What Are Your Strengths: The Best Way To Answer

The job interview question “What are your strengths?” alongside its buddy, “What are your weaknesses?” is a question many people love to hate.

Confident business woman preparing for job interview

Speaking about strengths and weaknesses in a job interview feels borderline unnecessary. 

I used to think so too.

Until I started to recruit employees and realized just how revealing the answers to both these questions is.

Today, I’m going to share with you the real reason behind the question, “what are your strengths?”.

And I’ll show you how to properly prepare for this question by using a 2-step preparation approach.

Lastly, you’re going to learn how super easy it is to formulate an impressive answer to “what’s your strength?” once you’ve done the preparation I’m going to show you.

The “What Are Your Strengths?” Question Is Checking More Than Just Your Strengths

But first, let’s talk about the common mistake people make when answering the “what are your strengths?” question.

Here’s the thing.

When asked to talk about strengths, many people think it’s an easy task.

After all, who doesn’t like talking about their strengths?

The problem is.

The interviewer wants to know MORE than just your strengths when they ask you this question. Much more.

They want to make sure your strengths and accomplishment MATCHES the requirement for the position.

They want to see how you PRESENT YOURSELF (do you brag, or are you humble, what words are you using, etc.).

They’re checking how SELF-AWARE you are.

They’re assessing whether you see your growth and development as something that’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY or the employers.

They’re checking your HONESTY.

Let’s dive in!

This is what’s covered in today’s episode:

(If you prefer to read the video transcript; keep scrolling past this section)

[0:28] Mistakes you might make (without knowing you’re making them) when you don’t prepare for this question.

[1:05] The reason why you are asked the question “what are your strengths” (and it’s not only to check your strengths)

[1:52] The 2-part preparation that will help you nail the answer (and set yourself apart from other candidates)

[2:20] Preparation part 1 walkthrough (+ examples)

[4:42] Preparation part 2 walkthrough (with examples)

[8:02] How to formulate a Top-Notch answer (+ example answer)

CONTENT

The mistake many people make when answering the question “what are your strengths?”

Why interviewers ask you about your strengths
The 2-part preparation that will set you apart from other candidates
  • Preparation step #1 (plus examples)
  • Preparation step #2 (with examples)

How to formulate a top-notch answer (including example answer)

The mistake many people make when answering the question “what are your strengths?”

Many people make the mistake thinking that the question, “what are your strengths” is a question that’s easy to answer, and therefore, they don’t need to prepare. 

Are you one of those people? 

If you are, then you’ll might be in for a surprise when you watch this video, because this is one of the questions that you REALLY need to prepare for…

…and in today’s episode, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that. 

When you don’t prepare properly for the question “what are your strengths”, it is easy to come across as arrogant and especially if you give a short statement like

“I’m a perfectionist”,

or

“I’m a good communicator”,

or

“I’m great at multi-tasking”.

There’s nothing wrong with these replies, but you’re not differentiating yourself.

These are very common answers.

Another trap that you can easily fall into when you’re not prepared is that you are too generic and humble in your answer that it can actually work to your disadvantage. So much so, you think you’re describing a strength, but it ends up sounding like a weakness. 

Why interviewers ask you about your strengths

The reason why you are asked the question “what are your strengths” (and it’s not only to check your strengths)

The REASON you’re asked this question is because the interviewer wants to make sure that your strengths and accomplishments match the requirements for the position.

They also want to get an understanding of how you present yourself. Are you honest? Are you self-aware? Do you see your own growth and development as something that is your responsibility or the employers?

Preparation is critical, so let’s get right to it.  

The 2-part preparation that will set you apart from the other candidates

What Are Your Strength Prepare Answer The Career Upgrade

What I’m going to show you also prepares you for answering the “what are your weaknesses” question, which is another one of those questions an interviewer often asks. Next week I’ll go deeper into how you give an impressive answer to that question, so make sure you’ve subscribed and turned on the notification bell, so you don’t miss that video.

The preparation has two parts. First, you’ll make sure you know exactly what requirements they have for the role. And second, you do a self-assessment on these requirements, so that you know which one of your skills, capabilities or personality traits you should highlight and what to say.

Let’s do an example together.

Preparation part 1 (plus examples)

Here we have a Customer Service Representative job that I found advertised online.  

Let’s start with what they listed as the requirement for the role.

They’ve listed they want someone with two years of call center and customer service experience, so we should write that on our list. (2+ years call center and customer service experience).

Then they’re stating, “strong multi-tasking skills and ability to toggle between multiple screens,” so we write multi-tasking on our list.

Next is “excellent data entry skills,” so data entry goes on the list as well.

We do the same for the last three bullet points, and when we’re finished, the list looks like this.

Now we do the same thing with the “Responsibilities”. This because we want to see if there are any other skills, capabilities or traits they might be looking for, that are not listed in the requirements section.

Here the first bullet point says, “Coordinate services between customers and field engineering staff; will conduct both inbound and outbound calls.” 

So, we can see here that they’re looking for someone that is good at coordinating and that has excellent phone skills, so we’ll write that down. 

The next one is “Appropriately discuss and promote services and products based on customer needs.

Here they’re looking for someone with the ability to explain things and to influence a customer’s decision.

So, we write those down. 

We do this for all of the responsibilities they have listed, so now the list looks like this. 

We now have a good understanding of what they are looking for. That will help us to know which skills to focus on when we talk about our strengths and which to stay away from when we speak about our weaknesses. 

But before we start with our self-assessment, let’s take one more look at the job description and see if we can think of anything else that they may require, that they haven’t listed. But that WE know is going to be needed to do the job well.

