This is a commonly asked question in job interviews – for all levels of positions and in all industries. Even when you’re not asked “What are your strengths?”, you still must be prepared to answer the question well in order to land the job. After all, from the employer’s perspective, the main point of a job interview is to understand what you could do for the organization and why they should hire you instead of someone else. Although this question comes up in 80% of interviews, many candidates don’t know how to answer it. This means there’s a real opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd if you can speak about your strengths in an authentic and compelling way. Things we’ll cover in this article:
- What an interviewer is looking for with this question
- 6 tips on how to talk about your strengths
- 24 kickass answers
- Help with how to practice and craft your perfect response
Let’s start by talking about how to respond when an interviewer asks you specifically, “What are your strengths?” .
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
It’s the interviewer’s job to find someone who will perform in the position and get along with the team. This question can be phrased in several ways:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your (three) biggest/greatest strengths?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What makes you a good fit for this position?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- What are some of your strengths that make you different?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are some of the key strengths/attributes that set you apart?
Whatever the form, the interviewer seeks to find out if:
- Your strengths align with the company’s needs
- You can do the job and perform like a rock star
- You are the best person for the job — no need to hold out for someone better
- You have qualities, skills, and/or experience that set you apart from the competition
- You are someone who will make an excellent addition to the team
How to Talk About Your Strengths
Some people think this is an easy question. This question is a prompt for you to brag and “sell” yourself as the best fit for the job. So how could you mess it up? You know yourself, right? Unfortunately, many candidates don’t have a clear sense of their job-related strengths. Others, even experienced ones, fail to prepare properly and sabotage themselves when answering the “What are your strengths” question. Remember that the purpose of this question is to be able to demonstrate an awareness of areas in which you excel and show how you put your strengths to good use using practical examples. It’s important to take the time to identify your strengths and practice talking about them in advance. That way, you’ll be ready when you walk into that interview for your dream job. Let’s start by identifying/confirming what your greatest strengths are and look at some common mistakes that candidates make when answering this question.
Sit down and make a personal strengths list — aim for at least 10 and be creative. Jot down everything that comes to mind. You can always delete or modify later.
Your strengths could include:
Experience — Experience with a certain software or type of task, expertise in a particular industry, a track record of working with similar products or clients, etc.
Talents — Abilities such as programming in a desired language, writing proposals, selling widgets, litigating cases, organizing events, translating from Mandarin, etc. (the possibilities here are truly endless).
Soft skills — Competencies such as problem-solving, influencing, team building, negotiation, managing up, etc.
Education/training — Relevant background on topics critical to the job — including college degrees, certifications, training seminars, mentoring, internships, etc. If you have trouble coming up with enough work-related strengths, jot down positive personality qualities. You may find ways to relate these to job performance. Next, narrow your list down to at least five strengths. You may not talk about all of these strengths in every interview, but it’s good to have options. Mind gone blank? Ask a trusted friend, an ex-coworker, or collaborator what they think are your greatest strengths.
2. Prepare examples
Develop at least one example or interview story to illustrate each of your strengths. If you’re not sure how to go about crafting compelling stories and examples from your previous experience, scroll down to find some examples that work. Having a concise example or story ready to back each strength up is crucial here. Be careful about rambling. Your answer should still be 1-2 minutes long. If you want to share three strengths and back each up with an example, you will want to practice answering interview questions in advance so that you can do it in a concise and effective way.
3. Be accurate, relevant, and show self-awareness
Make sure to choose the strengths that you actually possess and avoid being too generic. Instead of “people skills” (too broad and boring), go with “relationship building” or “persuasive communication.” You should take the time to analyze the job description and identify the most important strengths for each opportunity. You likely have many strengths, but which will be most relevant for this interviewer? Always try to match your strengths with the requirements of the position you’re applying for. A common mistake here is to choose a lame strength that doesn’t really help you stand out. These are either strengths that are hardly relevant to the job at hand or weak strengths that just about anyone could claim. This mistake makes a candidate bland and forgettable at best. At worst, you can raise red flags with the interviewer — who wants to hire someone whose greatest strength is the ability to show up on time?
4. Don’t be too humble
Many candidates are too humble or just aren’t comfortable articulating what makes them great. This is particularly true for introverts and/or people who never really had to “sell” themselves before because new jobs always fell in their laps in the past. You have to get over any hesitation to say nice things about yourself (That’s why practicing your answers is so crucial!). You can do it in a way that feels comfortable and authentic if you prepare in advance.
5. Dig for clues in performance reviews and your resume
Go back to previous performance reviews and analyze the positive feedback. Dig up old emails praising your work (if you haven’t been saving these, start a folder now). If you’re a student or new grad, think about the feedback that you’ve received from professors and supervisors from past internships and jobs. You can also look for common themes in your achievements. Sometimes, we’re so close to the subject that we lose perspective. Try to read your resume with fresh eyes — as if it was the resume of an admired friend. What stands out?
6. Get scientific
Try the StrengthsFinder assessment. You can answer a series of questions and get a report that summarizes your top strengths. This should spark some ideas and/or help you focus your thinking. The results can really help with your professional and personal development. Many corporations also ask their employees to take the StrengthsFinder assessment as a foundation for their performance improvement plans.
What Are Your Strengths? 24 Sample Answers
Here are some sample answers to use as inspiration (with different roles, seniority levels, and industries) and reasons why we love them.
