During job interviews, there are certain types of questions that employers tend to ask, regardless of the position and company. One of the most common interview questions is, “What is your greatest strength?” often paired with, “What is your greatest weakness?” These questions can be phrased in lots of different ways, but it plays the role as an invitation to explain why you are the best-qualified candidate for this job.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

With these questions, the hiring manager is trying to determine what qualities you have that will help you succeed in the job if you are hired, as well as what could be problematic. 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.

Even when this question is not asked, you must be able to express your strength 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 you.

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Prepare A List of Your Strengths

Since the same answer won’t necessarily work for every interview, it is quite necessary to develop a list of 3-5 strengths that you can use as appropriate to each opportunity.

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. Skills— 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) Characteristics (soft skills) — Competencies such as problem solving, influencing, team building, negotiation, managing up, etc. Education/Qualifications — Relevant background on topics critical to the job — including college degrees, certifications, training seminars, mentoring, internships, etc.

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Be Specific and Use Examples

Choose specific strengths instead of generic, broad answers. For instance, “customer relationship building” or “persuasive communication” would be a much better answer than simply “people skills.” Take some time to analyze the job description and identify the most important strengths for each opportunity, and prepare your answers accordingly.

After your answer, most interviewers will ask behavioural follow-up questions such as: “Can you give me an example of how you’ve used that strength in your job?” So Remember to prepare examples. Develop at least one example or story to illustrate each of your strengths during interviews.

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Don’t be Too Humble

Many candidates are too humble or just aren’t comfortable articulating what makes them great. For this particular question, an answer too humble could be considered an answer too weak.

Avoid being too humble, sell yourself like you’re the best candidate they could ever find. Pick something impressive that will widen your future employer’s eyes. You have to get over any hesitation to say nice things about yourself. You can do it in a way that feels comfortable and authentic if you prepare in advance.

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Examples Of Good Answers

Review these examples of answers, and tailor your responses to your credentials and the job requirements of the position.

“I pride myself on my leadership skills, something I was taught in my 3 years as a non-commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps. Leadership is necessary to keep project teams moving forward in the right direction. While nothing is as challenging as leading troops in battle, leading a 6- to 12-member project team is not easy. Bringing projects in on-time, on-budget, and meeting both technical and business requirements takes substantial planning and management skills, particularly when typically, half of the team members did not directly report to me. I’ve been an IT project manager for 5 years, managing 10 major projects in that time frame. All of those projects completed on schedule, met their specifications, and were considered successes. In addition, I was able to train 4 team members so they were promoted to project management positions.”

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