So, looking at it again and based on our own experience of working in a call center, we know that it is essential to have excellent listening skills so that the customer feels heard and so that we can accurately assess the situation. They haven’t specified listening skills in the description, but we know it’s important, so we put that on our list. 

What else? 

Well. We know that it can sometimes be frustrating when dealing with customers and that you need to have a lot of patience. This skill is another one they haven’t listed, but that we know is important. So, we add patience to our list too. 

You want to continue doing this until you feel you’ve identified everything they’re looking for. 

Now the list looks like this.

Preparation part 2 (with examples)

When we feel that the list is complete, it’s time to do a self-assessment.

This step is one of the seven preparation steps that I talk about in this video (“How to prepare for a job interview”), where I also go a bit deeper into this topic. If you haven’t watch that video yet, make sure to do that to get a better understanding of how to do the self-assessment. There’s also a workbook that goes along with that episode. I’ve put the link to the workbook below as we will be using it to do our self-assessment.

What the self-assessment entails is you going through each of the requirements that you’ve listed and write down a short answer to the following questions.

  • What’s my current skill level (is it low, medium, high)?
  • What’s an example when this has been a strength in my past?
  • What’s an example when this has been a weakness in my past?
  • What action or actions have I taken to improve this skill?
  • What are the results I’ve had with this skill? Here you want to focus on something tangible for a business. In my video about interview preparation, I’ll go through this in more detail.

You answer these questions for each of the requirements you’ve listed.

Make sure that you’re honest in your self-assessment, that you write real examples and that you keep your answers short and positive. 

We can take one of the requirements as an example.

Let’s use people skills.

I’ve picked this as an example because it is an essential skill to have as a customer service representative. If you look closely at the job description, you’ll see that they’ve indicated this skill many times

Go through the list of questions and write the answers

Let’s assume you are highly skilled in this area, so we can write that here.

Then we should write an example when this has been a strength in your past. So, we may write;

find it easy to build rapport with clients and earn their trust. I go out of my way to make sure each client feels that they are taken care of and assured I will do my best to help them.

Then, we should write an example when this has been a weakness. 

when I was new in customer service, I found it difficult to promote additional services and products because it felt as if I was being pushy.

Next is to write down the action you’ve taken or are taking to improve this skill:                                                   

I’ve taken sales training and persuasion courses and I’ve also developed my own structure for promoting services and products so that it doesn’t feel pushy

The last step is to write what business-related results you’ve had with this skill. 

I’ve been the customer service representative of the month twice this year, which means I had the highest customer satisfaction ranking. I also won the up-sell challenge last month, and I’m on track for winning it this month too”.

It’s up to you if you want to do this exercise for only one or two skills, but my recommendation is that you do it for as many of the requirements as you can.

And here’s why:

Copy of Untitled The Career Upgrade

When a company writes the requirements, they want the ideal candidate to have, there are always some that are more important than others.

An easy assumption to make is to think that the company have listed them in order of importance on the job description. But that is not always the case, so it is difficult to know for certain, what it is they value the most.

Not only that, they may want a combination of skills, capabilities and traits, so if you, like we’re doing in this example, decide to talk about your people skills, and they also want to know more about your time management skills, they’re going to ask you about it.

If you have done the self-assessment on all the requirements they’ve outlined, you’ll be able to talk about any of them with just as much clarity as you’re talking about your people skills.

How to formulate a top-notch answer (including example answer)

Let’s continue with how to formulate the answer to ‘what are your strengths’. 

The best way to structure this answer it is to state the skill, why it’s a skill, and then explain how this skill benefits the business.

Using our example, it could go something like this:

I would say that one of my absolute strengths is my people skills. I find it easy to build rapport with clients and earn their trust. I go out of my way to make sure each client feels that they’re taken care of and assured I will do my best to help them. When I was new in customer service, I found it difficult to promote additional services and products because it felt as if I was being pushy.

So, I’ve taken sales training and persuasion courses and I’ve also developed my own structure for promoting services and products so that it doesn’t feel pushy. I’ve been the Customer Service Representative of the month twice this year, which means I had the highest customer satisfaction ranking in the company. I also won the up-sell challenge last month, and I’m on track for winning it this month too. The best part for me though, is the win-win situation this has resulted in.

I really enjoy what I’m doing because I feel I add value, my customers trust me enough to know that the services and products I recommend to them will help them.”

See how easy that was to put together when you’ve done the preparation work? 

If you prepare all the requirements they’ve listed and those you’ve identified in addition, then you’ll be able to talk about any of them with that much confidence and clarity.

And that’s how you prepare and structure answer to the question “what are your strengths”.

If we’ve never met before, my name is Petra Pearce and I’m a Career Strategist, a Coach and the founder of The Career Upgrade. I help professionals like you to land the job you want, build a career you deserve, and make the money you’re worth. So, if you’re new here, consider hitting the subscribe button and turn on the notification so you get notified whenever I post a new video.

That’s it for today. Now you know how to prepare for the question and how to answer it.  Next week we’ll go deeper into how to answer the “what are your weaknesses” question so make sure you subscribe and turn on the notification, so you’ll get notified as soon as that video is posted next week.

If you liked this video, please give it a thumbs up and share in the comments what your biggest takeaway is from what I’ve just shared with you. If you know someone that you think will benefit from seeing this video, then make sure to share it with them.

Thank you so much for watching, and I’ll see you soon!

Hi, I'm Petra Pearce

I recently pivoted my career from working as an HR leader for over two decades in global organizations and in places like Silicon Valley, Singapore and London, to now devote all my time helping corporate jobseekers land job offers fast by teaching them how to upgrade their interview skills.

FREE Workbook: 7 Simple Steps to Prepare For Your Next Job Interview

I’m sharing my secret for how I’ve been able to nail the interviews EVERY time!

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