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5 Ways Identifying Your Personal Strengths Can Improve Your Job Search

By DeVry University

December 20, 2019
4 min read

So you're ready to find a job and have even saved links to your favorite leads—but before you complete your first application or respond to that recruiter on LinkedIn, ask yourself: What are my top five personal strengths? Here’s how the answer to this question can help you execute an effective job search and unleash your greatest skills for potential employers.

Why Self-Assess?

"People always struggle with talking about themselves. I know that shouldn't be difficult because we know ourselves," says Eric Hellige, Director of Career Advising at DeVry University. "But there's a difference in knowing yourself personally and having the language and confidence to translate who you are to an employer in the working world. That’s where self-assessments can really make a difference."

Each year, Hellige, along with a team of 20+ career advisors, help students and alumni uncover their most dominant skills using self-assessment tools like the CliftonStrengths assessment. Hellige recommends taking similar strength assessments online or reflecting on your top five strengths because they help students recognize key skills that aren't easy to identify. Once you do, try one of the below strategies to better plan your job search.

5 ways to use your top five personal strengths:

1. Add Self-Awareness to Your Job Search

Instead of broadly searching for any position that requires your certification or degree, use your top five strengths to find jobs that align with your best abilities—and filter out those that don’t. As you read a job description, think about your personal strengths and focus on one (or more) of them to determine if you’d like to apply for the position. View this step as your own method of screening employers; your own time-saving strategy. When assessing positions, think “quality over quantity.”

“My top five strengths are: communication, relating, empathy, adaptability and arranging,” says Hellige. “So if I were to focus on one of my strengths like ‘relating’ then that means I would look for positions and a workplace that allow me to relate to others—particularly in one-on-one situations. Knowing this about myself can really improve my job search and overall productivity.”

2. Build Your Personal Brand

“It’s much easier to tell employers who you are when you know more about yourself,” says Hellige. “Use your top five strengths to tell employers who you are in a brief bio, the skills section of your resume or LinkedIn profile.” This will help you develop a personal brand that is honest and authentic.

3. Answer Challenging Interview Questions

Besides responding to the common opener “tell me about yourself,” the next likely question you’ll hear on a job interview is: “Why do you want to work here?” or “Why do you want this position?”

And although the humorist in you may want to state the obvious (“to get a job, duh”), that won’t be a sufficient answer—at least not one that may impress employers. Instead, lean into authenticity, using your personal strengths to guide your response.

“Whatever your strengths are, you can express them as one of the key reasons you’re interested in the job—and a great fit for it,” says Hellige. “For instance, if you know that empathy is a strength, emphasize how empathy can help you better connect with team members, relate to customers, and fulfill key responsibilities for the role.”

Mention examples of duties from the job description that align with your personal strengths and a key fact about the company’s mission, core values or workplace that you genuinely appreciate—and you’ve discovered the perfect answer to an anxiety-inducing question.

4. Win at Career Advising

If you decide to leverage a career advisor during your job search, share your top five strengths with your advisor to get the most out of your counseling experience. “When you combine personal advice with self-assessment, that’s where the magic of career advising really happens,” says Hellige. “An advisor can teach you how to translate your unique strengths in how you relate to employers, search for jobs, and promote yourself in applications.”

5. Tell an Engaging Story

Employers often ask situational questions that start with the phrase, “Tell me a time when…” or they may even require written personal statements. To prepare an effective response, write out your top five strengths in a list and jot notes for a story that corresponds with each strength.  Note stories that relate to your current or previous work experience. “This is a great way to talk about your current work and relate it to the job you’re applying for,” says Hellige. “Ultimately the assessments give you a versatile framework to share information about yourself and that’s really what most job-seekers need to make the best impression.”

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