How to answer “What is your greatest strength?” in an internship interview

December 13, 2022

7 min read

How to answer What is your greatest strength in an internship interview

On the surface, answering this question may seem deceptively simple. You know your strengths and weaknesses. How hard can it be to communicate this in an internship interview? Unfortunately, candidates often find it hard to walk the fine line between showing off their strengths and full-on bragging.

That’s why internship and job interviews are often overwhelming especially if you’re searching for your first professional role. Research has found at least 92% of people find the interview process to be stressful (Forbes). Fortunately, after reading this guide, you’ll be able to answer this common but tricky interview question: what is your greatest strength?

If you take away anything from this, it’s that you should be deliberate with your answer. Make sure the story you tell about yourself is true to life, while also demonstrating the specific skills the hiring manager is looking for. And once you have an amazing answer prepared, use online tools like Yoodli’s AI interview practice tool to get detailed, personalized feedback and the ability to track your progress.

But before you jump in, watch this quick video to get a quick overview about how to approach this question. (We’ve also included two sample answers to give you a good idea of what to aim for.)

Tip #1: Ask yourself, “What skills is this internship looking for?”

Before jumping straight in, it’s important to keep in mind why employers ask this question. Asking you to reflect on your strengths is a way for hiring managers to see whether you (1) have the appropriate experience and (2) have the skills to do the job well. Therefore, your strength should reflect the specific demands of the role.

For example, for a marketing internship, the employer is going to be looking for an individual with strong analytical and soft skills. A good marketer needs to be able to communicate well with both customers and coworkers.

Another role, for example in software engineering, would require more quantitative skills and experience in programming languages. Therefore, if you are looking for a skill that’ll help you stand out from other candidates, think of skills that make you specifically well-suited for this role.

One way of finding out what skills they are looking for is to analyze the job posting and its requirements. If you think you don’t currently possess specific skills, especially for something technical like programming, there are certain things every employer is looking for in an intern. For example, candidates with strong leadership skills and soft skills are an asset to any company.

Take your time with this. Brainstorming a list of 3–5 skills is necessary to form the backbone of a solid answer. Afterward, narrow it down to the one strength you want to communicate.

Do this by choosing the one that feels most authentic but simultaneously fulfills the employer’s requirements. At the end of the day, you want to feel confident that you’ll be able to do this internship well!

Tip #2: Reflect on your personal experience.

After you’ve narrowed down which strengths you want to communicate, the next step is to think about which experiences show these skills off! Don’t restrict yourself to accomplishments and experiences in internship or work settings. The ability to delegate tasks, communicate effectively and manage time can all be developed in class projects, club activities or even at home. Get creative!

Tip #3: Use the STAR method to tell a compelling story.

Once you’ve identified the story you want to tell, use the STAR method to structure your answer. You want to use a predetermined structure to make your answer comprehensive and easy to follow. After all, someone who communicates clearly in an interview will communicate well on the job.

The STAR method ensures your answer includes a Situation, Task, Action and Result.

Situation: What was going on? What was the situation/problem you were trying to address? Be as specific as possible.

Task: What was the goal? What needed to be done to address the situation?

Action: What was your specific role? Which strength did you demonstrate because of the action you took?

Result: What happened because of your direct intervention? Try to use quantitative results as much as possible (e.g because of my decision to __, we increased __ metric by __%).

Try to make your answer around a minute long. Spend more time describing your solution and the strength you developed/demonstrated. Employers care less about the specific experience/situation and more about what you can do. Most importantly, if your skill is specific, mention why this strength helps you fulfill this specific internship better than other candidates.

Tip #4: Focus on your delivery.

Now that you’ve gotten an answer nailed down, it’s time to nail the delivery. Even if you’ve written a fantastic response, your answer will fall flat if you speak so quickly that the interviewer can’t catch what you’re saying. There are various tools online to help you refine your delivery. For example, using Yoodli’s Interview Practice feature, you can practice and get feedback on your answer. You get tips on how to improve your delivery, covering important aspects of communication like pacing and eye contact.

