Tough Interview Question - What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest strength?

Similar interview questions:
What do you do best?
What is an area where you are considered to be an expert?
Is there an area where you are the go-to person on your team?
What is your greatest attribute?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is attempting to identify your core competencies and whether they align with the needs of the role. The interviewer is also attempting to find out if you have an accurate view of self in relation to what is truly your greatest strength. Most practiced interviewers are aware that candidates often present false strengths in hopes of falsely aligning with the position, so a typical behavioral follow-on question is: "Can you give me an example of how you've used that strength in your job?" Or an even tougher question is to time-bound the behavioral question: "Can you give me an example of how you've demonstrated that strength in your job in the past week?" So don't try to fake your way through the answer with a strength you cannot back up with examples. Another experienced interviewer method to get past your practiced answer is to ask: "What is your second greatest strength?" and "What is your third greatest strength?"

The best approach to answering this question:
We all have multiple areas of strength, so the key is to select behavioral traits which align with the needs of the role and have examples to show these traits as strengths. Do your research in advance of the interview to know what the core competencies are for the role. Give an example of applying your strength in your current or most recent role.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I have quite a few strengths…(pause to think)…probably my greatest strength is my reliability. Part of my reliability is consistently being there, I have a 100% on time record at work and have had it for the last three years. But it's more than that. People know that they can trust me to do what I say I will do, they trust me to deliver. For example, my boss had a difficult project that needed to be completed in a short amount of time. He asked me in a meeting with the rest of our team to take on this project. After the meeting, he told me that he gave me the project because he knows that I will deliver on time. He's right. I just delivered that project yesterday, a day ahead of schedule. And it was right the first time, no corrections needed."

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"Good question. I have quite a few strengths, but if I had to focus on one that I would consider to be my greatest strength, it would be my work ethic. I’m driven to succeed and deliver results, which I know is not the case with many others. As an example, on my recent internship, I was given a secondary project which my boss later realized was much too large in scope to be accomplished within the timeframe of my internship. Yet I was really into the project and kept working on it long after the other interns went home each day. I really wanted to deliver this project before my internship was completed. In the end, I was able to have a prototype up and running before my last day. My boss said she was amazed at how much I accomplished and how I completed something that she didn’t think would be possible…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I think I'm pretty much awesome in any and every area you can think of. You name it, I have it covered. In fact, I really don't have any weaknesses, pretty much everything is my strength. So if you were going to ask that question about what is my greatest weakness, don't, because I don't really have any. That really bugs me when people ask that question, because it assumes that I have a weakness of some sort and I don't. If you look up "awesome" in the dictionary, my name will be there."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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