Career Center Blog

June 10, 2013

Do you really know your own strengths?


"So, what are your greatest strengths?" It's a common job-interview question uttered hundreds of times a day across the Puget Sound region. But do resume descriptors like "hard-working decision maker" or "results-oriented team player" really apply to your personal working style? If you ask yourself the right questions, you may be surprised to find out other hidden qualities you've overlooked.

This is the thinking behind the StrengthsInsight website. Launched last fall, StrengthsInsight was devised by a group of psychologists to help people discover what they are good at through self-analysis and determining what makes people happiest in the workplace.

The site provides a free 15-minute questionnaire that offers a series of general statements, such as, "My friends would _________ describe me as a positive person" or "I am _________ shy when discussing my accomplishments." Participants are asked to fill in these blanks with one of seven options -- never, very rarely, seldom, occasionally, usually, almost always or always -- that best describes their personality.

After all the questions are logged, StrengthsInsight determines how well the participant fits into a framework of 24 universal character strengths, such as "Leadership," "Creativity" or "Humor." The site lists the top three traits that person possesses, as well as the characteristics that are most lacking. By answering additional questions about the perceived duties of the applicant's job, the site can then determine how closely matched that person is with the position.

I tried out the site recently using my own questionnaire answers to see how closely my profile aligned with the type of work I do. To give me a deeper understanding of my strengths, the profile report broke down my top three traits (Fairness, Self-Regulation, Modesty), analyzed how I utilize them in my job (writing and editing), and provided suggestions for ways to better incorporate these skills. Here's what it came up with:

Fairness -- Job match letter grade: B-. "People know that they can count on you to make decisions based on facts," the personalized report stated. "Those around you greatly appreciate the fact that you possess a great sense of justice." Recommendations: Participate in creating rules or processes; engage in mediator training; look for anecdotal data to back up my decisions.

Self-regulation -- Job match letter grade: A-. "You possess the uncanny ability to keep your actions and emotions under control," the report found. "You remain calm when you are under stress." Recommendations: Ask for a clearly defined role with specific tasks and "territory." Understand what is and what isn't my responsibility, and where others should be taking over for me.

Modesty -- Job match letter grade: D+. This assessment was perhaps the biggest surprise. "You possess a rare self-confidence that is not influenced by other people," the report stated. "While you may use your strength in some capacity during your workday, it is a rare occurrence." Recommendation: While working in teams, attend to the needs of others when appropriate. Ask for a role that involves employee recognition.

Fortunately, despite some room for improvement, I apparently am well-matched for my profession. In the end, the site gave me an overall Job Strengths Match letter grade of "A," saying I fit my job "better than 95 percent of other StrengthsInsight users." That's a relief! This dog's getting too old to learn new tricks.

Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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