Knowing your key three strengths and the value you can bring to a role and organisation is vital to your success at interviews. Yet many candidates find it difficult to both identify and express the activities and tasks that they are naturally and intuitively good at. Determining your own personal strengths can be particularly difficult if your confidence has been recently dented by an unsuccessful interview, redundancy, or conflict at work, or you might simply be the kind of person who thinks that it is boastful to think and talk about yourself in this way.
However, unless you know your own strengths, and how to promote them to stand out from other candidates, then you are unlikely to be able to sell yourself at an interview or properly address this type of question.
Some very common strength-based questions include:
- Tell me a little about yourself and the skills you bring to the role.
- What are the top three strengths that you can bring to the role?
- What value can you bring to the role?
- Why should we offer you this role?
Some prominent national and international employers, including the Civil Service, have also in recent years introduced strength-based interviewing. If you have not previously thought in depth about your own natural capabilities and how to evidence them at an interview, then you would likely struggle to answer Civil Service Strength questions, which then closes the door on a diverse wealth of potential employment opportunities.
Other organisations, the NHS for example, run value-based interviews, which are in turn considerably easier to tackle if you understand your strengths and how they help drive and optimise your performance at work.
So how can you learn what your three key strengths are?
One approach would be to carry out a SWOT analysis on yourself or even ask your friends, colleagues, and family to help. If this seems too embarrassing or time-consuming then below is a list of questions to help you think more objectively about yourself and your abilities. Try to answer spontaneously, without overthinking, and if you cannot answer a question then move on to the next and go back later when you have had a little more time to self-reflect.
- What do you like doing? What makes this enjoyable?
- What would your friends and family say about you?
- What would your colleagues say that you are good at doing?
- What do you find easy to learn?
- When things are going well in your life, what’s happening?
- When things are going well at work, what’s happening?
- If you are working in a team, what role would you like to play? How do you think you could best contribute?
- We all face obstacles but what are the three things that have helped you to bounce back?
- When friends, family or colleagues seek your help, what are they asking you to do?
- What makes you feel excited and energised at work?
- What makes you feel like you are providing a valuable contribution?
- If you had an opportunity to mentor or teach others, what would you like to teach them?
- What are you most proud of in your career so far? What have been some of your greatest achievements at work? How did you make them happen?
- What do you value about yourself?
- What do you find comes easily to you?
- What does a good day look like for you?
- How would you describe the strengths and skills that you have?
Once you have used these questions to obtain a better understanding of your strengths, think about how you can substantiate these innate qualities with evidence and examples.
For instance, if your role requires you to work with many stakeholders then you may have identified a personal strength to be your ability to collaborate and influence others. However, in an interview, you will also need to back this up with a recent, relevant example which demonstrates how you influenced a range of stakeholders with a different perspective or agenda to your own.
A helpful aid is to develop your examples according to the STAR framework. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Actions and Result and is a useful way to help you to identify the right strengths and then logically develop and structure your examples. If something is a true strength of yours, then you will likely be able to think of multiple relevant examples from your professional experience which positively added value to your role and organisation. True strengths are also normally activities that you repeat continuously, for example, being highly organised.
Having a better understanding of your top three strengths will help you go to interviews with the self-awareness and confidence to better promote yourself and enable you to be well-prepared for both strength and value-based interviews.