It’s also important to pay attention to what words you use in your answer. Filler words, such as “like” and “um”, and hedgers, such as “right?”, suggest a lack of confidence and professionalism. This InteviewGenie article explains why you should avoid these words at all costs.

After all, if you aren’t confident in yourself, why should your interviewer have confidence in you? Thankfully, Yoodli’s AI speaking coach offers pointers on whether you are using non-inclusive language or repeating words too often. An answer without filler and hedgers helps you communicate as clearly as possible, impressing your interviewer!

Tip #5: Prepare for possible follow-up questions.

After giving a well-practiced answer to “what’s your greatest strength”, you may be asked a follow-up question. Interviewers ask follow-ups to clarify any part of your answer they didn’t understand or want more detail on.

Possible follow-ups to “what’s your greatest strength” include:

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Describe a time when you succeeded and a time when you failed.

Sometimes, you may be surprised by unexpected, seemingly unrelated follow-up questions. In this case, you need to keep your cool even when inside you may be freaking out! You can practice answering unforeseen questions through Yoodli’s Games, which will help you practice crafting creative answers on the spot and delivering them smoothly.

Now that you’ve gone through the steps of how to write a good answer, read these answer samples to see what works and what doesn’t.

A good example answer (for a copywriting role):

“My ability to write well is my greatest strength. As a college sophomore, I’m currently writing for the school’s newspaper. I was responsible for writing the front-page piece about the college’s decision to invite a controversial speaker to our commencement ceremony. I conducted multiple interviews with staff and students to gather multiple perspectives about this issue. I took care to write impartially and provoke a discussion about the role of free speech on campus. After publishing this article, we received incredible readership: this article alone was shared over 100 times and had 20 comments. As a result of this piece and other articles, I received my newspaper’s “Journalist of the Year” award. My strength in writing makes me well-suited for copywriting. I am detail oriented and able to communicate compellingly; I can therefore connect with customers on a range of topics.”

Why did it work?

  • The answer is concise, using relevant examples and excluding unnecessary background information
  • They took a relevant personal experience and used the STAR method to tell a compelling story. The interviewee briefly outlined the situation. They proceeded to explain how the choices they took and subsequent results demonstrated their unique strength.
  • They made sure to include the quantitative results of their actions and evidence of how they were recognized for their unique strength. They also mentioned why their strength is particularly relevant to the role they applied for. This helps applicants stand out among other candidates.

A bad example answer (for a summer research program):

“I’m really interested in science. My friends and family always tell me I’m the most curious and hardworking person they know. Like, this one time, I had to give a presentation in class. I encountered a lot of issues because there was some stuff I didn’t understand. I demonstrated my problem-solving by doing research and reading a bunch of books. I ultimately got an A on the assignment.”

Why didn’t it work?

  • The answer was TOO concise. Your interviewer needs to hear enough details to determine whether your strength is actually a strength.
  • Multiple strengths were presented without a clear structure. This leaves the interviewer unsure about what the interviewee is trying to communicate. Moreover, if the question posed was “what is your greatest strength”, this answer suggests the interviewer cannot follow instructions properly.
  • No specific (quantitative) evidence was used to back up the answer.

What’s next?

Now that you know exactly what you need to do. It’s time to practice!

Writing down an answer and memorizing it is one thing. It’s a whole other (more effective) thing to read it out loud. Do this by writing down key words on a cue card and practicing from there. Once you feel confident, try to recite your answer by heart. Pay attention to your pacing and body language. Use Yoodli’s transcription tool to ensure what you end up saying aligns with your pre-prepared transcript.

Most importantly, feel confident in yourself. Follow all the tips in this blog and take advantage of online interview tools like Yoodli. This way, you’ll be well-prepared to answer this question and anything else an interviewer can throw at you!