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What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
This is a relatively straight forward question. And it is obvious that the interviewer is trying to find out No. 1 above – “Can you do the job?”
There’s no real hidden agenda at play. The interviewer simply wants to know where you believe your strengths lie.
The interviewer will be coming into the interview knowing exactly what their team/organisation need. What experience or skill set is missing from their current employee base. They are looking to see if your strengths will marry up well with what they are looking for.
The interviewer will have your CV so they will know exactly what you’ve done, but they want to know in your own words what areas of the job you excel in.
The best approach to answering this question
This is an interview so there is no point being modest. The best answers will briefly discuss how you believe that you have a quite varied skill set and a possess a great many strengths that are applicable to the role before drilling down into 3 that you believe to be your best.
This is not a story based question (like a ‘Tell me about a time‘ question) where the interviewer is expecting you to walk them through one of your experiences (where the B-STAR technique is the correct approach)
No for this question the ideal approach is to list all 3 strengths and then in turn go into further detail about why you feel that you possess each strength and how you are able to use that strength in your current role (the best answers will also relate this strength to the role that is being discussed).
How NOT to answer this question
Do not avoid the question. – This question is about your strengths. Ensure that is the question you answer. I have seen people take this question all sorts of ways; ranging from candidates just rehashing their experience without mentioning what it was they were good at, to someone who actually talked about what areas she thought she was weakest in. Keep it straight forward. The interviewer asked for strengths, give them some strengths.
Do not be overly modest. – It’s an interview, you are allowed, – nay – required, to sell yourself. Blow your own horn and share with the interviewer what your skills are. Being modest here will just mean that you do not get the job.
Do not give a one-sentence answer. – Just listing off 3 strengths will not get you far with this question. You need to explain to the interviewer why you feel this is one of your strengths, linking back to your previous experience and trying to tie that in to how you would use this strength in your future role.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS – Example answer
“As you can see from my CV I have a great deal of experience in a wide range of roles. This experience has afforded me the opportunity to considerably grow my skill set over the years to the point that now I believe I possess a great many strengths that can be applied to excelling in this role.
You asked for my 3 biggest. I think my 3 biggest strengths are my problem solving abilities, my communication skills and my industry knowledge.
The first of these strengths I wish to discuss is my industry knowledge. I have been working in this area for my full career, working all across the spectrum in various roles. I believe this puts me firmly in the Expert category when it comes to our sector, I will bring this knowledge into every project I work.
My 2nd biggest strength is my communication skills. After 3 years of sales experience I have no problem building rapport and in creating instant connections with stakeholders of any level. I have created long lasting relationships with customers, suppliers and all levels of management. If I were to join X company not only would I seek to make a great first impression to all my new stakeholders I would also seek to tap into my existing network for the betterment of the organisation.
The last strength I wish to discuss may sound a bit cliche but I do think it is my strongest area. I am able to quickly and efficiently solve problems as they land on my desk. In my last role this came in handy during COVID when we were working remotely with a reduced workforce, everything needed to be completed quickly but without sacrificing quality. I can use these skills to aid in projects that have tight turnaround times or that require ‘thinking on your feet’.“
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