Let’s get one thing straight: being asked ‘what are your greatest strengths?’ isn’t a trick question – or it shouldn’t be. It’s not designed to catch you out and it’s been around long enough for you to know that there’s a good chance you’ll be asked it. So make sure you think about this a lot before your interview.
The other thing about this question is that it’s not going to be thrown at you early in an interview. It’s usually a question which comes towards the end when the interviewer has gone through the mandatory’s and wants to know more about you the person (as well as what your strengths may be).
Think of it as a personal question being asked in a business-like way. This is another opportunity for you to really sell yourself. And as I’m always saying, try to think about the employer’s point of view when answering. They don’t know what sort of a person you are and whether you’ll fit in. They have a good idea of your skills and attributes from your CV but they want to get a different perspective on you. So don’t trot out the usual clichés, try to say something that is genuine and if you can, compelling.
What do I mean by compelling? I mean anything that gives them an insight into your character. The way you answer, as much as what you say, gives them an insight into the real you.
I always think that really cheesy answers to this or any other question smacks of laziness and complacency; like somebody is just going through the motions.
At the other end of the scale, you don’t want to bang on about your desire, ambition, commitment and enthusiasm in such a way that it rings hollow – even if you are all those things it sounds unrealistic when you rattle them out.
So what are your strengths? Have you thought about them? Are you being honest? Are you confident enough to talk about them in a convincing way?
You need to be replying in a quietly confident way while keeping your nerves in check. If necessary, take your time when answering. Talk about a few meaningful qualities rather than just list out a lot of words.
This is a quiet sell not a hard sell and the key to this is having thought carefully about your strengths beforehand. Are you adaptable? Calm under pressure? Creative? Loyal and resourceful? Jot down your thoughts and then bounce them off people and see which ones they feel are most suited to you. Then apply an example to each one to demonstrate how these strengths have been demonstrated in a previous situation. If you think about great examples to reinforce your statements, you will stay in control of what you are saying – and will sound much more compelling.