“Okay Steve, What is your greatest strength?” Yes! You heard it right. We are talking about one of the most common interview questions buzzing around the recruitment planet. And the hardest part is when you are not sure how to answer it. You wonder whether to describe strength in terms of experience, soft skills or education.
Are you confused? Well! Let’s take it slow.
Let’s first understand the objective behind asking this question. Here, an interviewer evaluates your suitability for a job by reviewing job requirement and your strengths. Most of you would feel this as an easy question unaware of the tricky aspect of it. A candidate does not prepare well since it is all about himself/herself; and thinks how bad can he/she screw it up? Do you know what most of them end up doing while answering these questions?
Here are a few common mistakes.
a) Blabber due to self awareness deficit.
b) Boast about themselves.
c) Display unwanted and unrelated strengths.
d) Beat around the bush.
e) Wonder what to say and keep mum.
f) Be too humble and thus unclear.
If you have been a victim to such blunders, you can now stop cribbing over spilt milk. You can present yourself better in your next interview. Well then, the first stage to crack this question is to recognize your strengths before serving it in front of your interviewer.
STEP 1: How to identify your strengths?
Loyal, kind, confident, punctual, meticulous, outgoing, strong work ethic, intelligent, patient, observant; I can go on naming fancy and attractive words [you could use] to blow your own trumpet with extraordinary strengths in an interview. But, is it a true quality you possess or a borrowed jargon to impress an interviewer? Failing to recognise your strengths can be disastrous especially when your only chance to get your dream job involves convincing your employer with your strengths. But, to do this, identifying your strong point is important. Here are 2 simple methods to assist you in figuring it out.
1) SWOT Analysis:
SWOT stands for
S – Strengths
W – Weakness
O – Opportunities
T – Threats
Take a blank sheet and jot down all qualities that pop across your mind about you, pertaining to these 4 areas. You can refer the image above for ideas. This breakdown will give you a personal analysis helping you in improvising your strengths, working on your weaknesses, seeing where your opportunities lie for personal growth and conquering your fear/threats.
Now, look around you and jot down at least 10 people whom you have worked with. When you have listed down the people, approach and ask them to name at least 3 striking strengths of yours which they appreciate in you. Pen down what each of them has to say and find at least 2 commonly appreciated strengths amongst the list. You will be amazed listening to different people’s perspective about you. This will give you a glimpse of your quality which others find notable. If you are not comfortable talking to your colleagues, try discussing with friends to spot your strengths.
After identifying a list of it, select an accurate, relevant and specific quality. If too many of your friends possess a similar strength, do you think you are unique? Well, focus on something that is not generic so that it stands out during your interview.
STEP 2: Focus on Examples
As I had mentioned before, throwing fancy words at the interviewer may not show authenticity. To add value to your strengths, the next important step is to substantiate them with relevant examples. You can illustrate how your strong point has helped you earlier in getting an upper hand over others or describe how your strengths have helped your previous employer/friends/colleagues. This is a crucial step since it will help justify your words as well as build a better picture of you in a recruiter’s mind.
Let’s see what Industry experts have to say:
We asked a few experts from the recruitment industry to throw light on their observations on the apt answer for this question. When we asked Mr. Anish Mahale (a senior recruiter at Wenger Watson Inc.), without second thoughts he said that a precise & measurable strength adds weight when compared to just naming any random strength. For example, “ability to understand new things (with examples)” is better compared to immeasurable strengths like discipline, promptness, obedience, confidence which are not really value adding parameters. He added that a candidate should illustrate how/why that strength can help him go a long way apart from how different he is than others. While there are other ways of expressing your strength, Mr. Darshan Godbole, COO, Wenger and Watson Inc., who has more than 10 years experience in HR consulting recommends that your response be a real greater strength instead of something you create specifically for the interview. It looks more genuine speaking about your talent/skill. For example, “I am a good musician”, “I am a great Football player”, etc. Any person would appreciate if you are humble and mention that there are many areas of improvement you are still working on.
Step 3: Be prepared
There are instances when though you have a clear picture of what you want to say, nothing flashes your mind at the right moment. Don’t worry! There are a whole lot of people facing the same challenge. A very simple way to overcome this is, to prepare in advance for all probable interview questions before you attend one. You can avoid feeling embarrassed in front of recruiters by preparing yourself by speaking in front of someone first. Ask your friends to throw at you this question and frankly make all the mistakes you might make before the actual interview. If you can’t find anyone, stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself all the questions that the recruiter might toss at you. It’s a common exercise many people follow to overcome the fear of speaking in public.
And finally, make sure you do your part of the homework by researching well about the company. You can always leverage your knowledge of the company products and services to land the right post. The employers will be impressed by your initiative in going through the company website and showing real interest in their services. Now that’s an implicitly displayed strength which is an added advantage. But, you need to ensure that all these attempts should not look pretentious. The final motto is to be more prepared and geared up for the job. Ultimately introduce them to the real you and impress your potential employer by just being you. All the Best!