How to formulate strengths correctly in the application
Regardless of whether you are just starting your career or are an experienced professional – every applicant has strengths with which he or she should present him or herself in the best possible light in the application. But how? Where do your strengths belong in your cover letter?? How best to formulate them? And how do you find out which positive qualities distinguish you??
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about naming your strengths in your application. In this way, you will not only be able to formulate an authentic letter, but also convince the company of your choice of yourself.
Where are strengths and weaknesses in the application?
The question of an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses is probably as old as the application process itself. A phrase that is often used in job interviews: "Please tell us three strengths and three weaknesses that make you stand out."But even before that, in the application letter itself, it makes sense to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. A good place for this is the cover letter. Here you can explain what your strengths are and show on which occasions you have already been able to demonstrate them. And resumes are also a good place to point out your strengths and even your weaknesses, if applicable. In addition to your professional career and other stations in your life, you can further individualize your resume by, for example, graphically visualizing your strengths and weaknesses with a corresponding scale in the right margin. You can also provide information about your hobbies (for example, with suitable icons) or other things that people should know about you or that you can use to convince them. However, you do not necessarily have to list weaknesses in your resume. If you decide to do this, be sure to choose qualities that do not conflict with the job you are applying for. For example, if the job involves a lot of teamwork, but you are more of a lone wolf, it is obvious at first glance that you are less suitable for the advertised vacancy. And the job probably wouldn’t make you happy either.
Where do the strengths belong in the cover letter?
In any case, you should limit yourself to mentioning your strengths in the cover letter. The text is only one page long, which means that you need to arouse the curiosity of your potential new employer with just a few words. There is enough time in the interview to discuss your weaknesses – although HR managers are increasingly refraining from asking this question directly.
Normally, you will first explain in the cover letter that the advertised position is simply a perfect fit for you. The reader will then automatically ask himself the question: Why? And this is where your strengths come into play. You should mention these in the body. However, two or three pieces are enough. Because you should not just list one strength after the other, but rather decide on a few strengths that really distinguish you, and then go into more detail about them.
How to find out what my strengths are?
Realistically assessing your own strengths can be quite a difficult task. Because you yourself may perceive them incorrectly or may not even see any characteristic that positively distinguishes you from your competitors. This is where it can be helpful to consult a third party.
- FriendsYour friends will be able to tell you some of your strengths. After all, you see them regularly and have probably already experienced conflicts and discussions with you. Perhaps it has been shown here that you can argue particularly well. Or you are the born dispute mediator and can excellently mediate between two parties. Perhaps you will also take over the part of organization in joint undertakings? Whatever it is – your friends will surely have noticed one or two things.
- Family: Mostly it is your own family that knows you better than anyone else. So you should definitely consult your parents or even your siblings or grandparents if you want to know what your own strengths are. But be careful: of course, statements of the people who are particularly close to you and whom you like are not always completely objective. In any case, you should also ask when the strengths mentioned have become apparent so far.
- Colleagues and bossYour colleagues and the boss are the best judge of what strengths you demonstrate in your day-to-day work. So listen very carefully to their praise – it may highlight one of your strengths. Otherwise, you can of course also look in work references of older jobs, with what you could convince.
- Internet: You should better refrain from questionable online tests that promise to analyze your strengths. Nevertheless, the internet has some useful help if you want to learn more about your strengths. For example, you can search for strengths in general and write down the ones you think apply to you. If you then manage to find a convincing example of this strength, then it is probably really a positive quality that you possess.
Of course, you can also start by thinking for yourself what your strengths are. For example, think about positive experiences at work, but also in your free time, and develop your individual strengths from them.
What strengths belong in the application?
So now you have compiled a list of some strengths. However, it is often still far too long and you are not quite sure which strengths are really relevant to your application and which are not. So, first of all, check again critically which qualities are really strengths that make you stand out. The more evidence and matching experiences you can name for a strength, the more likely it is that the particular property is really yours. In addition, you should see if the strength that is on the test is not actually a given. If you are applying for a job as a project manager, for example, organization is obviously one of your strengths – you don’t necessarily have to mention it separately.
You should also critically check whether the strengths you have thought about fit the company where you would like to work. You can see this, for example, on the homepage of the company. Most companies have pages where they introduce themselves or where you can learn more about their history and also values. Simply match them with your strengths. For example, if the company is more traditional and has been selling the same product for decades with a recipe that has never been changed, it is doubtful that a recruiter will really feel attracted to you if you write that you are innovative. And job postings also reveal a lot about what strengths are in demand. Here, however, do not only make sure that you do justice to the company, but also question for yourself whether you really fit the business. Otherwise you will probably quickly become dissatisfied there.
The most common strengths in job applications
Some strengths recruiters simply encounter over and over again in job applications. This includes, for example:
- Organizational skills
- Affinity for technology
- Quick comprehension
- Ability to work in a team
- Sense of responsibility
- Critical faculties
Depending on the job, mentioning these strengths in your application makes perfect sense. However, some strengths are now so common that they tend to bore recruiters rather than catch their attention. Punctuality is one of these strengths, but even teamwork or a sense of responsibility won’t knock the socks off any recruiter these days. You should only mention these strengths if they are particularly relevant to the job advertised and cannot be taken for granted.
