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11 Jan 2021 Austin Belcak

How To Ace Your Answer To “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

You have many strengths. But when an interviewer asks you, “What is your greatest strength?” you don’t just want to choose something at random. The best answers will highlight a strength that’s relevant to the job. And your response should be supported by facts and examples.

Yet, many people do just the opposite. They pick a strength they think sounds good, give a vague explanation, and then stare blankly at the interviewer until they ask the next question.

Why? Because this question seems easy. But don’t be fooled! It’s just as tricky to get right as talking about your biggest weakness. That’s why in this post I’m going to show how to talk about your strengths like an interview expert!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The two most common mistakes candidates make when talking about their strengths in an interview
  • A formula for answering “what is your greatest strength?” in a way that wows the interviewer (along with examples for different strengths)
  • A comprehensive list of strengths you can use to plug into the formula and have an awesome answer every time

Let’s get right to it!

2 Mistakes People Make When Answering “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

Talking about your strengths in an interview can be tricky because it’s easy to unknowingly make one of these mistakes:

  1. You play up your strength too much and come off as arrogant
  2. You’re too modest and downplay your strength

Mistake #1: Sounding Arrogant

You should definitely be proud of the strengths and skills you’ve developed in your career. But you want to come across as confident, not arrogant. Employers could potentially see this as a reason to believe you might be difficult to work with.

Here’s an example of an answer that could be perceived as arrogant:

Bad Example Answer #1

“It’s actually pretty hard to choose just one strength. But, since I have to choose, I’d say that I’m a quick learner. Most things are pretty easy as long as you follow instructions. And in previous jobs, I’ve always been the first to learn how to use any new software or equipment. Even if I’ve never seen or heard anything about it, I can figure it out pretty quickly.”

Why is this answer bad? Here are a few reasons. For one, it seems like the strength “quick learner” was chosen to say “I can be good at anything.” That’s no good, which is unfortunate since picking things up quickly is definitely a valuable skill for any job. Just not when you frame it like this.

This answer is also pretty vague. It wouldn’t give the interviewer a clear indication of how being a quick learner has helped the candidate achieve anything in previous jobs, nor did it provide an example of something that was quickly learned. The interviewer can’t easily imagine how that skill will help the candidate in this new role.

Mistake #2: Being Too Modest

Being modest is definitely better than being arrogant, but it’s a mistake all the same. Why? Because in an interview, you want to sell the idea that you’re the best candidate for the job. Instead, by downplaying your strengths, you give interviewers the impression that you’re unsure of your abilities. This could, ironically, end up being seen as a weakness that a new employer would have to manage.

Bad Example Answer #2

“People always tell me that I’m really good at time management. When it comes to getting projects with tight deadlines done on time, I’m the one my boss turns to. I think it’s because I’m good at breaking tasks down and delegating them to the right people. In college, I always had trouble meeting deadlines. But during the first few years of my career, I realized procrastination was a bad habit I’d need to drop to be successful. So, I put a lot of focus into improving and now I’m pretty much always able to get things done more quickly than anyone else.”

Is this second example answer better than the first one? Maybe, but not by much. Right away, the candidate makes it seem like they’re not really sure of their own strengths. Time management is just what everyone else says they’re good at.

While time management could be a core component to their success in a new role, there’s no way to really tell. The candidate doesn’t share real examples or results of their time management skills. There’s just a lot of self-doubt — at least that’s likely what the interviewer will perceive.

Overall, this answer is unconvincing. As I mentioned before, not being able to know what you’re good at and why actually reveals a weakness. And that’s exactly the opposite of what you should be communicating when answering this interview question!

How To Answer “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

To answer this question well, remember first what the intention is behind all interview questions — to help the employer decide if you’d be a good fit for the job. So, the strength you choose to share and how you talk about it should have that one goal in mind.

Here is a 5-step formula to work from:

  1. Pick a skill that’s both a strength and relevant to the job you’re interviewing for
  2. Describe an example of when and how you successfully used this skill at work
  3. Break down the steps you took in that example to use that skill at a high level
  4. Talk about the results you’ve gotten for an employer by using this skill
  5. Discuss any recognition or praises you’ve received for this skill

Here’s why this formula works.

By choosing a skill relevant to the job, you make it easy for the interviewer to start imagining right away how this skill might be beneficial to their company if you were hired.