What are your strengths: best answers for developers
1. Technology Team Lead
Why we love this answer: This answer summarizes three strengths that are relevant for the job at hand. Just saying that you’re a “problem solver” and have “good communication skills” can sound bland and rehearsed. You have to add some detail and color to make your answer more believable and memorable. In this case, the candidate talks about how her problem-solving skills work (seeing things from different perspectives) and gives examples of her communication skills (presenting to senior leaders and mediating team disputes). We also like the discussion of her programming past and how this makes her a better manager. Notice that she did not include a specific example for each of the strengths cited. Sometimes you want to avoid squeezing too much detail into one answer. You don’t want this answer to turn into an endless monologue. This candidate gave a little bit of detail for each strength and then left an opening for the interviewer to ask for more information. She should, of course, be prepared with an interview story for each of her strengths. That way, she will be ready when the interviewer asks: “Tell me about a time when you solved a difficult problem” or “Give me an example of a conflict that you mediated.”
2. Senior Software Engineer
3. Product Owner
4. Chief Information Officer
Why we love these answers: Each candidate chooses strengths that are relevant to the position at hand, be it experience, problem-solving, or soft skills like communication and drive. They support their arguments through real-life examples, without being too vague or modest.
What are your strengths: best answers for marketers
5. Data Analyst
Why we love this answer: Notice that the answer goes beyond “hard worker,” which is way too general. Anybody can say that they work hard. This candidate gets specific about what work ethic means to her and talks about being deadline-driven and reliable, with a specific example.
6. Head of Marketing
Why we love this answer: Although a bit wordy, this is a nice and specific answer that focuses on organization skills, creativity, and collaboration (all relevant to the position), with clear examples to support the strengths.
7. Content Strategist
8. Online Marketing Specialist
Why we love these answers: When asked “What is your strength?”, these candidates combined technical expertise, accuracy, and demonstrated results. This shows the interviewer that the person is well-prepared and able to look back and summarize their accomplishments.
What are your strengths: best answers for new college grads
9. College graduate #1
10. College graduate #2
11. College graduate #3
Why we love these answers: Although none of the candidates have any work experience in the traditional sense of the word, they all come up with smart and effective answers that are honest and memorable. All three answers explain why the candidates are good for the position. They are concise and super precise when outlining strengths, and their examples add credibility (e.g. others also believed the candidate’s skills were top-notch).
What are your strengths: best answers for HR
12. Talent Acquisition Lead
13. HR Administrator
14. Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Why we love these answers: All the candidates verbalize core competencies succinctly and effectively, with confidence and plenty of practical supporting information. Notice how they are able to deliver plenty of relevant information that match the job requirements precisely, without meandering or going into too much detail.
What are your strengths: best answers for Sales and CSM
15. Sales Development Representative
16. Customer Success Manager
17. Sales Representative
Why we love these answers: These candidates’ answers offer a mix of relevant soft skills, stories, and verifiable results that can be attributed to a particular strength that an employee possesses. Despite not featuring a proof point, the third answer is a great example of how a personal quality like resistance to disappointment and not losing faith can help in a professional setting. This candidate knows that being a Sales Rep isn’t always about winning, so how they handle going through a rough patch is still relevant info.
What are your strengths: best answers for other industries
18. MD Applying for Residency
19. Event Manager
20. Sanitary Engineer
21. Hair Stylist
22. Head of Tech Support
23. ER Nurse
24. Regulatory Compliance Manager
Why we love these answers: Again, they combine and connect the technical expertise needed for the position with previous job experience and interesting stories that illustrate each candidate’s strengths.
Practice Your “What Are Your Strengths?” Answer
Many candidates think that once you go through the best practices and map out your answers in your Notes app or a document, there’s not much else to do before D-day. Even if you go a step further and decide to practice, role-playing with a friend or on your own often feels pointless and unnatural. In reality, the best candidates rely on useful interview practice platforms. They can help you craft your responses better, grade your recorded interviews as a real interviewer would, and even analyze your body language, speech speed, and other elements of non-verbal communication. With some of them, like Big Interview’s Answer Builder, you can practice specific questions that you may encounter in interviews, including “What are your strengths?”. You can choose a question that you think you’d struggle with and then practice building your answer, supporting it with proof points and examples. Once you’re happy with the results, you can practice presenting your answers in a recorded interview.
What if they don’t ask me about my strengths?
If the interviewer doesn’t think to ask you about your strengths (not every interviewer has been trained to ask the right questions), you’ll have to look for opportunities to bring up the topic. Keep in mind that there are many other questions that basically ask for the same answer as “What are your strengths?”. You should walk into every interview with a clear goal: to communicate your greatest and most relevant strengths to the interviewer. If you aren’t asked directly, look for openings and try to weave your answer there. For example, when asked a behavioral question (“Tell me about a time…”), share an example that illustrates one of your top strengths and emphasizes it. If everything else fails, wait until the end of the interview when they ask you if you have anything else to add. Then, take the opportunity to summarize your strengths and reiterate your interest in the position.
Although some interview questions may seem easier than others, the truth is that absolutely every single one requires at least some practice. To answer “What are your strengths?”, you’ll need to:
- Check the job requirements. Go back to the actual job requirements and pay attention to what qualities are listed in the job ad. Use them as guidelines.
- Conduct self-assessment. Look back at your accomplishments, list them all and look for patterns. Talk to your ex co-workers and friends – they can sometimes provide precious feedback on your strengths (and weaknesses!).
- Practice your delivery. Especially if you’re not confident by nature. Use all the help you can get to practice structuring your answer, choose examples that support your strength, and don’t be afraid to tell a story that sheds more light on your best professional qualities.
- Don’t drag on. A few sentences and choosing one or two strengths will suffice. You should be able to make your point in under two minutes.
Now you have everything you need to answer the dreaded “What are your strengths?” question. Good luck in your next interview!
Need a hand? There are 2 ways we can help you:
1. Learn how to turn more job interviews into job offers here. (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users)
2. Learn how to successfully negotiate a better salary. (Take a sneak peek of one lesson for free here)