The interview question “what are your strengths?” is not as straightforward to answer as it might seem.

“What are your strengths?” seems like an open invitation to touch on the greatest hits of your career. If you are nervous though, it is the sort of question that you can answer too quickly. In other words, many candidates will fail to make the most of this opportunity, by taking their answer to another level. 

The hiring manager wants to hear far more than “I am a world-class communicator.”

Headline responses with little substance to back them up will impress no one.

How to answer “what are your strengths” is far from a simple matter. Let's unpack it a little. What does the employer really want to hear? We consider:

  • Why do employers ask about strengths?

  • How to answer: “What is your greatest strength?”

  • Examples of strengths and how to describe them

  • Tips for describing your strengths

The self-aware candidate will know that the demands of the role will determine whether their strengths truly pack a punch. Amazing team-building skills count for nothing in a standalone customer service role. 

The better question is: “Which of your strengths will help you make the biggest impact in this role?” See what I mean? There is more to this question than meets the eye.

Why do employers ask about strengths?

Interviewers want to uncover as much as they can about the potential employee sitting in front of them. Positive questions such as “what are your strengths?” help break the ice during an interview and get the candidate talking.

As we will explore in this blog, this question assumes that a candidate will respond with strengths that they consider relevant for the role, so it will also reveal just how much they understand the role itself.

From a cultural point of view, a boss will want a mix of strengths within their team, so sometimes a candidate cannot possibly know what the ideal answer may be. If a candidate is truthful, it will help both parties be sure that this is the right fit.

How to answer: “What is your greatest strength?”

In baseball terms, this question should be a home run. Many candidates will have thought long and hard about how to answer what their strengths are. So, take care not to launch into a mechanical and obviously pre-prepared response. Savor the opportunity to sell your skills.

Act natural and pause before you launch into your opening monologue. Don't talk for too long as the interviewer will definitely ask you to expand on certain details.

Pick your greatest strengths in the context of the role. 

You might be wondering how to answer what are your strengths, but the employer only wants to know about your greatest strengths within the context of the role. Your opera singing isn't very helpful in a library.

Frame your top skills and back up with experiences. 

You are missing a trick if you share a particular skill without telling a compelling (and memorable) story to back it up. Expand on your answer for at least a minute – this is your moment in the spotlight.

Outline the impact of your strengths on those around you. 

Strengths are wasted if they do not benefit others. Colleagues in a tight-knit team experience a halo effect as everyone does their best work. If you are great at something, coach those around you who aren't so good.

Be realistic – otherwise, doubts may arise. 

If you do not offer a measured and believable answer to this question, the interviewer may begin to doubt the honesty and accuracy of other answers. It only takes a hint of an exaggeration to taint the balance of an interview.

Bear in mind the content of the interview. 

This question may arise later in the interview once the candidate has had a chance to understand more about the nature of the role, to tailor your answer to what you have learned about the role. Make your greatest strength as relevant as possible.

9 Greatest strength examples for an interview

One interview “pro tip” is to offer a top-level answer and immediately back it up with a hyper-specific example.

If you say that your greatest strength is your communication skills and then give a detailed example from a certain aspect of comms, the interviewer might assume that your other communication skills are at the same level. You run the risk of being asked about other communication skills, but if you give a satisfactory example, they will likely move on.

Here are X examples of top-level strengths with a bullet-point example (bullets should occupy at least half of your work experience section) to knock any interviewer's socks off. As long as the example is relevant to the job in question, that is.

Communication skills.

Conveying a message to others and getting the desired result every time is one of the most sought-after management skills. When everyone around you is busy with their own thoughts, cutting through the noise and reaching them is sometimes far from easy.

  • Coordinated a 900-person internal conference with 30+ industry speakers

People skills.

We can achieve more if we harness the talents of those around us with our people skills. When we understand the abilities, motivations, and personalities of our colleagues, we are able to concoct a powerful formula to solve any potential challenge.

  • 85% of my previous reports secured internal promotions within 3 years

Analytical skills.

If we do not grasp what is really going on, we cannot make good decisions. With the advent of AI and Big Data analytics, partnering with technology to reach the right conclusions has never been more possible. Then you (only) need to decide what to do with all that data.

  • Compared 45,000+ market research data points to create a new brand strategy

Leadership skills.

When you can guide a team of people, your impact can be unlimited. Leaders know that a team is only as strong as how effectively it is managed – they know their people well and seek to make the most of their unique talents.

  • Spearheaded a change project after an M&A that led to $19m cost savings


It is one thing to get the most out of those around you, but many of us struggle to get the most out of ourselves. Why do we come to work and how do we make the most of our days when motivation is hard to come by.

  • Conquered my natural introversion by presenting to 800 colleagues every month


It is a special feeling when someone gets us. Empathy is the art of walking in someone else's shoes for as long as it takes to see what it feels like to be them. Selfish leaders insist on their hot takes – empathetic leaders take the temperature of the collective into account.

  • Assisted new starters understand the company culture during induction weeks

Writing skills. 

The magic of writing is that you can influence an audience without being in the room. Whether it is a script for a video or a swiftly written email, great writing takes the audience on exactly the journey that you intend.

  • Created and curated the weekly marketing blog for our social channels


When you are faced with a blank page, how do you go about filling it? Creativity rules nothing out. Being open to what may come often leads to the best ideas being formed,  deconstructed, and then re-formed to provide solutions.

  • Invented a new approach to customer retention – they stayed 38% longer 

Influencing skills.

Getting your way at work is not a reflection of how loud you shout or how much you insist. The subtle art of influencing is much more nuanced. Persuading others to accept and adopt your perspective comes when you give them the space to understand you.

  • Persuaded my boss to adopt a fresh approach to customer care

Again, each of these examples above is hyper-specific, but so long as they are convincing, they will act as a place marker for the other subsets of skills. Prepare yourself for follow-up questions about other aspects of your top-level strength. Just in case.

How to avoid talking about weaknesses

When the conversation turns to your strengths, you know that a question about your weaknesses is sure to follow.

Depending on the circumstances, our strengths can quickly become weaknesses. Think carefully again about the nature of the role and make sure that your examples cannot be turned into potential weaknesses.

There is nothing worse than saying “I am forthright with my opinions” and then not having an answer to “ah, interesting, but does your team find you somewhat overbearing?” Accept that someone's idea of a strength will be another person's poison.

For more tips as you gear up for that interview, check out our expert interview advice.

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