Interview Question: What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

How to successfully answer this interview staple

Intern candidate in interview
••• Klaus Vedfelt/Riser/Getty Images

What are your greatest strengths is one of those questions that you can expect to be asked in almost any interview. Although the answer to this question may seem easy enough, it pays to be prepared when answering any interview question. This brings me to the importance of practice prior to interviewing for an internship or job. It’s important to remember that you only have about 60 seconds to make a positive first impression, so it’s extremely important to start and end your interview on a strong note with a smile, direct eye contact, strong handshake, and a statement like, “it is so nice to meet you and thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss this exciting opportunity”.

When asked by students how they can best prepare for an interview, I always say practice, practice, practice. Practicing with a friend or relative that you trust can be very helpful, but if no one is around, be sure you take the time to practice out loud to get your thoughts out there prior to being face-to-face with the interviewer and making mistakes that could have been avoided.

Since this question is often paired with the greatest weakness question, you will want to be fully prepared to answer both questions. These are two key questions that are consistently asked and that open the door for you to give valuable information to the interviewer about your knowledge and skills that make you an excellent candidate for the internship.

Tips for Answering the What Are Your Greatest Strengths Question

  1. Read over the entire job description to get a thorough understanding of the position and the qualifications for the job.
  2. Check out the company website to give you a good understanding of the company, its mission, products and services it offers, and the clientele it serves.
  3. What the company is looking to decipher when asking this question is are you a good candidate for this position and are you the right person that will be the best fit for the organization?
  4. It is your job to convince the interviewer that you have what it takes to be successful and that you are the best person for the job and someone that will fit in with the people and the mission of the organization.
  1. Prepare a list of your strengths and your accomplishments showing how you utilize those strengths.
  2. Ask others what they think your strengths are and you may then want to add some of them to your own list.
  3. Understand the top 10 skills employers want.
  4. Check out the list of what employers value, and add those values that you have to the list.
  5. Focus only on those strengths that are relevant to the job. For internships with vague job descriptions, try to identify core skills that you have that will fit into the type of organization and then identify those skills and values (please refer to #7 and #8) that employers look for and add those that you have as well.
  1.  Answer the question by identifying “keywords” that employers will associate with you once the interview is over; such as, reliable, trustworthy, strong leadership skills, quick learner, and detail oriented, etc. Your goal is to set yourself apart from other candidates, so be prepared to do so when answering ​any interview question.

List of Strengths Valued by Employers

  1.  Honesty/trustworthiness
  2.  Creative
  3.  Excellent communication skills
  4.  Leadership skills
  5.  Intelligent
  6.  Reliable
  7.  Likable
  8.  Positive
  9.  Independent
  10. Problem-solver
  11. Detail-oriented
  12. Hard-working
  13. Team player
  14. Quick learner
  15. Flexible
  16. Passionate about doing a good job
  17. Organized
  18. Strong work ethic

Providing the employer with a list of your strengths that are not relevant to the job is only taking away the short period of time you have to sell yourself and describe what you do have to offer the employer.  Even if you are an excellent photographer or are certified to teach sailing, if these skills aren’t relevant to the job, it’s better to stick to relevant skills that employers will remember.