How to Identify Your Strengths

Three Parts:Considering Your Intangible Strengths and PersonalityThinking About Your SkillsIdentifying Your Strengths for an Interview

"What are your strengths?" is a standard job interview question. It also comes up in other situations such as college or internship applications. Additionally, you might find it helpful to think about your strengths as a way to build confidence and self-assurance.

Part 1
Considering Your Intangible Strengths and Personality

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    Take an online personality test. There are dozens of online tests that will help you pinpoint your own strengths (and weaknesses). These tests are particularly helpful when you want to think about intangible skills like fortitude, kindness, creativity, or adaptability.
    • Try the University of Kent Strengths test.[1]
    • You could also take a Myers-Briggs Type Test.[2]
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    Consider what “people skills” you have. Whether you tend to be shy our outgoing, you probably have a number of valuable skills. Consider how you interact with others. Think about what intangible strengths (such as an outgoing nature or the ability to delegate) are apparent in your interaction style.
    • Do you enjoy working with other people on a group project, or would you rather work alone? In a group setting, do you tend to take the lead, or would you rather contribute by being a good foot soldier?
    • Do you feel very sympathetic toward other people’s problems? Perhaps you are naturally caring and empathetic.[3]
    • Do you tend to notice things that others don’t? It sounds like you have great observation skills.
    • Do you tend to be very at ease in social situations? You’re probably pretty outgoing.
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    Think about your decision making style. Some people tend to base their decisions on logic, whereas others care more about personal feelings. Both logic and emphasis on values are important strengths.[4]
    • For example, when you decide to buy a new sofa, if you spend hours reading consumer reports and comparison shopping, you probably value logic. On the other hand, if you sit on a sofa, think that it’s super comfy, and then decide to buy it, you base decisions more on personal feelings.
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    Consider your preferences for planning vs flexibility. Some people like to know what they’re doing well in advance. They like schedules and do a good job following them. Other people like to “go with the flow.” They prefer a flexible agenda. Both planning and flexibility are valuable skills.[5]
    • One way to think about this is to think about how you like to vacation. Do you spend hours on the internet before you leave on a trip, planning every stop? Or do you wait and see where the wind blows you?
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    Think about what activities lead you to demonstrate flow. Flow is a state of mind in which you lose your sense of time because you’re paying so much attention to a task. When you’re in flow, you often feel very energized and engaged and good at what you’re doing. Then think about what kind of intangible skills go into this particular activity.
    • For example, do you lose yourself in art projects? Do you find yourself brimming with new ideas whenever you’re asked to design a project? If so, creativity may be one of your intangible strengths.[6]
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    Consider what activities you feel naturally good at and which skills you've worked to improve. Perhaps you are naturally athletic and were born with great eye coordination, and you don't have to practice much in order to sink free throws. On the other hand, maybe you make all of your free throws because you practice ten hours a week. Remember that both natural talents and learned skills are important! Don't write off any of your strengths because you have to work hard to maintain them.[7]

