An interview is an opportunity to show potential employers that you're the best candidate for the role. One popular question to prepare for is "What is your greatest strength?" In this article, we explain what interviewers mean when they ask for your greatest strength and describe how to prepare for the interview question. We also provide tips to remember when responding and sample answers to help you practice.
What interviewers want to know when they ask, "What is your greatest strength?"
When interviewers ask this question, they want to evaluate your self-awareness. They also use this interview question to determine whether your greatest strength aligns with the position you applied for and the company's needs. For example, if you're applying for a role as a customer service associate, you may emphasize that your customer service skills are your greatest strength.
Other ways an interview can ask this question include:
- "What quality makes you stand out from others?"
- "What makes you the best fit for this role?"
- "What qualities would your previous employer say sets you apart?"
Giving a direct and meaningful answer shows an interviewer that you prepared for the meeting. It also gives you the opportunity to plan a response that includes all the key points you want to emphasize.
How to prepare your answer to "What is your greatest strength?"
Follow these steps when preparing for this common interview question:
1. List your strengths
Think about your top qualities and write them down. Have a friend, coworker or career coach offer their advice if you're unsure of your top personality trait, natural talent or learned skill. Alternatively, think about your past accomplishments or tasks you complete effortlessly. Your list could include soft and hard skills and should align with the qualifications in the job description.
Read more: A Guide to Soft Skills
2. Narrow down your list to two to five strengths
Once you have a list of skills, keep only the top two to five that would convince an interviewer that you're a good fit for an organization.
3. Think of examples when you used each strength
Using your experience to prove your strengths is often more effective than listing them out. Connecting your strength to real-world experiences also makes them memorable to your interviewer.
4. Pick one strength from your list
Finally, select a strength that aligns with the organization's core values and sets you apart from other candidates. You can bring up the rest if an interviewer asks you to share more. Choose the most relevant strength for the specific interview. You may be applying to similar roles in the same field, so tailor your response to that specific position.
Choosing your greatest strength
Everyone has different strengths, so your answer to "What is your greatest strength?" must be unique. There are two types of strengths:
1. Skill-based strength
These are skills learned from educational or technical experience. Skill-based strengths are typically hard skills. They show an interviewer that you understand the primary requirement of the position. Skill-based strengths include knowledge of how to use specialized tools and familiarity with relevant software.
2. Character-based strength
These are also known as soft skills. They may apply to several roles or be suitable for a particular position. Character-based strengths include problem-solving skills, the ability to plan and organize yourself, and patience.
Character-based strengths may be qualities that are second nature to you or personal attributes you developed.
Tips to help you answer "What is your greatest strength?"
Use these tips when answering this interview question:
Make sure your answer is sincere. While you should speak about your strengths confidently, remember to give realistic answers. For example, if you're applying for a management position, you may say your greatest strength is your excellent problem-solving skills. Then, describe a challenge you solved in a previous role. Mentioning several unrelated traits you think would impress an interviewer is not as effective.
Keep your answer concise
Your response to "What is your greatest strength?" must catch your interviewer's attention and make them curious about your experience and personality. There needs to be a connection between your strength and why you think it applies to the role. For example, if you're applying for a quality assurance position, highlighting your attention to detail can convince your interviewer that you're a promising candidate.
Choose your wording carefully
When explaining what qualities make you stand out, be sure your answer includes only your best qualities. For example, if you're applying for a position as a nurse manager, your greatest strength could be your excellent leadership skills. Use wording to highlight how you used this skill successfully and kept your team happy.
Be prepared for follow-up questions
Depending on your answer, an interviewer may ask follow-up questions, such as "How would you grade your programming skills?" or "How did this strength help your job performance?" Preparing for follow-up questions helps to make the interview more conversational.
Consider using the STAR interview response technique
The STAR interview method is suitable for behavioural and situational interview questions. When answering, "What is your greatest strength?" you can also use it to give a natural example of how you used this strength. STAR stands for:
- Situation: Describe the situation you encountered or the challenge you faced. It's a great idea to use relevant professional situations here.
- Task: Explain your role in the challenge or situation. Discuss what your task or goal was.
- Action: Describe the action you took using your greatest strength. Spend more time on this section of your answer.
- Result: Briefly explain the positive result of your action.
Example answers to "What is your greatest strength?"
Here are five examples that you can use as reference when answering this question:
Example 1: Makeup artist
"My greatest strength as a makeup artist is my creativity. I've always known how to think outside the box and use cosmetic products in amazing ways. After a client explains their beauty needs, I see their face as a blank canvas and brainstorm ways to enhance their natural beauty. In my last role, I worked on a film set, applying makeup for actors and actresses. I applied makeup to create fake face scars for an actor. The result looked just like the real thing, and it impressed everyone on set."
Example 2: Data analyst
"My greatest strength is my analytical skills. While in college, I learned how to look for patterns and connections in data. I've always felt that there's a lot to find from every dataset and developing these skills helped me advance my career. Once, I worked for a software company that used geographical datasets. Using my analytical skills and a geographic information system (GIS), I found connections between housing prices, bedroom sizes, and property locations. I created charts that confirmed my intuition before sharing my results with the machine learning engineers. Finding these patterns helped my organization complete the software project and meet all deadlines."
Example 3: Maintenance engineer
"I think my greatest strength is my expertise in predicting the reliability of machines. In my last role, I noticed a piece of equipment broke down frequently and required maintenance every week. Because I understood how the machine worked and its reliability, I developed a model to schedule preventive maintenance tasks. This helped the company to reduce the machine's downtime and increase production activities. My previous employers still use the model I developed for that machine."
Example 4: Ballet teacher
"One of my greatest strengths is my perseverance. I've always dedicated myself to overcoming tasks, regardless of the challenges I may encounter. I kept that positive attitude and it's helped in my career as a ballet teacher. Once, I had a student who had no prior experience, so teaching her the five basic ballet positions was a challenge. However, I broke it down into simpler movements, and after a month of continuous practice, she finally perfected the positions."
Example 5: Night auditor
"I believe my greatest strength as a night auditor is my exceptional customer service skills. My last job taught me how to address guests and interact with people promptly. Once, I noticed some tourists were having trouble settling in., I overheard them speaking in French with each other, so I greeted them in the language. We had a friendly discussion about their journey before I showed them to their rooms and managed their requests for the night. The guests were happy I could help with their requests and relate freely with them. They promised to return to the hotel and gave us an excellent rating."