are some strengths that are good choices to mention for most positions:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Strong work ethic
How to answer the interview question “What is your biggest strength?”
Choose your answer wisely
While it’s important to be honest–you don’t want to say you’re a master organizer if you’re notorious for your disaster of a desk–it’s also important to pick strengths that are relevant to the job. Make a list of three to five strengths you would feel comfortable talking about, then compare it against the job description to see where they overlap.
Give a specific example
Choose one or two of the top strengths from your list above and think of an anecdote from your professional life that demonstrates that skill. The best examples are those where you can show a measurable outcome–a financial gain, the successful completion of a project, and so on.
Focus on how it’ll benefit the company
Once you’ve given the real-world example of your strength, bring it back to how it will benefit your prospective employer if you’re. Use a phrase like “This skill would be an asset to me in the role of X because…”
How not to answer
Your answer should be matter-of-fact, not boastful. Avoid answers that come across as showboating, like “if it weren’t for me, the whole project would have been a flop.” The same goes for firing off a list of strengths ad nauseum.
Choosing an irrelevant strength
Your impeccable proofreading skills are probably not that important to a company that’s looking for a lead salesman. Prepare answers that speak to the top qualifications called for in the job posting.
By choosing a strength that’s aligned with the job and that you can support with a strong example, you’ll show your interviewer that you’re competent and capable in the areas that matter most to them.
After asking about your biggest strength, the likely follow-up question will be “what is your biggest weakness?” so be prepared to tackle it next. We cover that interview question here.