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To demonstrate that you are the ideal candidate for the job, tout your strengths on your resume and during your interview that employers prize. Landing an interview will put you within arm’s reach of your dream job. Use your interview to reinforce the hiring manager’s already favorable impression of you by modeling strengths, such as effective communication.
Why Strengths Matter So Much
Employers hire on the basis of what you can do, not what you may learn to do. Every day, people interview for hundreds of different jobs, ranging from accountants to zookeepers. Skills listed in job descriptions differ considerably, but proven strengths – leadership, attention to detail, adaptability – are critical to getting many types of jobs.
In a Job Outlook 2019 survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that slightly more than 80 percent of company recruiters listed communication, problem-solving and teamwork as the top strengths they look for in candidate resumes. Knowing which five key strengths to emphasize can help you match your strengths with employer preferences.
Strength Number One: Effective Communicator
Written, verbal and interpersonal communication rank at the top of the list of strengths that most employers look for in applicants. Regardless of your major, you should fine-tune your communication skills through public speaking, writing intensive classes, working on a student newspaper, participating in class and volunteering to help others, for instance.
If you are currently working, develop a reputation at your workplace as a good communicator. Your memos, emails, multimedia presentations and colleague interactions should be polished and professional. Communication skills are essential in applying for jobs and interviewing, too. According to the National Association of College and Employers, recruiters will sit up and take notice if you list communication on your resume.
- Managed social platforms for my division to increase branding and leverage influencers.
- Authored and presented a research paper at a national conference.
- Won award for investigative reporting.
- Used active listening skills and showed empathy when answering calls on a crisis line.
Strength Number Two: Problem-Solver
Problem-solving is a highly desirable strength, especially as companies struggle with the problem of how to stay relevant, trendy and responsive to fickle customer preferences. Basic survival presents both a problem and an opportunity. New hires bring excitement, new ideas and fresh perspectives. Employers fiercely compete for top talent, including new graduates with cutting-edge skills.
Whatever position you seek, you can’t go wrong when talking about your strengths in the area of problem-solving. Share an example of how you solved a problem for your team, boss or company. Yale University suggests using the STAR method to answer questions in an interview that benefit from real-life examples.
Situation: Briefly provide context for a school- or work-related problem you had to resolve or a project you were assigned to lead.
- Example: A key team member required surgery, and the company was counting on my team to meet marketing deadlines for a major product launch.
Task: Identify goals and strategies you formulated.
- Example: As the team leader, I convened the group and proposed a plan for pushing back deadlines on less time-sensitive projects, so we could focus on the task at hand. I used my computer skills to harness the data that our missing team member would have provided.
Action: Outline the steps you took to address the problem.
- Example: I offered overtime for anyone interested in working late that week to help get us caught up. I then developed and distributed a revised plan with reordered priorities and adjusted deadlines.
Result: Quantify your results.
- Example: Although my team was skeptical that we could pull it off, my plan worked, and we managed to finish our work one week ahead of schedule, which made my boss look good at the corporate office.
Strength Number Three: Team Player
An ability to work with others on teams is an important strength that can help you land a job. Even if most of your day is spent on a computer in a cubicle, you are still part of a group that likely meets regularly to discuss goals. Many companies foster a team-oriented culture and look for employees who will actively contribute and engage with other team members. When the group wants to charge forward without considering unintended consequences, introverts can contribute by listening and offering valuable introspective perspectives.
Recall individual contributions you have made as a team player. Ideally, give an example of a time that you took initiative on the team, which is another highly valued strength to list on your resume. Examples from work are best, but you could mention successful team experiences during college if you have only been out of school a couple years.
- I was team lead on an assembly line when management required additional quality assurance measures that caused a bottleneck in production. Most employees, myself included, did not think the change was helpful or necessary. I shared my concerns with my boss, but not my team. I led a brainstorming session with team members to streamline the process and eliminate the bottleneck. I later communicated updates to my team as to the rationale for the change that was tied to new government regulations.
Strength Number Four: Analytical Strengths
Companies rely on data analysts to guide strategic planning and inform critical decisions. Employers need workers who understand and use all sorts of data. Managers rely heavily on data scientists to collect and make meaning of data that teams can use to advance their work. A background in math, statistics or data science is advantageous in beating out the competition for a job.
Include your quantitative and analytical abilities in your resume and interview. Stress analytical strengths that relate to the type of job you’re seeking. Provide verifiable examples in your cover letter, resume and interview.
- My dissertation was a comparative study that examined the correlation between news consumption and negative self-efficacy.
- Proficient in programming languages, including but not limited to: HTML, C++, Python, Java.
- Decreased production costs by 23 percent by eliminating inefficiencies and duplication in weighing and sorting.