Part 2
Thinking About Your Skills

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    Think generally about what areas you are strongest. Do you like to dream up big ideas and try to put them into action? Are you more of a logical thinker? Are you better with numbers or words? Do you like hands-on activities and physical movement? Do you work well with others?
    • Jot down anything that comes to you at this point. You can always narrow later.
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    Make a list of the activities you enjoy outside of work and school. Include everything that you like to do, even if you’re not that good at it. Write down your hobbies, any athletic teams you belong to, your favorite weekend activities, and so on. Here are some ideas to get you started-- do you enjoy any of these activities? [8]
    • arts and crafts (jewelry making, painting, pottery, coloring)
    • theatre or public speaking
    • dancing, singing, or playing a musical instrument
    • sports
    • cooking
    • shopping
    • hanging out with your friends
    • gardening or yardwork
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    Write down what skills you need to do each of these activities. You may have to get a little creative, but you can probably find something positive for each one, even the ones that don’t really seem like skills (like shopping or going to the movies with friends). [9] For example:
    • jewelry making - attention to detail, patience, artistic eye
    • gardening - planning ahead, attention to the big picture
    • shopping - budgeting, attention to advertising and pricing
    • hanging out with friends - good social skills, ability to work well in a group
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    Add any skills your education has provided you to the list. Are you a particularly good writer, because you majored in English? Did you take a Statistics course that will help you analyze data? Did you learn the basics of working in a lab in your Chemistry class? [10]
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    Write down your volunteer activities. This could include anything that you did for charity (like holding a bake sale or working at a food bank) or anything that you did as part of a club or organization. Include leadership positions you held, but don’t leave out times when you were just part of a group.[11]
    • For example, if you did a great job selling raffle tickets as part of the Fundraising Committee for your intramural softball team in college, write that down. If you apply for a position at an organization that values the ability to raise money or talk to potential donors, you may be able to say that that is one of your strengths.
    • Remember that working as part of a team is a strength that many employers and schools value, so include any activities (like sports teams) that required you to do that.
    • If you’re working with a therapist on listing your strengths to building self-confidence or for any other purpose, include activities even if you aren’t sure what strengths they may show. Your counselor may be able to help you recognize skills that you didn’t know you had.
    • Again, you may want to ask others who were involved in these activities with you if they can help you come up with strengths you may not have thought of. Maybe you really motivated a teammate and weren’t aware of it, or maybe your friends think you’re great at planning social events.[12]
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    Make a list of your previous jobs. You may want to do this in a spreadsheet (as opposed to on a napkin over lunch) so that you can expand it later or use it for future positions. Include every job you have had in the last ten years. If you’re young and haven’t had much paid work, you’ll want to include things that seem small scale to you.[13] Don’t forget things like:
    • babysitting
    • mowing lawns
    • helping out at your uncle’s business on the weekends
    • cleaning out your grandma’s attic
    • painting your neighbor’s garage
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    Think about your job descriptions and what you contributed at work. For the purposes of this list, write down even the tiniest contribution that comes to mind. If you’re interviewing for a position, you won’t read this to future interviewers - it’s just a way of brainstorming. Think about anything you were ever proud of yourself for doing in a previous position or anything that you were asked to do on a routine basis.[14]
    • For example, if you worked at McDonalds and were routinely assigned cash register duty, perhaps your strengths include working with money, customer service, and multitasking.
    • Assuming you’re on good terms with current and former bosses, you could ask them what they think your skills are. They may think of something you’ve overlooked.

Part 3
Identifying Your Strengths for an Interview

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    Look carefully at the requirements. This should always be the first step when you’re planning for an interview. Look carefully at the requirements for the position to determine exactly what kind of candidate they’re looking for.[15]
    • If this is a job or internship application, look at the advertisement for the job.
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    Check out the organization’s website. If you’re participating in a college interview at a school that values volunteerism, think about your strengths in that area. If you’re applying for a job that requires you to manage a large group of people, ask yourself when you’ve had to lead others or delegate tasks. [16]
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    Talk to others. If possible, speak with people who are already a part of the organization that you’re interviewing with. Ask them about what skills and values the organization thinks are important. Ask them what strengths they bring to their organization. [17]
    • Depending on your relationship with this person, you might even want to ask them if there are problem areas in the organization. If they tell you, for example, that the company really needs to work on its social media presence, and you have a lot of experience promoting events on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll want to play up that strength in an interview.
    • If you can’t talk to anyone at the organization, you may want to talk to someone at a similar organization or someone who knows about this industry or school. For example, if you’re applying for a job at Verizon, and your aunt works for Sprint, she might be a good source of information. Talk to your school counselor if you’re applying for colleges, or seek out Career Center staff at your school if you’re applying for an internship.
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    Make a list. Using the information you gleaned from job postings, websites, and talking to others, write down the skills and character traits that you think are most important for whatever you’re applying for. You may want to put this information in a spreadsheet. [18]
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    Match your own strengths to the position requirements. What skills (both tangible and intangible) do you have that match well with the job posting or school’s ethos? Notice whether only one or two of your strengths match up with what they’re looking for, or whether there are a lot of things on both lists. [19]
    • Decide which strengths are most important to emphasize. Using the information you learned about the school or company and the lists of your own strengths, decide which ones are going to be the keys to success.Write out your answer. Be prepared to support your answer with evidence from previous jobs and your personal life. You may also want to make a note of how this skill will be valuable to the organization you’re interviewing with to remind them of why you’re a perfect fit.[20]
    • Don’t be tempted to claim you have strengths that you don’t, even if the company is looking for those particular strengths. For example, if they want someone who is good with Microsoft Excel, and you have never so much as opened a spreadsheet before, don’t claim this as a strength. Chances are good that they will catch on to your lie quickly. Instead, move down the list and find a strength that you can truly claim as your own.
    • Also avoid overly cocky answers. “I’m the best social media expert on the market today,” not only sounds arrogant, but will probably come off as untrue.
    • At the same time, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! You have to make it clear that your strengths make you the perfect candidate for the position. Be polite and genuine.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Interview Skills