Interview tips: Focus on your strengths
What are the key messages you're delivering in your job search campaign? Identify them by focusing on your best assets.
Want to wow a hiring manager in a job interview? Learning to focus on your strengths—the skills and talents that set you apart from other job candidates—is a smart strategy. Plus, the people who are interviewing you actually want you to do well and will give you every opportunity to put your best foot forward—that's why those strengths interview questions are popular.
“I call them career superpowers,” says Brenda Abdilla, a Denver-based career and leadership coach. “Your strengths make you irresistible to an employer.” Take these steps to identify your strong suits and learn how to communicate them clearly at a job interview.
Assess your career achievements
Before you can sell your strengths, you need to pinpoint what they are. “It’s your job, as a job seeker, to figure out what your top skills are,” says job search strategist Jenny Foss. “It’s not the job of the hiring manager or recruiter to make those deductions for you.”
Kathy Caprino, a Connecticut-based career coach and author of the book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, recommends job seekers do some self-reflection before they sit down for an audition. “Think back on the last 10 wins you’ve had at work,” Caprino says. “What helped you create those successes, specifically, and how did you do it in ways others may not have achieved in the same manner?”
In addition, “ask 10 of your favorite colleagues who think highly of you—from your past and current roles—to share what they think makes you stand out in your work and your abilities,” Caprino suggests.
Utilize the job description
As you focus on your strengths, keep in mind the job requirements for the position and see where there's overlap. This is a crucial step, Abdilla says. A good starting point? Hiring managers frequently frontload job descriptions with the most important responsibilities. A job description’s skills section can also be a great reference point.
Speak confidently about your strengths—without overselling yourself
Some job seekers shy away from self-promotion, but a strengths interview question requires you to sell yourself and explain why you’re the best person for the job. “You need to be able to talk confidently about the things your strengths and achievements,” says Abdilla.
The caveat? “There is a right way to speak powerfully and confidently about your strengths and accomplishments, and there is a wrong way,” Caprino says. “Avoid superlatives and just raving about yourself, like saying, 'I’m the best!' and instead, present the facts about what you offer and how that is helpful to others and different from what [other job candidates] may offer.”
Use anecdotes to make your case
Many job candidates make the mistake of talking about their strengths without offering concrete examples that show the value they bring, Abdilla laments. Therefore, preparing anecdotes, that you can recite concisely, is a must. (e.g., “I’m well versed in promoting brands on social media. At my previous job, I created a new Facebook marketing campaign that enabled us to engage with prospective customers. I also grew the company’s presence on Twitter by gaining 100,000 followers over the course of five months.”)
Highlight your strengths from the outset
The first interview question many hiring managers ask is, "Tell me about yourself.” This is a great opportunity to talk up your strengths, says Carole Martin, job interview coach and author of Boost Your Interview IQ. Delivering a well-crafted elevator pitch can set a positive tone for the conversation. Practice what you’re going to say so that you’re not scrambling to find the right words.
Quantify your achievements
Metrics sell, Foss says, so use numbers to back up your accomplishments and your core strengths whenever possible. There are obvious metrics like sales volume, market share and profitability, but there are also people-oriented numbers like clients served or employees managed that can help you describe your skills. Numbers should also be woven into your resume.