Interview Questions: how to answer "What are your strengths?"

By: Darren Wrigley

If there’s one question you need to be prepared for, it’s ‘What are your strengths’. Convincing an interviewer of your many positive qualities will help them evaluate your suitability for the position and could potentially give you an edge over other candidates and really stand out from the crowd.

Knowing your strengths and how they relate to the job you really want could be what tips the balance in your favour – the whole point is to demonstrate that you are better than any other candidate, but without making empty claims.

Understand the key requirements of the job

Preparation starts by studying the job description to identify what assets the company is really looking. This can be a challenge, depending on how comprehensive the information is, but your recruitment consultant should be able to provide some direction and, if you have any contacts in that company, now is the time to find out all you can from them.

Match your strengths

Decide which of your strengths most closely relate to the qualities you’ve identified in the job description. It may be specific skills or knowledge, expertise in a particular area, personal qualities, training or experience. Try and find strengths that are not generic – what do you have that others may not?

Prepare your evidence

It’s not good enough to say that you are capable, you need to be able to demonstrate your capabilities. For every strength you want to find an example of how you’ve used that strength in a business situation. Think about what you did, what happened as a result, how you added value or had an impact in that particular situation – and ensure that each example places each particular strength right at the very centre.

Refer to your strengths throughout the interview

Don’t expect to rattle off a long explanation of your strengths having been asked one question. Concentrate on two or three and then find ways of weaving in others during other questions – it means being fully focused and thinking on your feet to ensure you get across all the strengths you feel are pertinent. Other questions, such as ‘why should we hire you’ or ‘how do you think you’ll fit in’, will all offer the opportunity to convey key strengths.

Sell yourself!

The interview itself is not the time to be modest about yourself, you have to be prepared to say positive things about yourself - in an interview situation no one else is going to do it for you. But make sure you come across as authentic without boasting.

But don’t be tempted to embroider the truth

Discuss strengths that you do actually possess and be accurate in the examples you provide during the interview – claiming to have outperformed every other member of your team in terms of sales is a ‘fact’ that can be followed up. If your employer cannot verify such a claim you will have weakened your chances of securing the job.

Practice, practice, practice...

Working out what you want to say is one thing, actually saying it is another. Ask a friend or family member to take on the role of interviewer so that you can hone your delivery – and get feedback to understand how you come across. There really is a fine line between being confident and showing off.

Some people find it far easier than others to sell themselves successfully, but with a bit of practice – during your personal preparation and in actual interviews – it will become easier and more instinctive to promote your key strengths and qualities.

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