‘What is your greatest strength?’ is a common interview question, often accompanied by ‘What is your greatest weakness?’. On the surface, talking about your strengths might sound easier than talking about your weaknesses. However, it is equally important and requires some careful preparation. It’s very easy to get this part wrong and come across as too arrogant or even too modest. If you don’t prepare in advance, you could fall into the trap of listing the first things that come to mind, which might not even be relevant to the role.
So how can you best approach this question? If you are prepared to put in the effort, these tips will help you plan an exceptional answer for any interview. Before you get started, it is useful to know what recruiters are trying to find out when they ask ‘What is your greatest strength?’
Why do interviewers ask ‘What is your greatest strength?’
The aim of the interview is to find out whether or not you are the right person for the job. This involves identifying if you have the necessary skills, if you are dedicated to your career, and if you’ll fit in with the rest of the team. Your answer should help your interviewer decide if you have the necessary skills – if you don’t tell them you have the skills to complement the role, no one will. It can also tell them more about your personality, which will help them work out your levels of commitment, and if you’re the right fit for the team.
As with many interview questions, this question is just as much about how you answer as what you answer. Revealing what you think are your greatest strengths can reveal a lot about your personality. Are you confident in your own ability? Or do you seem unsure that you are capable of doing the job?
It is also worth noting that as ‘What is your greatest strength?’ is such a common interview question, your interviewer will expect you to have prepared.
How to answer ‘What is your greatest strength?’
The best answer to this question will be in two parts and will include your strength and some examples of how you have demonstrated this skill in the past. The strength you choose must be related to the job you’re applying for.
The easiest way to find a strength that will help show your interviewer that you have the skills for the job is to match your strengths with the job description. First, make a list of all the skills in the job description, then cross-examine this list with a list of your own strengths. Hopefully, you will find that a number of these are on both lists. Pick the three strengths that are most important for the role.
The next stage is to match these skills up with some examples. We suggest that you come up with two examples for each.
If you can’t pinpoint your strong points, ask a friend or colleague what they feel your greatest strengths are. They will have a different perspective on your abilities and therefore will be able to give an honest opinion. Ask them if they can think of a time when you demonstrated a particular strength. Again, their suggestions might surprise you.
You will only need to answer the question with one strength and one example. It is useful to have some spare strengths and examples up your sleeve in case the question asks for plural ‘strengths’, or in case they ask you to develop your answer.
Now you have your strengths and examples prepared, the next stage is to practice. We always recommend that candidates don’t script and learn answers word-for-word as this can sound a little unnatural. It can also throw you off if the question is phrased slightly differently. It is better to prepare bullet points and work from these. This allows for some flexibility and your answer will sound much more natural.
What to avoid
Many people find job interviews particularly difficult because they feel uncomfortable about the element of boasting their skills. It’s easy to be too modest in this scenario. If this sounds like you, it might be useful to simply state your strengths and examples as facts. If you have chosen your strength well and have an appropriate example, this will be enough for the interviewer.
The opposite, being too arrogant, is also a common mistake. You won’t win any points for bragging – and you could sacrifice any suggestions of being a team player.
Not being able to back up your strengths with examples is another common pitfall. This immediately weakens your answer and your interviewer won’t have solid evidence of your capabilities.
Key interview questions a law firm might ask you:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you decide to go to law school?
- Why did you choose your law school?
- Is your GPA an accurate reflection of your abilities? Why or why not?
- What makes you think you are a good lawyer?
- What do you know about our firm?
- What area of law most interests you?
- Tell me about a major accomplishment.
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What interests you most about the legal system?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How has your education and experience prepared you for the practice of law?
- Describe a professional failure and how you handled it.
- Why should we hire you over other candidates?
- What questions do you have?