Interview questions: what are your strengths?

Interview questions: what are your strengths?

It’s a common question used at interview, but many people vastly undersell themselves when answering it. So let’s stop you being one of them.

Aim of the question:

  • To ascertain whether you actually know what your strengths are
  • To see if those strengths align with what the job needs
  • To see if they also fit in well with the strengths and weaknesses of the existing team
  • To see if your strengths align with the culture of the organisation

Common mistakes made by candidates:

  • They haven’t identified their strengths and so find it difficult to answer the question
  • They don’t feel comfortable talking about their strengths and in their modesty fail to impress with those chosen
  • Choosing strengths that have nothing to do with the job at hand e.g. being analytical as a childminder, where patience would be an expected answer
  • Choosing strengths that are just plain stupid in the context of the job that you’re applying for e.g. limbo dancing champion for a job as Area Sales Manager.

Finding out what YOUR strengths are

When interviewers talk about strengths, they are simply asking what are you better at than most people. The difference between a strength and a skill is that a skill can be taught, but a strength is something that you’re naturally good at.

In terms of answering the question, think about your strengths. If you need to sit down and write some different headings and think about the different skills needed for your job, and then think of which skills are your natural strengths. For example:

Your qualifications. Which skills do you have that are specifically covered by qualifications or certifications. For example, there is a difference between someone who uses Microsoft Office at home to someone with the ECDL qualification. In terms of your degree, take a look at each course module and identify what skills were being taught in that section. What fields of expertise to you tend to work well in?

Your experience. What skills have you developed in each of the jobs that you have done. Are there some skills that you keep using? Are there some skills that you are particularly drawn to or enjoy?

Soft skills. These are things such as influencing skills, problem solving, communications skills, conflict resolution, team building etc.

Don’t forget, if you have taken the VIA Strengths test, which 5 character strengths did you get? These may be slightly different, however, it does show your future employer a level of self-awareness.

What skills are requested in the the JOB description?

One thing that I always did when I applied for a job, was get a highlighter pen to the job description to highlight those keywords that are skills, qualifications and experience required by the post. When you’re preparing for a job, then sit down and write them out and then compare them to your qualifications, skills and experience. Where do you match up and what areas are you missing? Can these deficiencies be met anywhere else?

Use this download to compare your experience, skills and qualifications to that requested in the job.

30 Skills you may want to include:

integrity, self-discipline, works on own initiative, project management, team building, leadership, negotiation, influencing skills, persistence, perseverance, empathy, creative, honest, trustworthy, confident, courageous, determined, energetic, enthusiastic, flexible, humble, funny, kind, observant, optimistic, organised, practical, analytical, disciplined, adaptable.

Strengths lists on the web:

Related content:

If you are looking to get a job, then why not try my 30 day challenge. It’s free to join and covers creating resumes tailored to the job posting, LinkedIn skills, networking and interview skills.

Take care for now

Karen x


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