• Zainab Shipchandler, MPH

How to Rock the "Greatest Strength" Question in Interviews

A common interview question is "What is your greatest strength?" Honestly, the entire interview is about promoting your various strengths, even if the actual questions are asking something else. The best way to prepare for this question is to review the job description, identify your strengths that are aligned with the job description, and prepare professional examples to support each of your strengths.

Step 1: Review the job description and select strengths that you can back up with evidence. If you notice there are desired qualities listed such as teamwork, ability to meet deadlines, flexibility, or a specific technical skill that is needed such as data analysis with STATA, then you are in luck. Simply select those from the list that match your strengths. Otherwise, read the responsibilities "between the lines" to identify the strengths the hiring team wants in a candidate. For example, for the responsibility "Report user feedback to the executive team on a weekly basis," you can highlight your presentation skills. If you are not sure what strengths to pick, figure out which ones are easiest to support using your prior experiences.

Step 2: Brainstorm your past professional experiences to select your supporting examples. For each strength you have chosen, quickly list 2-3 examples of when you have demonstrated that strength at work. From those, determine which one you can remember the most detail about and is most relevant to the position at hand. Write out the key points from your examples that will help the interviewer understand what you did and the result. The key is to provide enough context without including any extraneous details that could distract from your point. A good framework is to explain the situation, how you demonstrated your strength, and the positive outcome or feedback you received.

Step 3: Put it all together by practicing your answer out loud. Be sure to time your answer. Each strength and example should take no more than a minute long to explain. If the interviewer has additional follow-up questions they can ask them. Practice answering the question with a trusted adviser to check whether it is clear and relevant to the position and that your strength is well-supported by your example.

Check out some sample answers below. Notice how each example highlights multiple strengths besides the one explicitly stated. The best examples also show that you took initiative above and beyond your regular job responsibilities and that your actions had long-lasting effects.

Sample Answer 1: Organization

"One of my greatest strengths is organization. I was able to utilize this strength in my current role as a Project Manager at Company X. I noticed that my team members would spend unnecessary time finding files on our shared drive. I reorganized all of the files by job function and created a directory so that my teammates could quickly find the files they needed when they needed them. I also trained my team on updating the directory so that the drive would stay organized over time. This increased our team efficiency and also improved my team's morale, overall improving our ability to complete project tasks on schedule."

Sample Answer 2: Customer Service

"I have refined my strengths in customer service through my previous roles. For example, when I worked as a Customer Care Associate at Company Y, I was responsible for handling escalated client inquiries. I once received a call from a client who was clearly upset and needed assistance in resolving a technical error on his account. In order to manage these types of escalations quickly, I had a running list of troubleshooting tips I had compiled from previous customer calls. Since I was prepared from handling similar issues, I was able to confidently address his concern and lead him through the steps to fix the error. My manager was so impressed that she asked me to share my technique with the rest of the team at our staff meeting."

Sample Answer 3: Leadership

"I have developed a strength in leadership through my involvement in the Quality Improvement Taskforce at Company X. I demonstrated leadership by volunteering to represent my team on this Division-wide Taskforce. I then took the recommendations from the Taskforce and led their implementation into our team processes. I set up meetings with stakeholders to learn about their existing workflows, facilitated training, and followed up with my team members to check for issues over the course of the implementation. As a result of my hands-on and collaborative leadership approach, our team was recognized for having a 30% improvement in our quality metrics, which was the highest of all of the teams in our division."

It is ideal to prepare at least 3 relevant strengths with supportive examples for each interview. You can also use extra "greatest strengths" answers for other prompts, such as "Tell me about a time where you overcame a challenge."

What is one of your greatest strengths? What other tips do you have for answering this question? Let us know in the comments below!

#interview #careeradvice #strengths #career #jobsearch


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