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How to answer the “What are your greatest strengths?” interview question

Posted by: NIC Online Date: June 12, 2018 Category: Blog

Written by Arcelia Camacho, PMP

"What are your strengths and weaknesses?" is a common job interview question you need to prepare to answer. People who were taught not to brag about themselves can struggle to answer this particular question. Here’s an exercise you can follow to come up with well-thought answers to this typical job interview question.

Identify your strengths

It is crucial that you start doing this exercise before you start interviewing. Make a list of your skills, dividing it into three categories:

1. Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and work experience. Some examples are languages, industry expertise, specialized knowledge, and technical abilities.
2. Transferable skills: Also called soft-skills, these abilities can be applied to different roles. You acquire them through school training, work and life experiences. Some examples are communication, influencing, negotiation, problem-solving, and planning.
3. Personal traits: Acquired and developed through life, these are unique characteristics that define who you are. Some examples are accountable, diplomatic, flexible, disciplined, creative, formal, easy-going, empathetic, ethical, dependable, punctual, and patient.

Identifying your strengths is an ongoing activity. You can create a list in the cloud and keep adding it to it. Get in the habit of adding strengths to your list after every work-related achievement and incorporate any positive feedback you get from your colleagues and supervisor.

Prepare your strength-stories

For each strength on your list, think of a time you displayed it at work. Prepare specific examples to demonstrate how you have applied your strengths to the workplace. Make sure your build your story using the STAR model.

Here’s an example of a strength-story based on a personality trait:

I am a natural leader. Through my 10 years of experience as a Product Manager, I have consistently exceeded my KPIs and have been promoted 3 times in the past 5 years. After completing every project, I have facilitated 360 reviews sessions with my cross-functional teams and listened to their feedback. As I result, I have fine-tuned my leadership skills and support my teams to do the same. I want to keep doing this in my next role.

Choose 2-3 strength-stories for the job interview

Before the interview, analyze the job posting and choose three to five strengths-stories that match the essential abilities you need to perform well on the job.

Prepare multiple strengths-stories

The interviewer can ask about one or more greatest strengths. That is why you have to prepare at least three strength-stories.  A good strategy is to think of stories that include 2-3 strengths. A short yet complete answer will show the interviewer that you are prepared and focused. As a bonus, you will have more time to ask questions at the end of the interview.

Here’s an example of a multiple strengths-story:

I am patient, analytical, and flexible. In a previous project, I was tasked to create a model based on a set of 800 tables produced by another department. I reviewed them and created a series of risk management related questions. Then, I communicated with all the important stakeholders, asked them to answer my questions and flag any other risks I might not be aware of. I also planned my workload so I could finish a few days before the deadline. When I delivered the model, the other department said they needed to incorporate other variables. Because I had considered this possibility in my risk-management analysis, I was able to tell my colleagues which variables were compatible with the model and the time needed to add them to the model. As a result, I delivered a flexible model that satisfied the changing needs of the company.

Other interview questions about strengths

There are other questions that ask about your strengths. Below are some of them.

  • If I asked your project supervisor, what would they say is your greatest strength?
  • What special quality can you bring to this company/organisation?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you a good candidate for this role?
  • 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?
  • What makes you a good fit?

Job interviews are probably the most stressful part of the job-search process because the job offer is at stake. Preparing a complete yet brief answer to the most common interview questions will boost your confidence, improve your interview performance and increase your chances of landing the job.

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