Interview Question: "What Is Your Greatest Strength?"

Businesswoman in job interview
Photo: AzmanJaka / Getty Images

"What is your greatest strength?" may seem like one of the easier job interview questions. But for many candidates, it can be tricky—either they're too modest in their response or they don't highlight those strengths that most closely match the job requirements.

Here's advice on how to answer interview questions about your strengths, examples of the best answers, and what—and what not—to say when you respond.

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t need to memorize an answer, but if you write out a few ideas of what you want to say, it will make it easier to answer the question during the interview.
  • Focus your response on which of your accomplishments most closely match the employer’s requirements.
  • The interview is an opportunity to sell your credentials to the hiring manager, so when you respond, be prepared to show why you’re the best fit.

What the Interviewer Wants To Know

The main reason interviewers ask this question is to identify whether your strengths align with the needs of the company and the job's responsibilities. The company wants to learn whether you're a good fit for the role you're interviewing for. The goal of the interviewer is to make a match between your credentials and the skills needed to succeed in the job.

Your response will help the employer decide whether or not you are the strongest applicant for the position. That means if you're applying for an accounting job, it's not helpful to highlight that your strength lies in event organization.

Note

When you are asked questions about your strengths, discuss attributes that will best qualify you for the specific job and set you apart from the other candidates.

It's important to show the interviewer that you have the qualities the employer is seeking. There are certain strengths that all employers seek in the candidates they hire, such as dedication, time management, and work ethic. Others will be specific to the job and the company. For example, a customer service representative will need conflict resolution skills and patience.

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Mock Interview: "What is Your Greatest Strength?"

How To Answer, "What is Your Greatest Strength?"

How should you answer questions about your strengths? The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience you have that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.

Be prepared to answer by making a list of the criteria mentioned in the job posting and then:

  • List your skills that match those the employer is seeking. This list can include education or training, soft skills, hard skills, or past work experiences.
  • Narrow down your list to three to five particularly strong skills.
  • Next to each skill, note an example of how you have applied that strength in the past.

This will prepare you for when the employer asks you to elaborate on a particular strength, and you'll be able to share examples with the interviewer. When you answer, you will be sharing strengths that match the qualifications the company is seeking.

Note

When you answer, you will be sharing strengths that match the qualifications the company is seeking.

Also incorporate these power words, which help to make a good impression, into your responses. The more closely your skills match the stated job requirements, the more likely you'll be to get a second interview or a job offer.

Examples of the Best Answers

Review these examples of the best answers to questions about your strengths but be sure to tailor your responses to your credentials and the job requirements.

Example Answer #1

I have a solid work ethic. When I'm working on a project, I don't just want to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule. Last year, I even earned a bonus for completing my three most recent reports one week ahead of time.

Why It Works: Sharing an example of how your strengths contribute to job success is a good strategy. It shows the hiring manager why you’re qualified.

Example Answer #2

I have extremely strong writing skills. Having worked as a copy editor for five years, I have a deep attention to detail when it comes to my writing. I have also written for a variety of publications, so I know how to shape my writing style to fit the task and audience. As a marketing assistant, I will be able to write and edit press releases effectively and update web content with accuracy and ease.

Why It Works: This response shows how the candidate’s flexibility, strengths, and accomplishments can be used in a variety of ways.

Example Answer #3

I am a skilled sales representative with over 10 years of experience. I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter by at least 20%, and I've earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.

Why It Works: If you can share quantifiable information that validates your strengths, it will help the interviewer understand how much you have to offer and the kind of value you can add.

Example Answer #4

I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve potentially difficult situations. With five years of experience as a customer service associate, I have learned to understand and resolve customer issues effectively. On a related note, I also have strong communication skills, which help me to work well with customers, team members, and executives. I am known for being an effective team member with a talent for giving presentations.

Why It Works: This response highlights several strengths and shows the interviewer why those attributes are essential for success in the job.

Example Answer #5

My background as an English major will certainly help me succeed in the job. I restructured, edited, and wrote the employee newsletter for the hospital and, in particular, showcased employee profiles and contributions. Our surveys indicated that the new format was more appreciated and more widely read by staff and helped to build morale. I also rewrote major sections of the employee handbook to simplify the language.

Why It Works: This answer works well because it shows strengths in action. It provides details on two different projects, including what was involved, as well as the outcomes.

Tips for Giving the Best Response

Prepare a response. Creating a list of your strengths (as they relate to the job) will help you to answer this question with confidence.

Discuss your key strengths. Stay focused on a couple of key strengths that relate directly to the position and the company. A focused, relevant answer with one or two examples will impress your interviewer. 

Share what you have to offer. Keep your answer to the point and focused on the attributes you will bring to the job and the company. Your goal is to sell the company on why you're the person they should hire.

What Not to Say

This is not the time to be humble. While you don't want to exaggerate your strengths, you should be comfortable articulating what makes you an ideal candidate. On the other hand, you do not want to answer this question with a laundry list of vague strengths. And neither do you want to seem boastful or arrogant.

As with any interview answer, it's best not to ramble or speak for an eternity. Here are examples of answers that you shouldn't give:

  • I am probably the most gifted applicant you will ever meet. Everyone says that I am extremely intelligent, hard-working, and a fabulous communicator.
  • My greatest strengths are writing, project management, quantitative research, event planning, budget development, and social media.
  • I'm a talented musician, the life of the party, and a great joke-teller. I roll with the punches and don't take defeats too seriously.
  • I should tell you about the time when our fraternity was under pressure. The president had mismanaged some money, and a lot of the brothers had gotten into trouble for hazing and partying too much. The dean called all the officers into her office, and they had a hearing about all our transgressions. I took over the leadership and turned things around, and we are now a well-respected fraternity with no problems.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • What is your greatest weakness? 
  • How did your strengths help your job performance? 
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
  • What can you do better for us than the other candidates?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the hardest interview questions?

Although every job seeker has their idea of the hardest interview questions to answer, some of the trickiest are open-ended requests like "Tell me about yourself.” Other tough interview questions put you on the spot—for example, you might find it challenging to answer questions like, “Why should we give you this job?” Good interview preparation will help you make the best impression, no matter which questions hiring managers choose to ask.

What are the best questions to ask at a job interview?

As a job candidate, you should prepare interview questions to ask the hiring manager. Consider asking what a typical day at the job is like, what are the most important goals to achieve in the first 90 days on the job, or what the biggest challenges are in this role.

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  1. CareerOneStop. "Interview Tips." 

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