Have an upcoming job interview? Use this blog and its sample questions/answers to learn how to talk to recruiters about your greatest strengths.
If you’re attending a job interview, questions about your background and skills won’t be too challenging. Interview questions about your personal strengths, however, can be very tricky to answer. If you’re not sure how to handle strength-based interview questions, use the sample questions and answers in this blog as a template for your own responses during your upcoming interview.
This blog covers the following topics:
The difference between strengths and skills
Identifying your own strengths
6 sample strength-based interview questions
When a recruiter at a job interview asks you about your skills, they’re almost always asking about abilities you acquired after years of study and practice: a device you know how to use, a body of knowledge you’ve memorized, an artistic technique, and so on. When a recruiter asks you about your strengths and qualities, however, they’re probably trying to learn about more abstract features such as:
While knowledge and technique can be learned on the job, strengths tend to be an outgrowth of your personality. Show job interviewers that you have the right strengths, and they’ll know you’d be an employee who would be pleasant to work with and serve the company well for years to come.
You should always be honest with recruiters about your personal strengths and what makes you unique. That said, it can be hard to look at yourself objectively and identify your finest personal qualities. If you’re not sure what your strengths actually are, you can try to pinpoint them with the following approaches:
Asking friends or colleagues what they think your finest qualities are.
Looking back on your finest professional achievements and pondering what qualities helped you succeed.
Reflecting on your most recent job and identifying the daily tasks you enjoyed the most.
If you have an upcoming job interview, prepare to answer strength-focused questions by studying the following examples:
This question is probably the most direct way recruiters can ask for information about your best qualities. It’s also an invitation for you to talk about any trait of yours that you think the recruiter would be impressed by. Make sure you mention strengths that would actually be useful in the job you’re applying to such as:
Empathy and passion for helping others if you’re applying to customer service positions.
Creativity and problem-solving skills if you’re applying to artistic or project-focused careers.
Decisiveness and adaptability if you’re applying to leadership positions.
Attention to detail and honesty if you’re applying to financial positions.
Don’t answer this interview question by awkwardly shoe-horning in a reference to one of your strengths (for example, avoid the old clichés like “my greatest flaw is that I work too hard”). What you can do, however, is talk to your recruiter about real flaws you struggle with, then showcase the qualities that let you overcome those flaws. For example:
If you struggle to memorize information, you can also talk about the note-taking habits you’ve built over the years.
If you struggle to read people’s emotions, you can also talk about how you regularly “check in” with your customers by asking polite questions about how they feel.
If you have trouble completing tasks when under stress, you can also talk about how you always try to be honest with colleagues about your difficulties and ask for help when you need it.
If you get stage fright or struggle with interpersonal communication, you can talk about how you prepare for presentations and other social events by thoroughly rehearsing your speeches/questions.
Generally, recruiters will ask this question as an ice-breaker of sorts, giving their interviewees the freedom to talk about what they do for fun. The hobbies you mention when you answer this interview question can also signal key strengths of yours to your recruiter. For example:
An artistic hobby such as painting or poetry signals the strength of creativity.
A team sport hobby such as soccer/football signals both physical fitness and solid teamwork.
A book-reading hobby can signal your ability and passion for reviewing/memorizing lots of data.
A performance hobby such as dancing or comedy improv signals your ability to express yourself with words and body language.
Recruiters ask this question in order to learn about what drives you––all the desires, both grand and small, that get you out of bed in the morning and to your workplace on time. When answering questions about what motivates you in life, make sure the desires you talk about can be linked to strengths that your interviewer will genuinely appreciate:
A desire to advance within your company can be linked to strengths such as a strong work ethic or passion for self-improvement.
A desire to satisfy customers and please co-workers can be linked to qualities such as empathy or compassion.
A desire to be challenged can be linked to strengths such as adaptability or insight.
A desire to change the world or make people’s lives better can be linked to strengths such as moral integrity or honesty (in the sense of not ignoring the world’s problems).
If your recruiters ask you this question, answer it by mentioning a time where you exceeded expectations at your prior job. Draw a connection between this past accomplishment and the responsibilities you’d need to fulfill at this new position. Also try to describe the specific strengths of yours that let you pull off this impressive feat. For example:
Increasing profits or reducing the expenses of your business (accomplishment) by brainstorming creative process improvements (strength).
Solving a problem or improving the workplace’s efficiency (accomplishment) by carefully analyzing sets of data (strength).
Completing a hard or stressful project (accomplishment) by staying calm and disciplined under pressure (strength).
Settling a conflict between colleagues (accomplishment) by listening to their concerns and expressing empathy (strength).
Consult Career.io’s Interview Prep service for extra AI-driven feedback on how to ace your upcoming job interview!
Unlike professional skills, professional strengths are more abstract abilities that are tied to your personality and attitude.
Recruiters ask job-seekers about their strengths to see if they’d be reliable, pleasant-to-work-with employees.
When you talk about your own strengths during a job interview, make sure you mention personal traits of yours that actually mesh well with the job’s responsibilities.
Coleman is a professional writer specializing in creating standout resumes & cover letters. Aside from helping job-seekers create documents optimized for getting results, Coleman writes career advice blogs covering a wide range of in-demand career development topics. Whether providing clients with their perfect resume or comprehensive insights into trending professional topics, Coleman is there to lend his invaluable expertise.