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"What are your greatest strengths?" is one of the most common and seemingly simple interview questions to answer. But people often screw up by not adequately preparing or strategically planning their response. The answer to this question gets to the heart of one of the interviewer's core underlying questions, which is "Why should I hire you?"
Because the strengths question is so common, you should arrive at an interview prepared for this one. By doing your homework, you can show up armed with strong support for why an employer should hire you. The first step is to complete a strengths or skills assessment. List every strength, ability or quality you have that an employee would value. Then compare that to the job description's responsibilities and traits. Identify the three or four best matches between your abilities and the ideal candidate's traits.
Give Proof Statements
Don't just state your strengths; give proof statements that include examples. If the employer wants someone with excellent customer service skills, you might say, "My extensive retail background in companies that took a customer-first approach has helped me gain a customer-centric mindset." This statement not only supports that you have customer service skills; it also gives credit to your employer, which reflects well on your humility and positive attitude.
Each of your strengths should be focused and practical. While a general, all-encompassing attribute like "kindness" or "hard working" sounds nice, it may not offer the hiring manager something tangible that connects to the job. For an accounting position that requires detail orientation and accuracy, you might say, "I have always placed strong emphasis on precision in my role as a bookkeeper. Mistakes in accounting can lead to financial or legal problems for a company." This response not only reveals a strength, but it shows awareness of its benefit to the company and position.
Some people struggle with the notion that glorifying their own strengths is bragging. One alternative is to present your response from a third party's perspective. Instead of using an "I" statement, you might say, "Other people have told me" or "In my last job, I received consistently strong reviews on my leadership abilities." Not only does your answer reflect the perspective of others familiar with your work; it shows tangible support from reviews that you have leadership skills.
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Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.
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