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How to Talk About Your Strengths

Dear Career Tips (How to Talk About Your Strengths)

From Career Tips, 2014 Volume 10, October

Give me your best answer to this interview question: "What are your greatest strengths?"

I know you believe there are no best answers to interview questions, but, I would appreciate whatever response you think would be best to answer this question.

Dear Best Answers:

The interviewer is doing a few things with that question.

  • One is to see if you know how to express yourself well without just bragging, since it's a question that could naturally lead there.
  • Another is to see if you are self aware - do you really recognize your strengths? The examples you give in your answer, and through the rest of the interview, will help to show whether what you SAY are your strengths really are such strengths.
  • But most importantly, how well do the strengths you present align with their needs?

    The best answer to the question is to take this approach:

    "I would have to say that my core strengths are my persuasive communication style, my skill at negotiating vendor contracts on favorable terms, and my ability to turn around under-performing teams - which would you like me to tell you about first?"

    Answering the question this way lets you keep the interviewer more engaged, starting right away to turn the interview from a Q&A session into more of a conversation, and at the same time gives you valuable insight into what's most important to that interviewer by the answer you receive. Then you can follow up with an accomplishment story to illustrate and demonstrate whichever strength is requested.