- Increased revenue from paid advertising by 25 percent by changing strategies based on study of consumer behavior analytics.
Strength Number Five: Leadership Strengths
Employers look for leadership experience and potential when filling jobs. New paradigms of leadership are emerging to increase organizational capacity for adaptation in a sea of change. The American Council on Education advocates for a leadership model that goes beyond binary labels of “leader” and “follower.” ACE suggests that leadership will be shared, and more decisions will be made collectively.
An interview strengths question is likely to ask you to characterize your leadership philosophy and style. When describing your leadership approach, include examples of shared decision-making, empowerment, delegation of authority and acknowledgement of effort. Gear your answer to the type of leader that would fit that culture.
- My dream job has always been to be on the ground floor of a start-up. I value creativity, innovation and risk-taking. I see myself taking a hands-off approach to supervision as a department head.
- I am well-versed in the 100 policies and procedures of the organization, which I would follow and apply consistently as a department manager.
Many different types of strengths can be useful in a job setting. Workers in the United States hold hundreds of different jobs, each requiring specific strengths and credentials. In April 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified as many as 888 different occupational categories. A specific cluster of skills critical to success is typically listed among the keywords in the advertised job description.
- Looking for an outgoing, enthusiastic and determined sales representative.
- Seeking a calm, respectful and friendly customer service agent.
- Opening for an imaginative, artistic and original cake decorator.
- Reliable, trustworthy, dedicated and patient nanny needed for 3-year-old triplets.
Core Strengths and Competencies
Hiring managers prefer employees who can get along, adapt, grow, lead and thrive. Virtually every job requires some degree of problem-solving. An employee with a pleasant personality is appreciated at every level of the organization. Other universally sought-after qualities are dedication, loyalty, dependability and motivation, for instance.
The key to success is preparing well ahead of time. You should be able to walk into the interview with a good idea of the types of questions you can expect. Be ready to talk about when and how you acquired your strengths.
Handling Interview Strengths Questions
The odds are high that you will encounter an interview strengths question. The hiring manager will ask, “What do you consider your greatest strengths?” Answer the question as it relates to the job you are seeking. In other words, don’t emphasize your math skills if you’re seeking a job that stresses verbal and interpersonal communication skills. You may find it helpful to talk with mentors, former teachers and colleagues in your profession for tips on which particular strengths you should stress for the type of job you are seeking.
Interview strengths and weakness: nursing jobs.
If you’re looking for a job in nursing, mention strengths that were stressed during your training and clinical rotations. In particular, focus on the core areas of nursing such as analytical strengths, problem-solving abilities, communication skills, sound judgement, stress management, cultural competency, communication, physical stamina and emotional intelligence, as identified by Johns Hopkins University. Registered Nursing.org suggests that nurses use examples of their compassionate bedside manner, time management skills, ability to learn quickly and retain information, for instance.
Answers to interview strength and weaknesses in nursing questions should demonstrate self-awareness and commitment to continued professional skills. Choose a skill you are trying to enhance and describe the progress you are making. Avoid using examples of soft skills when disclosing weaknesses. Do not say you have a “so-so bedside manner.”
Interview strengths and weaknesses: teachers.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards establishes criteria that teachers must meet to support student learning. Core standards include student-centered pedagogy, content mastery, ongoing assessment, reflexive practice and engagement in learning communities. Accomplished teachers continually strive to develop strengths in each area. Teacher interview questions focus on academic credentials, work history and strengths that distinguish one applicant from the next.
You may be asked behavior-based questions about your ability to manage classroom behavior, integrate technology into lesson plans and stay current in your field. Interview strengths and weaknesses for teachers’ questions help school districts hire and support qualified teachers. Weaknesses identified in an interview, such as limited experience with Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) tools, can be incorporated into the teacher’s professional development plan.
Other Valuable Strengths to Mention
The Society for Human Resource Management advises job seekers to talk about strengths that will help them become a high performer on the job. SHRM suggests that employers and applicants discuss past achievements that demonstrate behavioral competencies. Past achievements offer evidence of what the employee could potentially offer their next employer. In addition to strengths in leadership, communication, problem-solving, technology and data proficiency, SMHR offers the following examples of strengths that hiring managers value:
- Ethical principles and integrity
- Consensus building
- Planning and organizing
- Customer service orientation
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupation Finder
- NACE: Employers Want to See These Attributes on Students' Resumes
- Yale Office of Career Strategy: Behavioral Interviews
- UC Berkeley Career Center: Interviewing Guide
- WGU: Three Tips to Help You Nail Teacher Interview Questions
- Registered Nurses.org: RN Interview Tips and Advice