Photo of how to answer "What is your greatest strength?" in a job interview

How to Answer “What is your Greatest Strength?”

While the interview process can be stressful, it’s at least predictable. After you apply to a good number of companies, you will hopefully start get interview requests. Most companies follow the a similar hiring process:

  1. Phone screen: This is typically done by a recruiter or HR team member. These are generally brief conversations, but you should still prepare for your phone interview by researching the company and coming up with questions to ask.
  2. Technical or take-home challenge: This is generally done via a service like HackerRank for software engineers and data scientists, where the hiring manager can assess your technical skills and make sure you are a fit to move forward.
  3. Onsite interview: For tech companies, this can be as long as a full day and include many technical and behavioral interviews with various team members, both on the team you are applying for and elsewhere. Many of these cross-disciplinary interviews are behavioral. The best way to ace your behavioral interviews is to prepare properly and practice the types of questions you will see.

Graphic asking "What is your greatest strength?"

Like the interview process, behavioral interview questions also become predictable. You probably know some of the questions that will come up. We compiled a list of 3 of the most popular interview questions and outlined the best ways to answer each one. But,we wanted to draw your attention to the most common behavioral interview questions that you will see: “What is your greatest strength?” Some form of this question will almost certainly appear in your interviews. You may even encounter “greatest strength questions” several times in several interviews, often in both the phone screen and the onsite interviews.

One of the reasons ”What is your greatest strength” interview questions are so common is because it allows interviewers to gauge your emotional intelligence and understanding of interview etiquette. You might think that it is easy to talk about your strengths in an interview because your goal is to impress the interviewer—but trying to impress the interviewer is often the candidate’s downfall. You don’t want to come across as arrogant or insincere. Besides, it misses the other reason interviewers ask the question: to see if your strengths align with the strengths the company needs. Often, interviewers are listening for specific keywords that can be found online with just a little research.

That’s why our advice to prepare for “what is your greatest strength” interview question is the same as our best advice for behavioral interviews in general:  research the company so that you can add information about their specific needs for the role, mission, values, and products into your responses. When you get a good understanding of the company, you are ready to write down some answers to common behavioral interview questions so that you never freeze up in an interview.

Interviewers ask “what is your greatest strength” questions to see if your strengths and skills align with the specific requirements of the role (and company). The company is looking for specific characteristics in their employees. Usually, they’re looking for strengths that align with their company values and culture—You can usually find the specific company values on the about or mission page. This information is vital to properly answering this question. 

For example, if you are preparing for an interview at Stripe, they have information about what makes a successful employee right on their jobs page. When asked “what is your greatest strength”, highlight the specific values and skills they’re looking for (as long as it is true about you) in the job posting and company values.

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But that is not all: you also need to show that your strengths match the specific requirements of the role. Luckily for you, the necessary skills and strengths are listed in the job description itself. You can use the skills listed almost word for word. Before you go into the interview, prepare to answer “What is your greatest strength” by writing down the key skills and responsibilities stated in the job description.

For example, the job posting for a product manager position will likely include the following:

  • Ability to lead a cross-disciplinary team
  • Experience working on tight deadlines 
  • Extremely process-oriented and organized
  • Knowledge of metrics, analytics, and user testing

 With these already given to you, you can see what they want for this role and you can plan responses that highlight your strengths surrounding these skills. You should be succinct in your answers, but hit the main points. Here is an example of how to answer “What is your greatest strength?” in an interview for the earlier job posting:

  • “My greatest strengths are my organization and analytical skills. I love creating and adapting  processes to increase our efficiency and ensure that we always hit our deadlines, no matter how tight they are. One of my proudest moments was when I was leading a team of developers and designers to completely overhaul our app. We had a lot of moving pieces, but with a cool head and a constantly evolving Asana board, we were able to launch ahead of schedule.”

Highlighting skills listed in the job description isn’t just for “What is your greatest strength” interview questions—focusing on skills the company is actually looking for can help you stand out throughout the interview and increase your chances of getting hired.

Using this framework to answer “What is your greatest strength” and other interview questions, we have seen fellows in our program double their interview performance scores. Behavioral interviews don’t have to be a mystery—we’ve analyzed the most effective responses based on data so our fellows can go into their interviews with total confidence.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. If you want to work with any of our mentors on your behavioral interviews or any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise.

Apply today.

Alex MacPherson

Hi I'm Alex! Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019, I have worked on the growth team for Pathrise helping job seekers hone their skills to land their dream role through curated content on interview prep, resume building and more.

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