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    Answering the Interview Question: “What Are Your Strengths?”

    The “strengths” question is one of a handful of questions most all interviewers will ask at some point.  And while it’s not a question like the “weaknesses” one that’ll make you squirm, I’ve too often found clients failing to nail it.

    They aren’t nailing the answer because clients are simply mentioning a skill, but not providing any supportive information to back it up.

    I’ve come up with acronyms to help with remembering how to structure some interview questions.  GEESE, for example, to answer ‘tell me about yourself.’

    So let’s have a little fun and try another acronym.  This one’s a little edgy, but at least you’ll remember it:  S.T.D’s.  The “S” is the strength or skill.  The “T” is the title and company where you worked.  And the “D” means to describe an example of that skill.

    For example, maybe your strength/skill is dependability.  Rather than just saying, “I’m very dependable,” followed by a bit of silence as the employer waits for you to explain why, here’s a better way to answer it.

    “I’d say I’m very dependable. (The “S”)  For example, when I worked as a cashier for Company XYZ, (The “T”) my manager had me either open or close because she knew I’d get my work done on time and correctly.  Also, she’d call me in to work extra shifts in bad weather or when people had called in sick. (The “D”)”

    See how much better that sounds?  I’d also like to see you add something along the lines of, “And that’s the sort of attitude I’d bring to your company as well.”  In doing so you’re not simply showing why you think you’re dependable, but you’re wrapping up your answer by telling the employer why that’ll be a benefit to them, too.

    Here’s another point to consider.  What sort of strength or skill should you mention?  Ideally you’ll have read their job description and should know what’s important to the employer.  Let that serve to guide you.

    As a general rule strengths like dependability, hard work, honesty, etc., are difference makers at the lower end of the wage scale.  As you move up in wages to jobs requiring greater knowledge or skill, those basic strengths are viewed as a given.  In other words, a manager would never answer by saying they’re dependable, but an entry level or lower wage hourly employee might find that to be a great strength to cite.

    I’ll end with a story I’ve shared many times over the years.  I was teaching a job search class at Goodwill through the Department of Social Services.  Most students needed lots of interview practice, but were having difficulty remembering what I was sharing with them.  So I came up with those silly acronyms like STD and GEESE.

    One day a former student came back to Goodwill to thank everyone who’d helped her land a job.  She was thrilled… and when she saw me from a distance down the hall at our Goodwill, she yelled out, “Mr. Randy… Mr. Randy… I just want to thank you for those STDs!”

    Imagine the look on peoples’ faces as they turned to look at her, then to me!  As we got closer, she said I’d made it fun and easy to remember… and that because of my teaching that she was able to land a job she really wanted.

    Sometimes being silly helps you remember.  Try it.  Good luck!

    Randy Wooden
    Randy Wooden is Director of the Professional Center by Goodwill of Northwest NC. Randy launched The Professional Center by Goodwill of Northwest NC, the first program of its type for any Goodwill®, in 2012. His experiences in career coaching, executive recruiting, business ownership, as a hiring manager and as a job seeker have afforded him the opportunity to view the hiring process from all angles. He developed and provided on-air talent for the Internet’s first daily, live television program targeted toward job hunters. He shares job search tips through a bi-weekly newspaper column; regular appearances on television, radio; and frequent public speaking appearances. Contact information: rwooden@goodwillnwnc.org, (336) 464-0516
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