One of the most common questions in a job interview is often one of the most difficult to answer.
Job applications can be fraught with uncertainty, but if there’s one thing you can guarantee, it’s that the ‘greatest strengths’ question will, in some shape or form, be directed at you.
If your CV and cover letter hadn’t already hyped you up, the hiring manager uses this question as a means of getting you to spell it out for them: what truly makes you the best candidate in the market? It’s a daunting question to say the least, one that can trip you up and leave you anxiously wondering whether you said the right thing.
Fortunately, we’ve broken down the best response into a few key steps that you can take next time you’re asked the ‘greatest strengths’ question.
Make a list of your strengths
The best place to begin is with an honest list of the skills, traits and attributes that have driven your progression and earned you recognition in your professional career. Not all strengths will be worth mentioning, and not all of the same strengths will be appropriate for each opportunity.
With the job specification to hand, narrow your list down to a strong five points that blend technical competencies with desirable soft skills. Each strength should represent an aspect of your work that makes you feel the most successful, be it communication, proven aptitude in a particular field or strategic problem solving.
Consider how you reached this place in your career
Don’t confuse your strengths for the traits you admire in others. It’s easily done but bear in mind that these qualities are what it takes for other employees to succeed in their own roles, not yours.
Instead, think about what you have achieved in your job and what it took to get there: did you excel in education, were you recognised by an employer for your efforts, have you received an award or reward for your skills or accomplishments? However far you have come, it has been on the back of your strengths: this in mind, a desire to learn in itself can be a strength.
Focus on the skills the employer needs
Ultimately, the ‘greatest strengths’ question is used to measure your proudest accomplishments and most valuable skills against the requirements of the role as set out by the organisation. Rather than an extensive list, focus on the strengths within your list that you believe will signal to the employer your suitability.
For instance, does the role see the successful candidate thrive in a fast-paced environment? Highlight your ability to work under pressure and provide evidence that supports this. Are they searching for someone who can hit the ground running? A passion and personal commitment to learning and development coupled with a proven aptitude with a particular program can set you aside from the competition.
Keep it concise
As long as your list of strengths may be to land the role, you don’t want to come across as boastful and you certainly don’t want to confuse your interviewer. Instead, ensure it to keep it brief, focused and support each strength with a short but powerful achievement.
About the author
Lucy Evans is an Executive Recruitment Consultant specialising within the Wealth Management industry. She works for Heat Recruitment, a specialist recruitment agency based in Bristol operating across the UK that specialise in Engineering, Information Technology, Insurance, Financial Services and the Legal sector. They place candidates in both permanent and contract roles.