When you’re applying for a job, there are certain key strengths you want to make abundantly clear. However, it’s not enough for you to know why you would be an excellent asset to a workplace. The struggle is communicating that knowledge to the hiring manager.
Your CV is the bread and butter of any job application. So it’s no wonder that you’re likely asking yourself how to make your key strengths abundantly clear in your CV. Within the following guide, we will take a look at:
- What key strengths are (and why they matter)
- How you should list your key strengths on your CV
- The key strength examples you may want to include here.
What are key strengths for a CV?
Your key strengths are your main skills or experiences that would bring a positive impact to a role or workplace. Key strengths could be job-specific, but more often than not they will have something to do with your general attitude and the way that you interact with the world.
Of course, we are all equipped with talents and strengths ‚ as well as weaknesses. In fact, we probably have so many that it wouldn’t make sense to list all of our strengths on a CV. That’s why it’s important to identify the key strengths that make you an asset to the particular role to which you’re applying. Hand-selecting these talents could give you a competitive edge.
Listing strengths on your CV
Identifying and communicating your key strengths might not be as simple as it sounds. Even if you have an idea of what you want to communicate, you may still be asking yourself “how do I write my strengths on my CV?”
Where to put your strengths on a CV will depend on a variety of factors. Your CV summary, employment history, or skills sections are the best places. Take a moment to consider examples that showcase what you consider your best qualities in the workplace.
It is usually more powerful to back up your claims with examples of when you have exhibited that particular behaviour. If you indeed have a strong story to illustrate your key strength, this means the strength would be well placed in the employment history section. For instance, do your organisational skills mean you saved 5% of the department’s budget on a project delivery? List this as a bullet point underneath the corresponding role.
Even though it’s advisable to illustrate your key strengths through examples — show, don’t tell — there is also something to be said for spelling it out to the hiring manager. That’s why the skills section of your CV is another great place to tell the story of your key strengths.
Strengths and skills: What can you list as strengths on your CV?
The skills section in your CV is essentially a list of the relevant competencies that you would bring to the job. It is usually advised to make this section a good mix of both hard skills and soft skills. That way, you can show that you are a well-rounded candidate.
Hard skills tend to describe to technical abilities that are learnt. On the other hand, examples of soft skills usually refer to the way you interact with the world at work and in general. A balance of both are important for any employee.
When we talk about key strengths, very often we could be referring to either hard skills or soft skills. However, when it comes to setting yourself apart from the competition, your key strengths should either be something truly exceptional, or something different from the standard candidate that the hiring manager will be seeing for this role.
For instance, if you are applying for a journalism role, the fact that you’re a great communicator is expected. It probably wouldn’t be key strength-worthy for your CV.
If, on the other hand, you carry out a role whose key skills are different, such as an IT technician, your top communication could be worth highlighting. This key strength could bring a different angle that the hiring manager would really like to know about.
While the skills section of your CV may be a literal list of keywords, that’s no reason to not spend time considering how you will back up your claims. If you leave the hiring manager curious enough to invite you to an interview, then you’ll want to have examples ready of when you have demonstrated these key strengths.
Main strengths: The dreaded interview question
Most of us have sat in a job interview where the hiring manager has asked us to tell them about our main strengths and our main weaknesses. While committing your strengths to your CV is important, you should have the interview stage in the back of your mind, too.
Much like key strengths in your CV, when speaking about them in your interview prepare several examples that show how you have demonstrated them in the past. Using the STAR method may help you with this.
- S - What was the situation?
- T - What task were you given?
- A - What action did you take?
- R - What was the result?
While preparing anecdotes that illustrate your chosen key strengths may even come naturally, don’t neglect the flipside of the same question. What are your key weaknesses? While there is no need to include this on your CV, it may be asked in an interview. When considering your weaknesses, avoid mentioning skills that are essential for the role you’re applying to.
Instead, prepare a considered response that demonstrates self-awareness and a willingness to learn and improve. Perhaps you can even consider how your key strengths have helped to compensate for any shortcomings — which we all have — in the past.
5 key strengths examples to consider
The last thing you want to do when adding strengths on your CV is go for cliches. Even perfectly admirable skills, when labeled the same way repeatedly, start to lose the desired impact on the hiring manager.
Think carefully about the words you want to use to communicate your key strength examples. There may be keywords the hiring manager will look for, but try to strike a balance with wording that isn’t overused and could communicate what it is about your key strength that is impressive in a more effective way.
These key strength examples should provide some inspiration for the most coveted qualities. The way you frame them, of course, is up to you.
While organisation is an expectation in some jobs more than others, most employers want to know that they can trust you to keep on top of your workload. In fact, many of the other key strengths further down the list will not work well without some capacity for managing your schedule and workload.
Organisation is not about having a colour-coded calendar. If that doesn’t work for you, it will not make you organised. It’s about the sense of accountability you take on for the tasks you are assigned and your general reliability.
Regardless of your work environment, an organised employee is far more likely to be able to react in an agile way to obstacles that are thrown their way. That means deadlines and budgets are more likely to be safe, from the perspective of the employer.
Willingness to learn
The hard skills and experience you have will undoubtedly play a role in landing your dream job. However, unless you are applying to a role where you don’t meet the criteria for legally-required vocational training, your work ethic might be more important.
Hiring managers and team leaders in many jobs would rather have an enthusiastic team member with a strong work ethic. If you have a track record of using your initiative and being a proactive team member, then this is a key strength to highlight in your CV.
Even if you’re in a creative field, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from seeing the other side of the coin. In fact, strategic thinking requires great creativity. It involves taking a moment to think about how task execution may impact the process and the people around you.
Even in fast-paced environments this skill - when exercised correctly - will lead to outcomes that better meet the team’s objectives. This is an essential key strength for any effective leader or team player.
It’s possible that you don’t see communication as being an important part of your job. However, the truth is that communication is one skill that everyone has to exercise in some way at work, without exception. While it can take many forms, so there’s no reason you can’t make communication a key strength.
Effective communication is about keeping team members in the loop, expressing yourself clearly, and being proactively honest in a way that is beneficial for the wider project. The best way to demonstrate your communication skills as a key strength on your CV? Nail how to write a CV that clearly expresses your worth to the hiring manager!
Once again, this is a skill that any hiring manager will value. Creative skills and resourcefulness — whatever that looks like for you — are essential key strengths in not being phased when things don’t end up going according to plan.
Part of problem-solving is an ability to understand the bigger picture at hand, and pair that with the rest of your knowledge to propose creative ideas that will work just as well.
- Regardless of how you communicate your key strengths in your CV, the most important thing is using your own critical thinking to reach a decision.
- Be picky. Fill in the blanks in the hiring manager’s mind as to why you are the right fit for this particular role and company.
- Don’t stick to generic key strengths on your CV — try to think outside of the box!