Stand Out During an Interview: How to Talk about Your Strengths
Last week I had an interesting conversation while doing interview preparation with one of my 1:1 clients. We were practicing how he can talk about his work experience in English. His answers were good, but I noticed that he wasn’t giving much evidence of his success and accomplishments. His answers were more just a description of his career history without any actual proof that he’s doing well.
I told him that he needs to talk more about his strengths and accomplishments, and he responded that he thought it would sound arrogant to emphasize his accomplishments during an interview. While his concern had good intentions, not emphasizing your strengths and accomplishments during an interview is a big mistake.
Interviewers really want to make sure you’re qualified and capable of doing that job well. One of the best ways you can show that is by providing relevant, objective proof of your skills and capabilities. This ‘evidence of success’ is what will make you stand out from the other candidates, make the interviewer remember you, and help you get the job!
However, when you talk about your strengths and accomplishments, it’s very important that you do two things
Give relevant strengths.
Before an interview, find out what skills/qualities the employer is looking for, and think of the experiences/accomplishments you have that show you have those skills. If you talk about abilities that are unrelated to that job, it can actually hurt your chances, because it might seem like you aren’t a good fit for that role. You need to talk about strengths and accomplishments that prove you’ll be able to perform well at the specific job you’re applying for. That will show the interviewer that you’re a great fit for that position.
Give objective evidence.
Anyone can walk into an interview and say they’re skilled at X, Y, and Z. The problem with that is it’s really just your opinion. What a hiring manager is looking for is proof. ‘I was the highest-selling salesman in my department for 6 months in a row’ is MUCH more convincing than ‘I’m really good at sales and customer service’. So, before an interview, think of how you can prove your skills with objective evidence. Awards, positive reviews, and statistics such as sales figures are all great.
Now, we’re going to look at three examples. Two will be examples of poor answers, and one will be an example of a great answer.
Let’s imagine you’re applying for a job as a developer.
The job description emphasized that the company wants someone skilled in many programming languages and with experience developing both websites and mobile applications.
The interviewer asks, “Why should we hire you?”
You should hire me because I have excellent communication and teamwork skills. I always communicate well with members of my team. At my previous job, I actually won the ‘employee of the month’ award 4 times in one year, which was the most of any staff member. I won this because of my strong communication and teamwork abilities.
This answer is poor because it’s not very relevant. Remember, the employer is looking for someone with strong programming skills. That is what you need to emphasize in your answer
You should hire me because I am a highly-skilled programmer. I work very hard to understand and use different programming languages well. I also have a lot of experience developing apps and websites. I know if I get the opportunity, I will do great work at your company.
This answer is poor because there’s no objective evidence. Anyone can say they’re a skilled programmer.
You should hire me because I have all the programming skills you’re looking for. I know you want someone who is skilled in using different programming languages. Over the past 6 years, I’ve developed over 25 applications using a variety of programming languages including Python, Java, C++, and Kotlin. Several of my apps have charted on the app store, and almost every app I’ve developed has a 4.5/5.0 or higher review score. I’ve also developed websites for over a dozen startup companies, many of which gained significantly more online revenue and traffic after I worked on their websites. One company in particular was able to 10X their size in just one year after I improved the look and functionality of their website. Most of this increase was due to online traffic, and their CEO even told me that the improved website was a big factor in their growth. I’m very confident in my abilities as a developer, and know that I would produce consistent high-quality work at your company.
This is a much better answer because it’s both relevant and objective. The numbers and evidence prove that this person actually has the skills that the employer is looking for.
You absolutely should talk about your skills and accomplishments during an interview. You need to stand out and show the employer you have the skills they’re looking for. However, before you start listing random strengths you have, do a little research to find what exactly the employer wants, and emphasize those skills with objective proof. That’s what will make you stand out, make a great impression, and hear those magic words, “We’d like to hire you.”
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