What is your greatest strength?

It is uncomfortable to discuss our greatest strengths. It is imperative that you overcome these natural tendencies. Your answer to this question provides you with a unique opportunity to market yourself and discuss why you are so good that a program should choose you over other applicants.

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The Answer

Unlike most questions, I firmly believe that there is a correct answer when you are asked about your greatest strength. Your best quality as an applicant should in some manner encompass the theme of hard work. You can use synonyms (grit, resilience, etc). But use this as an opportunity to convey that you possess the qualities that programs are looking for. All programs want residents that are going to show up every day, work hard, and serve the best interests of the patients.

Other Answers

You will see programs ask you to identify your single greatest strength, but they may also ask you to name several as opposed to just one. I would have a store of 4-5 strengths available to discuss in an interview.

There are a plethora of other qualities that are ideal for inclusion when discussing your strengths as an individual. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Team-work
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Leadership
  • Determination
  • Discipline
  • Dedication
  • Sense of Humor
  • Friendliness

These and so many more adjectives or qualities could be effectively employed to build the image you want to convey to programs. When deciding on your ultimate list, consider your audience. Consider what the strengths you choose convey about who you are as an individual. Strengths that mark you as a team oriented hardworking individuals are ideal.

“All programs want residents that are going to show up every day, work hard, and serve the best interests of the patients.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Substantiate Your Claims

For each strength, you want to also formulate an accompanying example or anecdote. These details provide substance to your claims and augment your credibility. Doing this also allows you to bring in experiences you would like to share with programs. Though those experiences may be listed on your ERAS application, interviewers may not thoroughly read every detail. For example, if you list leadership as a strength, be sure to include how you have demonstrated leadership throughout medical school. The example could draw from the leadership you exhibited on a research project, with a student interest group, or with a service project you initiated. Provide evidence for the strengths you ascribe to yourself.

Spend time reflecting on your strengths. Reach out to friends and family members for their input. They may see qualities with more clarity than you can see yourself.

What questions do you have about formulating your list of strengths? Comment below or contact us directly.

Related Article: What is your biggest weakness?

Back to more interview questions and structured responses.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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