What are your strengths?
You want to be asked “What are your strengths?” or a variation of this question when at interview. It is a great open question which gives you a lot of scope to showcase your best points.
To answer this question well spend time carefully preparing your answer beforehand. You don’t want an exact script, but you do want to have the bullet points to include firmly in your head.
Don’t provide a long list of statements such as I have good time management, I am determined, I am good at managing people … without providing examples or any more detail to your statements. Anyone can do this after reading a list of desirable strengths.
Rather chose 3-5 of your best strengths and talk in some depth about them with the interviewer.
When an interviewer asks “What are your strengths?”, what are they trying to find out?
The interviewer wants to understand what skills, character traits and experiences you believe are your strongest points.
What you choose to talk about can say a lot about you, particularly when compared to which strengths the other candidate chose to talk about.
- Do your strengths line up with what the manager thinks is needed for the role?
- Have you looked at the job specification and talked to the key requirements?
- How do your strengths compare to the other candidates?
The strengths you chose to highlight should be core requirements of the role if you want to progress with your job application.
The interviewer will be assessing how you come across, your confidence level and how well you communicate.
Make your answer relevant to the employer’s problems
Spend time to understand what the employer is looking for. i.e. what is the problem or set of problems they have. When you understand this, even at a high level, you will be able to give answers that are relevant to the employer.
The more relevant your answer, the more interested they will be in hiring you.
For example, if as a hiring manager, my problem is that I don’t have anyone to create and manage the company’s Financial Reporting and in interview you are talking about your experience in working with operations teams, I will not be very interested. If you talk about your Financial Reporting experience and strengths, I will be very interested.
To get the job offer, you need to demonstrate that you have already solved the problems the hiring manager has, and you can solve them again.
To find out what these problems are, go through the job advert carefully, take note when the recruiter is describing the role (and make notes) and spend time researching the company. Also think about the problems you have seen that are faced by this role.
How do I decide my best strengths?
One of the best ways to “find” these is to think about your current and previous roles. Think about what you enjoyed, what you were complimented about, what your colleagues or friends say about you. Which projects, big or small, were a great success.
What character traits helped you be successful in your work, projects or out of work?
Choose several of these skills, character traits and experiences. Create a short story for each which demonstrates why the strengths you have chosen are valuable to the potential employer.
Always frame your answers in terms of how these strengths help the company in which you are working.
Always include examples in your interview question answers
If you state to an interviewer that you can solve a problem, then the interviewer will be interested in understanding more. If you can prove that you have solved the problem and can do so again, they will be interested in hiring you.
All candidates make statements during interviews. The problem the interviewer has is working out which candidate is the best at solving the problem. Even if you make your statement with total confidence, the interviewer will still have some doubts if you can actually deliver what you say you can.
Good interviewers look for proof. In the interview setting, the proof is in the examples that you provide. The better candidates always provide examples.
Great candidates provide clear, well-structured, highly relevant examples.
Example Answers for “What are your strengths?”
I am a very determined person, keen to learn and have good people skills. A good example that demonstrates this is when I was working in customer service and I was always given the most difficult customers or problems to solve. We had a policy of no returns after 14 days after the purchase date. This left is with quite a few angry customers who didn’t shop this us again.
I brought this problem up with the management team and suggested that we be given discretion within a framework to take returns after this date. This idea was dismissed initially. I didn’t lose heart and thought about how I could reposition my suggestion.
I looked through the data on the customers that had complained in the past and 73% had not made another purchase in 6 months. I persuaded the management team to let me do a trial with a more flexible approach. This reduced the number of customers that did not buy again in the next six months to under 20%.
Sales increased as a result in our department by 11% and profits by 18%. I was given a nice bonus.
I have strong team management skills, am good at managing projects and wider team expectations. A good example of this is when I was asked to deliver a new ERP system for the company. This required educating 53 users on how the new system was going to work, designing a ton of new processes in and outside of the system and getting 3 departments on board and getting board signoff for all the changes that we proposed.
Once the planning stage and signoff was completed, I worked closely with my team and the various departments over the critical stages of the project. We had to get all our data organised in the right way and make sure it was complete. Then we had to train the 53 users and test the system while doing so.
The investment in the project was considerable for the company, so I spent a lot of time with the board members and department heads to make sure all key needs were met, everyone stayed informed and we kept of schedule.
My team and I delivered the project within the time frame we had set out and 5% under budget. The system allowed the company to grow by 20% the following year with only a 3% headcount increase and increase the gross margin with better product mix.
Make your answers structured, clear, credible, and relevant to get job offers