Among the other dreaded interview classics—like “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” and “What are some of your weaknesses?”—“What are your greatest strengths?” seems like a pretty innocuous question.
But that doesn’t mean you can skip preparing for it. In fact, answer it well, and it’s one of the best ways you can show off your skills and show that you stand out among other candidates.
Here are a few strategies for doing just that.
1. Think Quality, Not Quantity
Let’s start with what not to do. The worst response I’ve ever heard was a full minute-long diatribe during which the interviewee proceeded to list a string of positive attributes (outgoing, detail-oriented, hardworking, independent, friendly, easy-going, you name it) and just kept going.
One of the adjectives chosen was actually “humble.” I was speechless.
To walk that line between confident and arrogant, definitely don’t just list a bunch of nice adjectives to describe yourself. Sure, you want to sell yourself as the right man or woman for the job, but you’re going to be much more compelling if you cut the buzzwords and speak genuinely about your strengths.
Your strategy? Choose one to three attributes you want to mention (depending on whether the question asks for one strength or multiple) and cap it there. You’ll want to think strategically about what skills will position you as qualified for the job and a good fit for the company.
Does the position require client interaction? Communication and relationship building makes sense.
Or if the environment is fast paced and constantly evolving—your ability to multitask, adapt, and learn quickly would be good to highlight.
2. Back Strengths Up With Stories
That said, what’s more important than the strengths you choose is being able to back up your claims—don’t just expect the interviewer to believe you without some evidence.
Start off by answering the question directly, and then segue into a story that shows off your skills. For example, “I think some of my greatest strengths are my communication skills and willingness to take initiative. During my last internship, when I was helping to manage several social media accounts, I made sure that everyone on the team was on the same page and knew what our messaging strategy was by taking the initiative to send out a weekly email to keep the team up to date and to seek feedback.