The No. 1 mistake that people make when answering this question is that they focus on the strength they want to, rather than the one that is needed on the job. For example, if your biggest strength in your mind is your ability to work with other people but a more important requirement of the job is to make sales, you need to focus on those skills as that is what the interviewer is looking for.
That’s why you need to do some homework before the interview. Before you figure out what you want to cite as your greatest strength, make sure that you spend time reviewing the job requirements of the particular job for which you are applying, and ascertaining what skills, attributes and experience are most important to them. That’s how you know what strengths you should focus on.
Once you’ve identified potential areas to highlight, make sure you have a related anecdote to share that illustrates it. The story is what really brings the strength to life. Here are some examples:
Your strength: You function well as part of a team.
The related task: You are going to be helping with sales proposals.
The story: Discuss how you’ve helped with new business in the past and that you understand how important it is for everyone to do their part. Mention how you are willing to jump in at the last minute when needed to help a colleague with their presentation and maybe cite a time when you did that – going above and beyond your job description. You could even discuss a coworker who dropped the ball and let the team down, and how that affected everyone around you.
Your strength: You are able to inspire the team.
The related task: You will be taking over a lackluster sales team, one where they have the talent but have become disengaged.
The story: Share how you have been able to motivate sales teams in the past. If you can provide numbers on how output increased, all the better. You also might want to focus on one particular team member for whom you really made a difference; for example, you could tell how you had a top performer who wasn’t feeling motivated and you were able to reignite their fire by inviting them to mentor another salesperson. Discuss different methods you use to communicate with your sales team, from team-building activities to one on ones and motivational thoughts.
Your strength: You are excellent at client service.
The related task: Taking over client contacts who loved the previous account manager.
The story: Provide an anecdote of how you were able to take over an account with a difficult client and meet their needs. Explain your client-first mentality, whether that’s taking care of providing frequent updates, meeting with them frequently or other tactics you use to show your client they are top of mind. Reassure the interviewer that you are able to respond to all different types of client personalities and that you have the expertise to reassure clients that they are in good hands.
Your strength: You are able to juggle multiple projects.
The related task: You will be assisting a team on a wide variety of projects.
The story: Describe a past position where you handled a similar workload. Discuss your ability to prioritize, to ensure that work is done in an organized fashion, focusing on the most important or pressing needs first. Cite productivity apps or tools you use to help manage workflow, so the interviewer knows that you are versatile with them.
Your strength: You have a knack for sales.
The related task: You’ll be taking over a book of business that needs to be refreshed.
The story: Managers who are hiring sales people are interested in one thing – whether you can put up the numbers. Showcase your experience in sales by giving hard numbers – that your sales increased x or y over a certain period of time, adding in details about the sales environment that underscore your ability to overcome obstacles. For example, if the rest of the market was contracting but you were expanding, mention that. Or, if you were able to uncover a lucrative niche segment to expand sales, let the interviewer know the details. While the methods you used to do this, such as client service, organization, etc., are important, it’s even more vital to share tales of success vis-a-vis successful sales numbers when being considered for a sales positon.
As with any interview question, the way to success with “the greatest strength” question is to make sure that you are addressing your interviewer’s needs. He or she is looking at each potential candidate through the lens of whether you will be able to solve the immediate problem they have – which might call for skills of sales, management, project juggling or any manner of core competencies.
The way to impress the interviewer with this question is to identify what you believe they are most looking for, and how your strength provides the answer.
by Cathie Ericson