Ace the “Three Best Qualities” Interview Question

   At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things. Albert Camus

Four intense, impatient faces await your answer. What are your three best qualities? Four pens poised to scribble frantically as soon as you begin to speak. Later, they’ll scrutinize each choice for profound implications.

Choose 3 QualitiesIf they hope for deep insights, you are willing to settle for much less. Just three different qualities would be nice. in fact, you’re struggling just to name one. None of the qualities that come to mind sound credible even to you.

You might have reached age 50 without ever being asked to name your three best qualities under any circumstances. Especially not when anything important was on the line.

I sympathize. Most of the positions for which I was hired before my academic career were very casual conversations, and they don’t ask you to name your three best qualities when they interview you for a position as a business professor.

But in 2014 you need to be able to provide your three qualities so that they can write them down in the little spaces on the interview form. you do not want to leave it blank!

So if you don’t want to waste a precious interview opportunity and blow your chances for a job you really want, bite the bullet. Do the hard work of getting to know yourself and matching up your three best qualities with what the employer values most highly as a firm and for this position.

Naming three best qualities is your job – no one else’s!

Throughout the interview, as you relate stories in response to other questions they have asked, they will recognize qualities that they rank high in selecting candidates for the next round. They might even ask you to expand your discussion of specific elements that stimulate their curiosity. When I interviewed fresh MBAs for a position as a research manager in a professional accounting organization, I learned most from their answers to my questions.

But don’t count on them probing beyond your first answer to help you to present yourself at your best. Most of those you talk to have no interest in helping  you do your best.

The first round may even be with a junior HR staff member whose knowledge of this job is limited to what is written in the job description. You’ll be asked exactly the questions on the paper.

Your first response will be recorded dutifully. Other applicants will be asked to name their three best qualities. Just to be fair, you understand.

Since the benefits of thorough preparation for this interview fall entirely to you, put in whatever time it takes to bring your best presentation of your fit for this job.

Carefully tailoring your best response to the “Name your Three Best Qualities” question deserves far too much consideration to leave it to sort out in the middle of the job interview!

Pick three best qualities that set you apart

Here’s your chance to stand out from the other applicants for this position. Make it easy for the employer to recognize that you more than satisfy the minimum requirements on the job posting. Plus you also bring additional qualities that help the company succeed.

Remember, if you don’t believe in your own value, you can’t expect a prospective employer to sort it out for you.

Precisely target three best qualities for this position

Simply voicing the first quality that comes to mind might not increase your perceived fit for this position. Be intentional and targeted.

  • choose qualities right for this level. If you are applying for a promotion, it is essential to identify the qualities that would distinguish you in the new position. Punctuality, for example, will not set you apart for anything except the most entry-level jobs. But if you’re moving to a more junior position, don’t describe qualities suited to your previous role.
  • select qualities that are relatively scarce but essential. If you list qualities that every applicant would be expected to have, you cannot possibly distinguish yourself.
  • Most importantly, select qualities fitting for the culture of this organization and any other aspects that you have learned from your research of the company, the industry and even this department.

Naming three best qualities starts with knowing yourself

If you haven’t done so already, invest the time and effort to know as much as you can about your own temperament and the qualities that tend to go with that personality type. Completing a personality test such as the one at is a good place to start.

Then confirm what you have learned by asking others who know you well.

Next, what three qualities does the employer hope to find?

To advance your ranking against other applicants, you need to know what three best qualities would impress the employer. if you’ve completed information interviews, you may have first-hand information.

If you don’t know specifically what this employer likes most, try to understand what qualities might be important in your field, Then look for lists of qualities with broad appeal to employers. A quick search on Google will give you some ideas.

Just as a starting point, I offer these 10 qualities of a team player from the website that are indicative of typical employer values.

Qualities of a team player

Qualities of a team player – Which can you claim?

Consider the list of qualities in the table to the right.

Which of these qualities would your colleagues say you demonstrate as you perform your job every day?

Given what you know about this position, for example, how high would perseverance rank as essential for outstanding performance? would collaboration be more important?

Once you have compiled a list of qualities that seem to be good choices for the coming interview, it is time to get ready to communicate those qualities effectively.

5 steps to naming three best qualities

By following these 5 steps, you can assemble a very intentional and effective presentation.

5 steps to Name Three Best qualities

5 Steps to Name 3 best qualities

    • Name the quality: succinctly and clearly. Be concise in naming the quality but don’t assume that everyone in the room will immediately understand your meaning.
    • What’s your proof? It’s easy to claim a list of three best qualities. expect interviewers to be skeptical.
    • Tell a short story: For the interviewer, a simple story is the best proof of a quality that you claim to possess.
    • Connect the benefit:  Prospective employers are hiring benefits, not abilities.
    • Relate to us: through every response to every question, let us know what you have learned about us that makes this quality valuable to every individual in the room..

Your three best qualities: the long-term view

Maintaining a state of readiness for the job market over the course of one career requires an ongoing commitment to self-knowledge. Stay alert for evidence that confirms your core qualities. Gather stories and quotes and store them where you can locate them as you prepare for job search.

As you learn the qualities that are essential for the next position on your career horizon, set out to improve on that quality and support your claim that a prospective employer can expect you to deliver at a high level.

View the YouTube presentation on naming your three best qualities:

2 thoughts on “Ace the “Three Best Qualities” Interview Question

  1. Johnd184

    Merely a smiling visitor here to share the love , btw outstanding style. Audacity, a lot more audacity and always audacity. by Georges Jacques Danton. ddbkfakcbddk

  2. David

    If you can answer interview questions in a manner that make you appear right for this level, qualities that are relatively scarce but essential, and select qualities fitting for the culture you will have a leg up your competition. As an interviewee, your job is to appear knowledgeable about the job and the company while differentiating yourself from others.


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