This tricky question might seem both easy and complicated to answer at the same time. At first glance, “What is your greatest strength?” looks simple and does not demand too much by way of a response. The sad truth, however, is that candidates of different temperaments and backgrounds answer it differently. The modest candidates are usually too brief to highlight their best skills and traits, while the more self-assured ones may go too far and turn their answers into boasting.
What is the interviewer interested in?
The primary intention of asking this question is to figure out whether the candidate is on the same wavelength as the company. The second reason for asking is to verify the candidate’s ability to handle the required tasks. The roles in tech are as different as in any other field, and the skill sets vary for each job, so there is no combination that will fit all the vacancies on the market.
Again, the primary goal of this question is to identify qualities and check off the necessary ones the candidate has to make sure this person is the perfect fit. That being the case, the candidate should think of the personal traits that might meet the needs of the employer and help themselves survive in the new role.
How to formulate an answer
First, think of the job you are applying for, and make your answer relative to that position. You might think it difficult to improvise and give the correct answer off the top of your head, but don’t worry—there is a way to prepare beforehand.
1) Look through the requirements in the job posting and brainstorm a list of complementary skills you might already have. Try to look at your daily job from an outside point of view and note down what you are good at.
2) Highlight your strongest skills. Don’t limit yourself to a single skill, but a few will be enough.
3) Think of an example of when you applied these skills in real life. Don’t make it a long story, though—keep it to around five sentences in length.
4) Mention the impact you had on the situation.
5) Make a draft of your potential reply. Writing it out will help you remember it better and sound more confident. Pay attention to the wording and do your best to make a good impression. Skip exaggerating words and intensifiers like “very,” “extremely,” “super,” “completely,” etc.
A brief preparation will help to smooth the tension and answer this tricky question firmly without leaving a single doubt about your competencies. There are cases when your confidence matters more than your answer, and the way you hold yourself often wins over the interviewers.
A few examples of top-notch answers
Below we’ve listed are a couple of nicely composed answers. Don’t try to learn them by heart, because the best answer for you is personal. But you can use the provided replies for reference.
I’m a punctual person and I keep all deadlines. I often aim not only to do everything in time but also complete things a bit ahead of schedule, which benefits team X. Last month I was able to complete Y number of reports beforehand and got a monthly bonus for my efforts.
I am attentive to details when it comes to analysis. I’m a visual person and this helps me spot the differences and updates very quickly. Last week I managed to spot the UI changes immediately on an adaptive design and marked them in the bug report. My manager was very happy we noticed it straightaway because other teams would have likely had a lot of trouble with that later.
I used to work as a sales representative for some time, and I know how important it is to understand the product well. I’ve closed many deals successfully through proper presentations and knowledge of the client's needs. I believe my experience in the X industry will help me make a valuable contribution to your project.
My experience in customer service helps me communicate issues in a clear and concise way. I am able to focus on the existing problem and find the solution, patiently searching for the most acceptable compromise for both parties. The clients I worked with were often satisfied with the solutions I suggested and gave highly positive feedback on my consultations.
I believe my ability to learn is my biggest strength. I’m a focused person and pay close attention to my professional growth. Throughout the last year, I completed a Udemy course on . This helped me to improve my performance and I was promoted to a mid-level position earlier than I expected.
Things to avoid
It can be natural to feel uncomfortable while explaining why you are the candidate who best fits this role. You may even experience the feeling that you are exaggerating or talking too much about yourself and thus cut your answer off too early—something you want to watch out for.
A few more things to avoid include:
- Mind your arrogance level and avoid boasting about your wins. Your tone matters.
- Avoid overly vague answers. Make the story of your strength brief and specific.
- It’s not a good idea to list too many “strengths” or use phrases like “I’m the most…” or “I’m clearly the best at…,” etc.
It is also great if you can record yourself and listen to your answer. Or, ask someone else to listen to your answer and then share their feedback with you.
The key to the best response
Start with preparation. Brainstorm your strengths and write them down. Moreover, some brainstorming beforehand will help you sound more confident during the interview.
Be authentic. Each of us is a unique person, and you definitely have unique things to share. Avoid common answers interviewers hear every day.
Compare your strengths with the job requirements and pick a few that match the job description. Out of that list, focus on two-to-three examples.
Provide an example. Listing out your strengths is okay, but it’s usually not enough. You have to provide a sort of “proof” of your skill, so don’t forget to relate a good story in which you used that skill.
Underscore your impact. Your example should be relevant to your future job and highlight the value you bring to the company. Keep in mind that your aim is to persuade your interviewer to hire you.
Trust yourself and be honest. Look back at your experience and spot the skills that help you do your job well. Usually, soft skills are the very strengths you are searching for. If you are still either struggling or are not sure about the ones you have picked, ask the people you know for their input.