How To Answer
The first step in answering this question is to come up with a list of at least five of your biggest strengths, mainly in the form of some type of skill. Most of these skills should be taken from the job listing so that they are hyper relevant to the job you’ll be interviewing for.
Where To Get Your Strengths From
Strengths as job skills can usually be put into three different categories: technical skills, transferable skills, and personal or social skills.
Technical skills are skills that are highly job dependent and are usually acquired through years of experience or through proper schooling.
A medical assistant knowing how to draw blood is one example of a technical skill. An electrician knowing how to use a voltage meter, or another specialized tool, would be another example.
Transferable skills are skills that you can apply from job to job, regardless of the industry.
Your ability to problem solve or communicate could bean example of a transferable skill. Using particular Microsoft Office software, which many jobs now call for, would be another example.
Personal skills are skills based on your personality and how pleasant you are to be around.
While you would very rarely use personal skills as your “greatest” strength, they are still an important part of the job process. How well you seem to mesh personality wise with staff can make or break any candidate.
Don’t worry so much about what category your strength is in. The categories are more of a way for you to think about your past experience and help you find new strengths.
How To Practice
Getting better at answering any interview question involves continued practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. There is just no replacement for practicing how fast you will speak, in what tone you will answer, and what your face will look like when you talk.
Practice Session Activities
Here are a few different ways to practice answering “What Is Your Greatest Strength”.
Write down three instances in your career where you have used one of your strengths to accomplish a task (individually or as a team). These stories should include what the problem was, how you used your strength, and a resolution to the initial problem.
Tell these stories to a patient friend and see if they are able to follow along and understand what your strength is.
Afterwards, evaluate how compelling you were able to make each story. Sometimes a smaller task with a lot on the line is easier to talk about with enthusiasm than a larger task with nothing on the line.
Also, think about what parts of the story were not essential and could be cut to make your story shorter and more streamlined.
Activity Two – “Out Of A Hat”
This practice interview exercise is for people who have multiple skills they consider to be their strengths.
After being invited for an interview, take a look at the job listing and find out the 3-5 skills they value the most that intersect with what you’re best at.
Take 3-5 pieces of paper and write down the skills. Put the pieces of paper in a hat and mix them up. Pull out one piece of paper at a time and talk about (tell a story about) how you’ve used the skill that’s written on the piece of paper.
You can try this activity on the fly or by writing down some situations before picking from the hat. Regardless of how you go about it the point is to think of situations where you were at your best, using skills the employer specifically wants.
Having practiced a variety of answers, you not only practice the more general question of what your greatest strength but also are prepared to answer questions about specific job-relevant skills. Bonus points if you combine strengths into one story!
Here is a sample answer based off of some of my own experience, centered around the “strength” of communication.