Friday, September 26, 2014

Interviewing: What's Your Greatest Strength?

"What's your greatest strength?" asks the interviewer.
     "Well, mmmm. . . , I would say I'm . . .  un . . . ." stumbles the interviewee.
A missed opportunity to succinctly and reasonably tell your interviewer a couple of your key attributes that make you stand out from the crowd and why hiring you would be a good thing!

"What's your greatest strength?"
This frequently asked interview question throws a lot of interviewees as much as its closely related cousin:  What's your greatest weakness?  On the surface, it shouldn't. It seems it should be the easier of the two questions.  But, it throws a lot of job seekers anyway.  It seems that saying "good things" about yourself and your job performance is not as easy or as comfortable as it might seem.

So, in answering this question . . . 
  1. Consider what you want interviewers and networking contacts to know about your job performance, and   
  2. Plan what you want to say as carefully as you do in answering the flip-side question:  What's your greatest weakness?
Almost all interviewers will askWhat's your greatest strength?
Almost all interviewers will ask this question.  They want to know what you bring to the table.  In other words, they want to know:
  1. How can hiring you, benefit them? 
  2.  But, they also ask it to see how you handle this question and what it reveals about you in terms of how you see yourself.   It tells them a lot.
While some candidates for positions overdo it with self-serving comments that come across as "bragging," this question really allows candidates to 
What is to be gained from answering this question well?  Lots!
1.  It begins the sale - your sale of you to the hiring company, or to a network contact who - if impressed - will refer you.
2.  It makes the sale.  If your strengths -- abilities, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, knowledge, education, job history & interpersonal skills -- impress and convince the hiring manager that you are what he or she needs to solve problems or attain growth, you're hired!

A particularly good interview question
Unlike its close cousin (What’s Your Biggest Weakness?) which is not a particularly good question, “What’s Your Greatest Strength?” is a particularly good question; in fact, it’s a great question!  

It allows candidates to:

(1) State their case for hiring them, and 
(2) Move their cause forward.  
A well thought-out fact-based answer, can convince the HR interviewer, the hiring manager, and other members of the interviewing panel that hiring you is a good thing!

A strategy

As with its close cousin, this question can work against you if 
you are not prepared.  Without a strategy, some job seekers provide a foot-in-mouth answer that knocks them out of the competition entirely.

Below is a strategy to follow that delivers a thoughtful fact-based answer:
  • Step 1 Choose a strength, or 2 or 3 strengths, that relate to key requirements of the job. 
  • Step 2.  Review your professional accomplishments and select one (or better 2 or 3) that demonstrate how you used the strengths you've chosen in performing work.  Since these should be stated as Accomplishment Statements (i.e., bulleted points on your resume), they should be easy to find.
  • Step 3.  Practice telling the story of each Accomplishment Statement.  State (1)  the situation, challenge, or problem you faced; (2) the actions you took; and (3) the result you achieved.
A triple win
Using the strategy just described above, you score a TRIPLE WIN!
1.  You provide a fact-based response, backed up by your story.
2.  You show self-awareness.
3.  You not only talk about but demonstrate how you used your strength(s) to achieve a successful outcome to a problem you tackled or situation you encountered.  

In summary, effective interviewing is not easy, but it's not rocket science either! While there are 1000s of interview questions being asked, many are common and frequently asked questions.  Do some homework.  Learn what these frequently asked questions are, plan credible responses in advance, and sail through your interview!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.  View
Nancy's Nine Cardinal Rules of Interviewing for more advice.
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