"What is your greatest strength?" may seem like one of the easier job interview questions you'll be asked. But for many candidates it can be tricky—either they're too modest in their response or they don't highlight those strengths that most closely match the job requirements.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
The main reason interviewers ask this question is to identify whether your strengths align with the needs of the company and the job's responsibilities. The company wants to learn whether you're a good fit for the role you're interviewing for. The goal of the interviewer is to make a match between your credentials and the skills needed to succeed in the job.
Your response will help the employer decide whether or not you are the strongest applicant for the position. That means if you're applying for an accounting job, it's not helpful to highlight that your strength lies in event organization.
When you are asked questions about your strengths, discuss 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. There are certain strengths that all employers seek in the candidates they hire. Others will be specific to the job and the company.
Mock Interview: "What is Your Greatest Strength?"
How to Answer "What is Your Greatest Strength?"
How should you answer questions about your strengths? The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience you have that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.
Be prepared to answer by making a list of the criteria mentioned in the job posting and then:
- List your skills that match those the employer is seeking. This list can include education or training, soft skills, hard skills, or past work experiences.
- Narrow down your list of skills to three to five particularly strong skills.
- Next to each skill, note an example of how you have applied that strength in the past.
This will prepare you for when the employer asks you to elaborate on a particular strength, and you'll be able to share examples with the interviewer.
When you answer, you will be sharing strengths that match the qualifications the company is seeking.
Also incorporate into your responses these power words, which help to make a good impression. The more closely your skills match the stated job requirements, the more likely you'll be to get a job offer.
Examples of the Best Answers
Review these examples of the best answers to questions about your strengths, but be sure to tailor your responses to your credentials and to the role requirements.
I have a solid work ethic. When I'm working on a project, I don't just want to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule. Last year, I even earned a bonus for completing my three most recent reports one week ahead of time.
Why It Works: Sharing an example of how your strengths contribute to job success is a good strategy. It shows the hiring manager why you’re qualified.
I have extremely strong writing skills. Having worked as a copyeditor for five years, I have a deep attention to detail when it comes to my writing. I have also written for a variety of publications, so I know how to shape my writing style to fit the task and audience. As a marketing assistant, I will be able to write and edit press releases effectively and to update web content with accuracy and ease.
Why It Works: This response shows how the candidate’s flexibility, strengths, and accomplishments can be used in a variety of ways.
I am a skilled sales representative with over ten years' experience. I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter by at least 20%, and I've earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.
Why It Works: If you can share quantifiable information that validates your strengths, it will help the interviewer understand how much you have to offer were you to be hired.
I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve potentially difficult situations. With five years' experience as a customer service associate, I have learned to understand and resolve customer issues effectively. On a related note, I also have strong communication skills, which help me to work well with customers, team members, and executives. I am known for being an effective team member with a talent for giving presentations.
Why It Works: This response highlights several strengths, and shows the interviewer why those attributes are essential for success in the job.
My background as an English major will certainly help me succeed in the job. I restructured, edited, and wrote the employee newsletter for the hospital and in particular showcased employee profiles and contributions. Our surveys indicated that the new format was more appreciated and more widely read by staff, and helped to build morale. I also rewrote major sections of the employee handbook to simplify the language.
Why It Works: This answer works well because it shows strengths in action. It provides details on two different projects, including what was involved as well as the outcomes.
Tips for Giving the Best Response
Prepare a response: Creating a list of your strengths (as they relate to the job) will help you to answer this question with confidence.
Discuss your key strengths: Stay focused on a couple of key strengths that relate directly to the position and the company. A focused, relevant answer with one or two examples will impress your interviewer.
Share what you have to offer: Keep your answer to-the-point and focused on the attributes you will bring to the job and the company. Your goal is to sell the company on why you're the person they should hire.
What Not to Say
This is not the time to be humble. While you don't want to exaggerate your strengths, you should be comfortable articulating what makes you an ideal candidate. On the other hand, you do not want to answer this question with a laundry list of vague strengths. And neither do you want to seem boastful or arrogant.
As with any interview answer, it's best not to ramble or speak for an eternity. Here are examples of answers that you shouldn't give:
- I am probably the most gifted applicant you will ever meet. Everyone says that I am extremely intelligent, hard-working, and a fabulous communicator.
- My greatest strengths are writing, project management, quantitative research, event planning, budget development, and social media.
- I'm a talented musician, the life of the party, and a great joke teller. I roll with the punches and don't take defeats too seriously.
- I should tell you about the time when our fraternity was under pressure. The president had mismanaged some money, and a lot of the brothers had gotten into trouble for hazing and partying too much. The dean called all the officers into her office, and they had a hearing about all our transgressions. I took over the leadership and turned things around, and we are now a well-respected fraternity with no problems.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- What is your greatest weakness? - Best Answers
- How did your strengths help your job performance? - Best Answers
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? - Best Answers
- What can you do better for us than the other candidates? - Best Answers
WRITE A RESPONSE: You don’t need to memorize an answer, but if you write out a few ideas of what you want to say, it will make it easier to answer the question during the interview.
FOCUS ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS: Focus your response on which of your accomplishments most closely match the employer’s requirements.
PITCH YOUR CREDENTIALS: The interview is an opportunity to sell your credentials to the hiring manager. When you respond, be prepared to show why you’re the best fit