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Interview questions: 'what are your strengths?'

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“What are your strengths” is a common competency-based interview question. If you’ve ever done a job interview you’ve probably been asked a variation of this question, but it can still be tricky to answer correctly.

You want to seem humble, not arrogant while still communicating you’re the right person for the job.

If you’re too humble you’ll undersell yourself and the employer might think you’re less competent than you are. But if you oversell yourself, you can come across as insincere.

To avoid either prepare thoroughly and have facts and figures to back yourself up. After all, you won’t get a better opportunity to talk about your skills and show you’re the right match for the job.

What are interviewers looking for?

This one is pretty straightforward. Your employer is asking about your strengths to see if you:

  • Have the skills to be able to do the job
  • Have the right attitude to fit in and work well with your new potential team

In short, the interviewer wants to see if your strengths align with the needs of the company and the job’s responsibilities. Your answer will give an indication if you are the right person for the role.

What should you talk about?

When you are asked questions about your strengths, talk about attributes that will best qualify you for the specific job and set you apart from the other candidates.

It’s important to show the interviewer that you have the qualities the employer is seeking. Use the job spec as your guideline and base what strengths you focus on this.

For example, if you’re applying for a marketing role and one of the responsibilities is “Increase brand awareness through targeted online campaigns” you could speak about your strong organisational skills and use a time you set up a successful online campaign as an example.

How you should prepare

The job spec is your best friend when preparing any job interview answers. Write out what they are looking for (hard skills, soft skills, and past work experience) then beside this, list which of your skills match those of the job spec.

Then narrow down your list of skills to between three to five. Next to each skill, note an example of how you have applied that strength in the past.

This will help you prepare for when the employer asks you to elaborate on a particular strength. Prepare examples for each strength so that you can easily illustrate each.

Examples of sought-after strengths

Different industries and roles will look for different strengths, however, there are some qualities that are sought after across the board.

  • Leadership skills
  • Creative / innovative
  • Resilience
  • Team player – a good attitude & good interpersonal skills
  • Passion
  • Detail orientated
  • Organised
  • Strong IT skills

Finally, as you prepare your response to the “what are your strengths?”, remember to focus on the strengths that will set you apart as a candidate and relate directly to the job you’re interviewing for.

Looking for more job interview advice? Download our free Interview Handbook for a comprehensive guide to everything from how to prepare for a job interview to what to wear and how to wrap things up properly.