What is your greatest strength? Learn how to answer this question

Many people make the mistake of thinking this is an easy question. However, it is often the one that makes the difference between whether you are hired or not, as the employer will only want to take on candidates whose strengths match the job description. The best answer you can give is one that is both true and meets the requirements that have been set out in the job advertisement, as this will ensure that you are a good fit for the role without having to tell any lies.

What's your greatest strength? Avoid telling lies

It can be tempting to exaggerate or even invent abilities if you really want to land your dream job. The problem with this is that it may get you the job in the first place, but you are unlikely to keep it in the long term if you can’t do what you said you could at the interview. Make sure that you can back up what you say by giving lots of examples from previous roles or your personal life, as this will prove that you really do have the specific skills or characteristics. Don’t say something just because you think he or she wants to hear it; it is always better for you to get a job based on merit as opposed to an invented background or personality.

Give an answer that is suited to the role

While it is important that you remain truthful and give an answer that you really believe to be valid, you should also try and mould your answer in a way that demonstrates the abilities you would have if given the role. If you know that the interviewer is looking for an organised individual that is good at working alone, refer to the roles you have had or busy periods in your personal life when you successfully prioritised and completed the things you needed to. If you are changing your career, think about what you did at university and where you can link your strengths to a real-life situation. “What is your greatest strength” should always be something that you know is true; perhaps ask friends or family if you are unsure of yours.

What to avoid at a job interview

Although you should mention the aspects of your private life that show off your skills, make sure that they are relevant to the job on offer and don’t show you in a negative light. For example, if you have a great social life and are good at organising parties and nights out, you might just want to mention that are good at planning and have arranged some small events. However, if you want to be a holiday rep for a travel company for the 18-30s range, you can probably go into more detail about how and why you are so good at organising parties. Avoid bragging but don’t hold back on selling yourself – you are at a job interview after all.

Sample answers and suggestions

Take a look at the following examples and see if you can alter these to give a good response at your interview:

  • I am very personable and good at dealing with people. I have worked in customer service for five years and have learnt how to understand customer issues and successfully communicate with them to solve these. I was promoted to manage this department in my last role.
  • I am very good with numbers. I have always enjoyed maths and received the highest grade in my year during my second year at university. I often tutor classmates when they need help.
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