What Really Is the Right Answer To “What Are Your Strengths?”
People with years of experience still feel that the toughest question in the interview is one that begs to grasp the weakness of the candidate that applies. Of course, to address the problem all the same, they struggle to slide their way around a question that only seems important- ‘What are your Weaknesses?’. However, most of us fail to realize that the interview is actually an assessment of the best candidate for the role- they don’t want to focus on your negatives, they want to see how apt you consider yourself for the role.
Hence, we often forget to prepare for the complementary question that is always there- ‘What are your strengths?’
The answer is manifold- you need to brag without being self-centered, you need to be comprehensive without spinning into a never ending monologue, and you need to be crisp without forgoing all of your selling points.
How are you really supposed to answer this question?
1. Recognize Your Skills and Rank Them
There are three kinds of skills that you acquire during your life-
Knowledge-based skills- These are the skills that you acquire during your institution based knowledge application. Your degrees, your schooling, your projects during college, and the extra certifications that you undertake teach you these skills.
Transferable skills- These are the skills that you learn via the jobs that you undertake. Application based experience such as consumer trends, market variation during seasons are the skills that you acquire on site.
Personal Traits- These skills are those that you are born with, for instance, the fact that you have good communication skills, or that you have a habit of networking with everyone that you are going to be associated with.
Understand your job requirements and finalise on the skills that would prove useful for this job. A high profile, management job would require better communication skills, than a job at the finance team, which depends upon your knowledge based skills.
2. Use Negative Experiences to Bring out Your Strengths
We’ve all been caught in situations at work that we know are not going well. In fact, the outcome is so predictable that we know the endeavor is going to fail. However, as the cliched saying goes, “it isn’t the destination that matters. It is the journey”, you need to remind yourself of all the efforts that you had put into that project.
Before the project failed, everybody tried to revive the investment with everything they could do- late nights in the office, extra investment in marketing, tieing up with affiliates to launch the product, and so on.
Of course, the ideas didn’t work, but the fact that you were willing to think out of the box to make your project last just a little longer adds a whole lot to your set of skills. Tell them how you tried something that you had never tried before, and how it did fare well for a while before the project failed. A strong man trying to keep a sinking ship afloat is still a strong man.
3. Brag- but Don’t Have It Centered Around You
When the interviewer asks you to name your strength, they Obviously want you to name your strengths. Don’t feel the need to turn modest at this point- you had your chance in the rest of the interview to show your modesty.
Don’t feel shy when it comes to bragging about yourself- feel confident and competent about your abilities. It is a fact that you accomplished all that you have managed to mention on your resume. Use the time that you get for this question to re-assert your accomplishments.
However, the best way to brag is to keep the conversation centered around your strengths, and not around yourself. Try to tell the interviewer how the team worked together to find the solution, never how you, yourself, single-handedly saved the day.
There are, of course, times when you did figure out an entire project yourself. It is absolutely acceptable to mention those times when you did think on your feet, or that you recommended something that may (or may not) have helped, but never go into a monologue about yourself.
“Well, I am very witty and smart and my friends keep saying that I have a great attitude and that I am very easy to talk with.”- No.
4. The Perfect Strength: Center the Skills Around Your past, Your Present, and Your Future
When you begin to answer this question at home, pick out 3 to 4 strengths that you feel define the present job opportunity at hand. Trust your abilities and believe that you have enough strengths to nail this job- the interviewer already knows that you’re a probable fit. He just needs to ensure through this question that you as an employee, are self-aware as well.
Phrase the strengths in such a way, that you show how invested you are in your personality since the beginning of your career- Tell them how you did something in the past job that will prove apt for this job, how your old job taught you something that you’re planning to use, and how you’re taking a course/ undertaking a change to work on a skill that you know will be required henceforth.
This will make your answer seem original, and a little different from the usual “I’m great at communication, I’m a people’s person, I’m great at finishing work before the deadline”. The interviewer will get good insights into your actual abilities, and a personalized answer that is not picked up from the internet or your resume will help the interviewer refresh his perspective about you.
Remember to not use a generic answer that you feel might impress the employees. They are asking you about your strengths, and the only way to give an answer that is both outstanding and believable, you need to use your own experiences and goals to make that statement.