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Tell me about your strengths

2011 March 11
by Shannon Lowder
"Re,Re, Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force"

Re,Re, Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force...wiki, wiki

The next tough interview question I’ve often received is “What are your strengths?”  As a knowledge worker you’ve got two ways to go here.  You can go with the technical skills, or you can go with soft skills.  Knowing which way to go can be tough.

If you’re just starting out, or you’re applying for a generalist role, you’re going to want to go with the soft skills.

  • I’m a quick learner who’s constantly driven to pick up new skills and apply them in new and interesting ways.
  • I’m a team player.  I work best when I’m acting as a complement to the strengths of my team-mates.
  • I’ve worked hard to become a great communicator.  I strive when I’m in a role that requires working with many different teams, and helping them all work together!

I know you can’t hear how I’m answering here, but read them all again with a very cheerful and energetic voice.  Enthusiasm for your job should come out during the whole interview process.  That energy will help set you apart from others.  You’ll be easier to remember after the interview is over.

Now, if you’re interviewing for a mid to senior level position, you should have already picked a specialty.  It makes choosing a technical strength a bit easier.  If you’re applying for a role that’s specifically looking for a database administrator, you’re going to want to choose a strength that applies to that role.

  • I have years of experience building disaster recovery solutions.  I generally plan for the worst case scenario when setting up standard operating procedures.  I also test, test, and retest those SOPs to make sure they’ll work when the time comes.
  • I’m constantly reviewing the dynamic management views on my highest usage databases, looking for any performance gain I can find.  I’m very proactive that way.

Again, I say these with great, natural enthusiasm.  I love my job, and it shows.  I make sure that the interviewer knows that, and sees that my strengths are exactly what they need them to be.

Now, I’m not advocating you tell someone that your greatest strength is actually something you’ve never done before.  What I am saying is bring up those strengths you have, that most apply to the role you’re going after.  Believe it or not, the person interviewing you has a vested interest in you being the best fit for the job.

All you have to do is build that case.

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