“What is your greatest strength?”
This could be considered a trick question because if you go overboard, your job interview answers will sound self-centered and trite.
On the other hand, you’ve already had a terrific opportunity to identify your great strengths: In your resume.
If you’ve taken that opportunity, then you might find that it’s easy to talk about your strengths — and even about the areas where you would like to improve.
We’re going back in time to look at your resume now, so pull it out and read along as we decode this interview question and how to answer.
In another post, we discussed the idea of “Problem – Action – Result” as it relates to good resume writing. The problem is the issue that you face; the action, obviously, is the action you took; and the result is the (hopefully positive) outcome.
Your resume is probably very much focused on those results; you want to associate yourself with as many positive outcomes as possible. But as far as your interview responses go, it’s the Action you took that tells the interviewer what your greatest strengths are. How do you solve problems? How do you get things done?
Now, of course, you could choose whatever you feel is your greatest strength. However, this can be problematic; where’s the evidence? In a good resume, you’ve already done the work of providing the evidence by showing your action and results.
So, before you plan your job interview answers, look at those actions. Are you good at motivating teams? On the flip side, do you come up with plans and do whatever it takes, on your own if necessary, to get things done? Are you a master strategist? The overall headings in your resume and the actions they describe should give you a hint!
In the best case scenario, your excellent resume works together with your interview prep so that every element reinforces one another. When you’re trying to answer something as broad and subjective as “your greatest strength,” the best way to do it is with the evidence that’s already available.
If you choose to introduce something new, the interviewer has good reason to wonder why that’s not reflected on your resume. On the other hand, if you choose something that isn’t sufficiently backed by evidence, he or she will think: “Yeah, right: Prove it!” This way, all of your bases are covered.