Here, too, for each strength that you claim, you should see if you can find an example of it from your professional experience or your free time. If you can think of several situations in which you have already been able to use this strength, and if it also fits the job, it is a good choice for your application.
Text modules: The right wording for your strengths in the application
So you have now decided on two or three strengths that you would like to mention in your application? Then you can think about how to formulate them in your cover letter. If you have found other strengths that apply to you, you certainly don’t have to forget them. If you are invited to a job interview, you can still describe these strengths.
The following are now some formulation aids for the strengths in your application. But don’t adopt them word for word, but adapt them to your individual needs. Experienced recruiters look online and will quickly find out whether you have written your application yourself or whether you have been "inspired" too much by Internet articles.
Depending on the job, creativity can be an important strength with which you convince in the application process. The fact that you have this strength can be underlined not only with experience from your job, but also with certain hobbies.
In your cover letter, this could look like this:
"I am also very creative. Thus I already worked during my school time with the pupil newspaper and could write here independently first articles and complete these with the pertinent, self-taken photographs. I also love to paint in my spare time – I’m particularly fond of portraits. In my professional life, I have always been able to use my creativity to develop unconventional and effective solutions in complicated situations."
Organizational skills are in demand in many industries. After all, employees with this strength always keep track of things and ensure that tasks and projects are handled smoothly. Again, however, you should explain why you have this strength. For example, it might look like this:
"In my circle of friends, I am known as the one who takes charge of all organizational issues. If an excursion is coming up, no one has to worry about anything because I organize everything independently. I really enjoy developing plans and finally seeing how smoothly they work out. I was able to demonstrate this during my internship at company XY, as can be seen from my enclosed reference."
Particularly if you are applying in an industry in which you have not yet gained any experience, or if the position you are applying for requires you to work with computer programs that are unfamiliar to you, you should indicate in your application that you can learn quickly. Since this characteristic is mentioned very often in job applications, you should pay particular attention to showing convincingly why you have this strength.
"In addition, I have a quick perceptive faculty. For example, during my employment at company XY, after only two days I was able to handle program ABC so well that I could already take over tasks independently. Immediately following this employment, I took a job in the catering industry. I didn’t know anything about this industry before, but I was able to familiarize myself with the usual procedures in just a few days."
If you list friendliness as a strength in your application, you show yourself to be an affable person, but you may also expose yourself to the suspicion that you tend to avoid conflicts – even if they should become necessary. In your application, you should at best make it clear that this is not the case:
"As a call center employee for many years, I have always impressed my customers with my friendly manner and have often been able to resolve conflict situations. My colleagues were therefore happy to pass on particularly difficult matters to me because they knew I would do my best to resolve them. But that doesn’t mean that I avoid conflict altogether. I am quite capable of facing up to unpleasant situations and speaking my mind openly when necessary."
Ambition is – to a limited extent – a skill that goes down well with recruiters. In a cover letter, you can paraphrase this strength, for example, like this:
"What makes me stand out is my ambition. Last year, I was the top student in my year at night school to get my high school diploma. In my job as XY, I am also always interested in completing projects in the best possible way – colleagues, customers and my boss appreciate this very much."
Match strengths to the advertised position
To avoid giving the impression that you are sending one and the same application to dozens of companies, you should also urgently address why the strengths you have mentioned make you a good fit for the company. As already described, you can find out what strengths the company is looking for on the company’s website or even in the job advertisement.
Weaknesses must be included in the application?
As I said, you can mention weaknesses in your resume. This seems authentic, but also bears the risk of scaring off personnel managers. In principle, however, weaknesses are not a bad thing – no one is perfect. If you are not sure, postpone naming weaknesses until after the interview. Either way, you should think about which weaknesses you are going to disclose beforehand. Of course, it also depends on which job you are applying for.
Which weaknesses you should avoid in your application?
On the one hand, you should refrain from "pseudo-weaknesses" that are not really weaknesses at all. Perfectionism is such a weakness, because it actually wants to say something positive: I just do everything perfectly. And that is not really a weakness. Nevertheless, it comes up so often in the application process that personnel managers like to question whether it is really correct. If applicants also state that they are over-motivated or always a bit too ambitious, then this goes in the same direction.
In addition, you should make sure that you do not mention any weaknesses that do not fit at all in the advertised job. If you apply for a job in a call center and at the same time indicate that you are rather a quiet person, you will be quickly sorted out as a candidate. The same is true if you are applying in an industry where people are particularly tech-based, but you are not tech-savvy.
And then there are a few weaknesses that quickly disqualify you in almost any case, for example, unpunctuality, lack of critical faculties, unfriendliness, unreliability or even a low ability to work under pressure.
DAHMEN Personalservice – your decisive strength in the job search
DAHMEN will be happy to help you find the right strengths for your application. We always hit the nail on the head here, because we are recruiting professionals who know the application process inside and out from all angles. We cooperate with renowned companies and accompany applicants to their dream job.
So if you have any questions about your application letter, you can contact us directly – by phone or on the spot – or check out our blog post about applying to temp agencies.
You can also find job postings from a variety of industries in our job board. Of course, you can also submit an unsolicited application and we will find the right candidate for you