How to describe your best skills in an interview

Interviewers will always ask you to describe your best skills. If they are looking at your resume when they ask that question, you must describe your best skills in the same sequence and exactly as they appear on your resume and they must contain more than a couple of words.

When you use statements like “People Skills”, “Communication Skills”, “Team Player”, “Interpersonal Skills” to describe your best skills in your resume or in an interview, they will probably ask you to explain what you mean by that. More often than not, though, the interviewer will believe that you really do not know what your skills are and you may have a very short interview.

You may know what you mean when you use those words but to the listener they are words that mean something different to every person who says them and hears them. It could be devastating to you because interviewers have heard these sound bites so often they have become an instant turn off.

Rather than simply use what you think is a catchy statement, describe the context of what you are good at doing and with whom. For example, if you think you have good communication skills, describe what it is you are good at communicating and to whom. Being good at communicating the benefits and value proposition of a company’s products or services to potential customers is different from effectively communicating the company’s long-range business strategy to potential Wall Street investors and it is different from communicating a comprehensive company training program to new technical employees.

Hone your message with at least three distinctly different skills that you think are the ones you are best at doing and want to do in your next job. Why three? Because you will easily remember your top three. Have four and, I guarantee, it will be difficult to remember all four and in the same sequence. Have five and it will be even more difficult!

Make sure your resume lists the same three in the same order so that what you say will be consistent with what you show on your resume. Sometimes interviewers will ask for your top five. Keep focused on your top three in interviews but have a couple of extra skills in reserve for those situations when you are asked for them. Your top three, however, will be the ones people will remember most.

People often list skills on their resumes that they think are the most important for the position they are seeking even though those skills may not be their strongest ones. Experienced interviewers know this and, consequently, will ask questions about your skills to ferret out the extent to which you really have those skills.

You must, therefore, be prepared with two or three success stories that demonstrate your top skills. Your stories will demonstrate either how your skills enabled you to achieve something or how you developed the skill in the process of achieving something specific.

For additional guidance about making career changes, click here to go to our resource library for executives. If you would like guidance specifically for those in mid-career on how to prepare a resume, download Resume Guidelines. It will help you to craft a compelling message for when you are networking that will be consistent with your resume.

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