3 Smart Strategies for Answering "What's Your Greatest Strength?"

Among the other dreaded interview classics—like “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” and “What are some of your weaknesses?”—“What are your greatest strengths?” seems like a pretty innocuous question.

But that doesn’t mean you can skip preparing for it it. In fact, answer it well, and it’s one of the best ways you can show off your skills and show that you stand out among other candidates.

Here are a few strategies for doing just that.

1. Think Quality, Not Quantity

Let’s start with what not to do. The worst response I’ve ever heard was a full minute-long diatribe during which the interviewee proceeded to list a string of positive attributes (outgoing, detail-oriented, hardworking, independent, friendly, easy-going, you name it) and just kept going. One of the adjectives chosen was actually “humble.” I was speechless.
To walk that line between confident and arrogant, definitely don’t just list a bunch of nice adjectives to describe yourself. Sure, you want to sell yourself as the right man or woman for the job, but you’re going to be much more compelling if you cut the buzzwords and speak genuinely about your strengths.

2. Back Strengths Up With Stories

That said, what’s more important than the strengths you choose is being able to back up your claims—don’t just expect the interviewer to believe you without some evidence.

Start off by answering the question directly, and then segue into a story that shows off your skills. For example, “I think some of my greatest strengths are my communication skills and willingness to take initiative. During my last internship, when I was helping to manage several social media accounts, I made sure that everyone on the team was on the same page and knew what our messaging strategy was by taking the initiative to send out a weekly email to keep the team up to date and to seek feedback. This ended up being so helpful that the weekly social media update was incorporated into a full-time staff member’s responsibilities.”

3. Look for Holes and Fill Them

The great thing about the “strengths” question is that it’s actually pretty versatile and open-ended—you can really turn the conversation to whatever you want. So, a great way to approach this question is to think about something you really want to talk about during the interview, but haven’t had the chance to share yet. Are there any skills that you want to emphasize? Maybe you have a killer “teamwork” story, but haven’t had the opportunity to share it yet. Well, here is your chance!

Alternatively, if you get the question toward the end of your interview and you’ve basically covered your bases, another approach would be to make a final pitch that you’re a great fit for the position and the company culture. Assuming you’ve done the crucial legwork of researching the company prior to interviewing, you should have a good sense of how the company perceives its own uniqueness. One company might be known for caring about loyalty. Another company might be notorious for how much it values open communication.