Let’s say, for example, you’re applying for a job as a digital marketer. Well, you'll want to focus on strengths in relevant skills like creative thinking, data analysis or SEO. Let’s say you go with creative thinking. You’ll then want to share a scenario that demonstrates that this skill is indeed a strength for you. Perhaps, you developed a creative way to increase sign ups for your company’s service.

That’s amazing! And it’s definitely a good example that demonstrates your abilities with this skill. But it’s still not perfect. Why? Because it’s subjective — it is just your opinion after all — and leaves it up to the interviewer to guess what value having someone with this strength could do for their company.

That’s why you want to close out your answer by sharing the results of how that strength helped you and the company. For example, maybe that creative initiative led to a 10% increase in quarterly revenue for the company.

By using this this 5-step formula to answer the question, your interviewer will be excited about the idea of getting to work with you!

Someone Answering The Interview Question What Is Your Greatest Strength

Example Answers For “What Is Your Greatest Strength?”

So, how do you go from that bulleted formula to your own answer? Easy! Plug in your strengths and the relevant information into this template.

“Greatest Strength” Interview Answer Template

One of my greatest strengths as a [Job] is [Strength].

For example, this past year, I was in charge of [Description of Time You Used Your Strength].

To get the job done, I [Description of Steps You Took to Use the Skill at a High Level].

All of this helped me to deliver [Description of Deliverable], which led to [Quantitative Results Achieved for the Company] and [Any Recognition Earned for Your Work].

Example #1: Team Building Project Manager

“One of my greatest strengths as Project Manager is team building. For example, this past year, I was asked to lead a team of mostly new hires. We had a relatively short time frame to complete a project for a new client. Even though we were crunched for time, I knew that we needed to build trust and camaraderie between members if we were to expect things to run smoothly when things got tight.

So, instead of just delegating tasks and deadlines, I implemented 20-minute team check-in calls at the end of each week so that everybody had a chance to discuss what they were working on, any challenges they were facing, and receive guidance from the team as a whole on how to overcome those challenges. Some of the team members were reluctant to have this weekly meeting at first. But in the end, it helped us complete the project 2 weeks ahead of schedule. My boss was impressed by this. But I was most happy about the praise I received from the members of my team who said they’d never felt so supported and happy at work.”

Example #2: Adaptable Software Engineer

“My greatest strength as a Software Engineer is adaptability. For example, in my last job, I was in charge of developing a new payment software for one of our agency’s clients. It was right around the time that a new programming language had just started being used among the client’s competitors. I knew that while I could likely complete the project using Python, it would be better if learned to use the most innovative method.

So, I asked around for help and studied in my off time so I could use the new coding language to complete the project. My boss was not expecting this. And neither was the client. But this led to that client signing on for several more projects that year and referred us to 3 new high-value clients who were looking for similar work.”

With answers like these, you’re sure to impress any employer. This is how you stand out, are remembered, and receive that follow-up interview or job offer!

List of Strength Topics For Your Answer

If you’ve been reading this without any clear indication of what strength you should choose to mention in your interview, don’t worry! Here’s a comprehensive list of strengths you can choose from to plug into the template above.

  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Adaptability
  • Analytical thinking
  • Assessing outcomes
  • Communication skills
  • Compassion
  • Creative thinking
  • Creativity Data Analysis
  • Dedication
  • Delegation
  • Detail-oriented
  • Determination
  • Diplomatic
  • Discipline
  • Efficiency
  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Flexibility
  • Good judgment
  • Honesty
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Logical thinking
  • Management skills
  • Open minded
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Persuasion
  • Positive attitude
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Respectfulness
  • Responsible
  • Self-awareness
  • Solution oriented
  • Statistical analysis
  • Task prioritization
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Trustworthiness
  • Versatility
  • Writing skills

Final Thoughts

Answering a question about your greatest strength may seem easier to answer than the questions that test your critical thinking skills or technical skills. But it’s just as important to thoughtfully prepare an answer so you leave no doubt in your interviewer’s mind that you’re the best person for the job.

Use the 5-step formula you learned here to give an impressive answer every time!

To really ace your interview, make sure to also check out this comprehensive interview guide to help you prepare for an interview like a top performer. And, after your interview, always be sure to also follow up with a post-interview thank you email so that you really stand out as the candidate to hire!

Austin Belcak

Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.

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