We’re kicking off 2014 with a series on how to answer the most common interview questions. We’ll tackle one or two questions per post each week. Be sure to check the Interview 101 archives for more answers and tips.
“What are your strengths?” must be the most common interview question ever. So if it’s so easy why do we have trouble answering it? That answer is easy. We’re taught as Americans that it’s in poor taste to brag, be boastful, or speak of our own accomplishments. We’re so busy giving others or “the team” credit for our professional accomplishments that we miss the opportunity to take a little credit (ladies, we’re especially guilty of this). This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Don’t miss it.
The key to answering this question is to be prepared. This means you’ve taken stock in your strengths and are prepared to speak about them. Before the interview ask yourself what you’re really good at. What is it your boss or your clients turn to you first for? What are you so good at that it comes naturally to you, almost so natural that you don’t realize you’re doing it? What turns you on and gets you really excited about a project? These are your strengths and don’t be afraid to show passion and enthusiasm when talking about them.
By the way, don’t fall into the trap of trying to describe strengths that only fit the job you’re interviewing for. Yes, you want to demonstrate that you have the abilities they’re looking for but don’t be afraid to talk about all of your strengths. Most employers today are looking for well rounded candidates who fit their culture not just a specific position.
Also, don’t be afraid to write down your answers in advance of the interview during your interview prep. Even glancing down at a list of strengths will help you remember what you want to touch on and prevent you from missing an important strength you wanted to showcase.