What to say when an interviewer asks: "what is your biggest strength?"

Amy O'Neill

Let's face it, no one likes to brag.

Answering this kind of question can be incredibly difficult for some - especially if you're applying for your first job and you're unsure what kind of "key strengths" you can bring to the table. 

Really, your whole interview should be based around identifying and relating your strengths to the advertised position. However, being asked outright about what experiences and skills set you apart from the rest can be a little jarring. 

Here are some suggestions to make answering this question a little easier.


1. Be honest

This may go without saying, but honesty really is the best policy. You're not going to get anywhere by talking up skills that you don't have, and even worse, you might just talk yourself into a position that you are wholly under-qualified for. In order to find the best position, it's important to first identify the real skills that you have and put them in the context of the job you're applying for.

A great way to do this is to take note of the candidate profile posted in the job description and match it to your own skills. Don't lie or embellish, and base it on skills that you're fully comfortable demonstrating.  


2. Don't go off-topic

If you are, for whatever reason, caught completely off-guard by this question in your interview then try not to panic. One thing you don't want to do is go off on a tangent or talk yourself in circles - this might indicate to the interviewer that you just don't know yourself well enough and aren't the right fit for the role. 

The best way to avoid this kind of panic-rambling is preparation: before your interview, make a list of four or five key skills that you can refer to if you get off-track. Again, you can use the candidate description to craft this list which ensures each of your skills relate to the job at hand.


3. Avoid generic statements

When talking about your strengths, try to avoid generic, closed statements like: "I'm a very organised person". Interviewers have probably heard this particular strength countless times - it's overused and not specific to you as a potential candidate. Instead, try to expand on each skill by relating it to how it helps you improve your workflow.

For example: "I'm a very organised person, and I think that contributes to how easily I'm able to manage my workload and work towards deadlines." Just adding that little bit extra and tying it back to the position can make all the difference when it comes to selecting candidates.


4. Tell a story

If you really struggle to talk about yourself or your skills directly, try telling a story instead. This is a great way to put your skills across in a subtle but meaningful way. For inspiration, try telling a story about an obstacle you were able to overcome, what you learned from it, and what the experience meant to you. It doesn't have to be complex, and try to keep it relatively short to keep the interviewer's attention.


5. Identify skills you want to improve

It's always important to remember that your interviewers aren't expecting you to know how to do everything. If you truly feel that you don't have one, strong, identifiable skill - then try to talk about an area that you would like to improve on. This should generally be a skill that strongly relates to the position that you can demonstrate your existing knowledge of as well as your desire to learn and progress. 

For example: "While I already have a good deal of experience in digital marketing, I'd like to develop my skills a bit further. Right now, I've enrolled into a few online courses and masterclasses so that I can learn even more - particularly about branding and social media strategy - which I feel would help the company reach a wider audience."


With these tips in mind, remember that interviewers aren't asking this question to trip you up. They ask it to ensure that you will not only be a benefit to the role, but that the role will also be a benefit to you. No one likes to be in a job where they feel overwhelmed and stressed and part of finding that perfect, comfortable role is matching it to your unique skills and allowing yourself to flourish.