During the job interview, the hiring manager is going to ask you about your strengths and weaknesses.
We’ve discussed in the past how to answer the dreaded “greatest weakness” question. Don’t say “vodka and gambling,” and do say that your greatest weakness is something non-crucial to the job and that you’re working to improve it. So, for example, if the job does not include cold calling or sales, you can say you’re not great at cold calling and sales. More on that in detail here.
How about your greatest strength? Well, to start with, they’re obviously looking for your greatest professional strength and something that is a positive. So, it’s probably better not to go with your awesome Axl Rose impersonation at karaoke or your ability to hold a grudge for 25 years. While those things are impressive. They (probably) won’t help you land the gig.
The most sought-after strengths
Of course, it depends on the job you’re going for, but there are strengths that are highly desired among hiring managers across industries. These tend to be soft skills rather than hard ones. Meaning that if you’re going for a coding job, by all means, go ahead and list coding among your strengths. But it’s also a good idea to mention some soft skills that give an idea into your personality, work ethic, etc.
According to a recent survey of more than 800 hiring managers, the most desired strength is problem-solving, followed by communication and time management. Respondents were asked to select their top three answers from a list.
Here is the full list of hiring managers’ desired strengths in descending order:
- Problem-solving 42%
- Communication 32%
- Time management 30%
- Honesty 21%
- Determination 20%
- Detail orientation 18%
- Dedication 17%
- Leadership 17%
- Discipline 15%
- Multitasking 15%
- Collaboration 14%
- Creativity 14%
- Organization 11%
- Versatility 11%
- Patience 9%
When answering this question, you should clearly go with one of the top three, then give an example of when you have put this skill to work.
It’s not enough to just say “problem-solving.” Tell a story about a time you solved a problem with your superior problem-solving skills. For example:
“I once had an editor who absolutely wanted a quote from Yoko Ono for an article. For some reason, she decided to set her heart on this the day before the article was to go to print. And I suddenly found myself in the position of having to track down Yoko Ono in, like, five hours. Of course, if you know anything about how these things work, you know that trying to reach her through a PR contact got me nowhere. So, I went to Twitter, which was in its infancy stages at the time, and started tweeting at her and those who were connected to her. I managed to get word to her this way and had my quote in three hours.”
This story, which is mostly true (I forget the actual details), demonstrates that I was willing to take on the challenge and was able to use social media to do so.
Another example might be this:
“I needed to raise a lot of money quickly, in order to help some refugees that I wanted to bring to Canada. Time was running out for the team I was working with, and I was desperate. I decided to walk from Toronto to Niagara Falls with my family to raise funds. This was based on the idea that refugees are often forced to leave their homes and walked for sometimes hundreds of miles to safety. I set up a website, did a bunch of social media promotion, and three weeks later walked out of my house with my husband and daughter – and straight to Niagara Falls over one week. We raised all the money we needed, and were able to bring the refugees who needed our help safely to Canada.”
This story, which is 100% true, shows that I was (again) ready to take on a challenge and to come up with a creative solution to a problem. As we managed to raise the funds, it also suggests that I have decent communications skills. So, I’ve covered two skills in one story. I can’t help you with time management. I’m terrible at that one.
The next time you have a job interview, prepare your stories beforehand. Take a look at what you’ve done and find stories that demonstrate the soft skills employers are looking for – preferably more than one at a time.
Then, when the time comes, you’ll be ready to wow em with your amazing strengths.