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How to answer 'What are your strengths?' in an interview
Posted by webdon on 05 June 2012
Every Interview Question seeks to find out / draw out/ bring to the fore some trait or the other. The interviewer uses a number of questions to get a 360 degree view of the candidate (YOU) and make up his/her mind on the following:
1. Are you the right fit for the company / position / team?
2. Do you know what the company does/ company's mission / vision etc?
3. Do you really, really want this job?
4. Are you as talented/hard working/ sincere/ etc etc as you are trying to show?
Why ask the question 'What are your strengths?'
Why would an interviewer ask the question 'What are your strengths?'
I mean who would possibly say 'I dont have any' or 'How the hell should I know?' or who would not want to try and use this question to impress?
Thats exactly what this question is for.
It is what we call 'A positive' or 'Confidence building' interview question.
The interviewer wants you to feel comfortable, talk about yourself in a flattering way, wants you to get into a positive frame of mind.
Hence the question.
It also allows the interviewer to ask specifics about these "strengths" later in the interview. So these become 'talking points' or 'lead ins' for the interview.
So for example, if you say your strength is teamwork, the interviewer may later in the interview ask you 'Tell me an incident where you demonstrated team work' or something a little more not-so-direct 'share with us a team project you accomplished in your current/last job. Tell us what the project was and what you did'
The answer to those questions will determine if they buy the answer to this question.
So How to answer 'What are your strengths?'
First and foremost, be honest.
The only strengths that count for this answer are the ones that:
1. are demonstrable with actions at a workplace
2. add value to the position you are seeking
Everything else, throw it out of the window. No one wants to know you are great with pets if you are applying to work in a chemical factory. The strength would be brilliant for a job position with a vet or a service organization catering to pets, but for most positions that does not add any value.
What is also important here is to stay away from cliches like 'hard working' or 'sincere' or 'honest' etc.
Here is what I suggest:
1. choose 2 / 3 strengths that you would like to see in someone who was working in the job you are applying for
2. Find actions / accolades (verifiable) from your work ex that support these strengths. Something similar is used in fiction - dont tell them, show them. Apply that. Dont tell them your strength, share the story and let them get it.
3. Do not use this answer to blow your own trumpet. Humility is a strength too!
Last year when our company had to reduce departmental costs by 20%, I took on the challenge to find sustainable solutions. We created a non-formal group for brainstorming and presented our ideas to the management. Not only were we able to reduce our costs by 25%, some of the ideas are now best-practices used across the company
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