Interview Tips: A Simple Exercise to Identify Your Strengths

QUICK! – before reading any further, jot down your answer to the ubiquitous interview question:

“What are your greatest strengths?”


Ok – how did it feel to think about this question and try to answer it? So many of us – even seasoned professionals – struggle to talk coherently and assertively about our strengths. We aren’t quite sure what our strengths actually are and our answers feel too vague.  We know that statements such as: “I’m personable!” “I’m a hard worker!” aren’t convincing on their own, and probably aren’t going to cut it in an interview.

Many of us have also been taught since we were kids not to brag too much, and play down our accomplishments. Confidently talking about our strengths takes practice for most of us.

The truth is, understanding your strengths is a huge piece to the lifelong puzzle of building a successful career. If you are doing work that plays to your strengths you are going to be happier, more efficient and your work will be much higher quality. Identifying your strengths and refining how you talk about them is a continual process, and the work starts now.

Here is a simple exercise that is a great way to begin uncovering your real strengths.

Interview three people that know you well and ask them what THEY believe are your greatest strengths, and ask them for an example of when they saw each strength in action. You can set up a time to talk in person, or ask in email. If it feels uncomfortable to ask, just tell them it’s for an assignment. (True! We are assigning this work to you today.) Good people to ask include:

  • Parents/relatives
  • Friends/significant others
  • Peers you’ve worked with on course projects
  • Professors
  • Supervisors
  • Former bosses

Find the themes, and choose three strengths that most commonly were mentioned.

For each of the three strengths you chose, write down at least three examples of that strength in action. You can use the stories that others told you, but also add your own. They don’t have to be major accomplishments for now. What you are trying to do is really understand is how your strengths manifest in your daily life.


You’re on your way to beginning to understanding how you can best contribute to teams, projects and organizations. Put some work into this project – it will really pay off when you are asked those dreaded tough interview questions!

Moving from college into a career is one of life’s major transitions. To find out more about the career coaching support we offer, contact us for a free consultation.


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