You stress over the interview question “What are your biggest weaknesses”.
But acing the question about your strengths can be just as important. If answered well, it’s another opportunity to stand out from your competition.
You can take the easy approach, and state some common strength everyone else has, like “I have a solid work ethic” or “I have great communication skills”.
Or you can prepare in advance and zero in on a specific skill with context through a story to back it up.
Stories sell. Stories get remembered.
There are two ways to answer this question. You can:
- Use a skills/requirement that is specifically asked for in the job description
- You can use a transferable skills (like leadership/project management/communication skills) that you truly believe outshines everyone else.
Option #1 Going with the job description
Look at the job description and try to catch a key skill repeating over and over again.
If you don’t find a pattern, use the skill and responsibility at the top of the job description – this is going to be the most important aspect of the job, and attributing your strength to what they need is a perfect match.
The advantage of this approach is that it’s a customized answer for the interview, and that’s always going to resonate better with the interviewer.
The downside is more work – you’ll have to read the job description, and find and practice a new answer for every interview.
Option #2 Going with a transferable strength
Use a skill that’s needed for every job, but make sure you truly believe you stand out with that skill. This means you have to back it up with super specific context and truly compelling story that is memorable.
Because the risk of a transferable strength, is that every other candidate might be stating the same strength.
Here is an example.
“I believe I have exceptional communication skills. And the reason is because I’m able to succinctly communicate, both via email and my presentations.
I know this to be true because while many of my peers complain they don’t hear back from senior management, I almost always get a response from them. This is because my emails and short and to the point, just the way senior management like it. Getting those valuable responses means I’m able to get more done in less time.
Also, you’ll find that when I do a presentation, I’m able to follow the same principle – more with less. This is why my manager and his peers trust me to “beautify” their powerpoint presentations with a clean look. I’ve gotten great feedback from my peers on my presentations as well.”
You see how such common strength like “communication skills” can be brought into a whole new light when you’re able to provide context through examples and stories and feedback?
The right choice…
It’s entirely up to you. In a more technical field, I’d go with Option 1, where the skills from the job description will probably be more important to the hiring manager.
In a role that is more oriented to soft skills, I’d go with Option 2.
There is no right or wrong answer. As long as your strength is backed with context through examples and stories and feedback, it’s going to be an answer that the hiring manager will remember come decision time to pick the winning candidate.