Regardless of the job or company you’re interviewing for, interview questions on weaknesses and strengths are among the most common questions you’re likely to field. How you answer will give the interviewer insight into how you view yourself, how you work with others, your honesty, and your commitment to professional development. It also demonstrates how you deal with a difficult question (very few people like talking candidly about themselves).
For this reason, and because these questions are so popular, it’s important that you prepare a reasoned, personal response that steers clear of clichés like “I’m a really hard worker” or “Sometimes I get stressed”. Crucially, being prepared will save you from saying something inappropriate or embarrassing that might throw you off the rest of your interview.
How to talk about your strengths
Everyone’s a hard worker. At least that’s what hiring managers expect. So, your answers will need to demonstrate a lot of imagination and preparation. Take some time to reflect on your personality, your experience, and your aptitudes to come up with a list of strengths (this will usually happen quite naturally in tandem with an assessment of your weaknesses). Consider grouping these into knowledge-based skills (education, training, specific technical abilities), transferable skills (communication, leadership, digital literacy, etc), and personality traits.
Focus on the right strengths
Once you’ve compiled your list of capabilities, choose three or four that match what the employer is looking for. If they’ve provided a comprehensive job description, this should be straightforward enough; otherwise, you can do your own research. Interview answers for strengths should always be tailored, to avoid sounding vague or unprepared.
It’s a good idea to prepare specific examples that demonstrate your strengths, especially if the interviewer probes you further on any of them. If you say you’re a good leader, explain how you’ve exceeded your KPIs or helped your team exceed theirs. If you cite strong interpersonal skills, give an example of how you helped to resolve a workplace dispute or won back a customer. Some technical skills can be difficult to illustrate, but this also presents a chance to talk about courses or other professional development opportunities you’ve taken.
Bring it back to the job at hand
It’s all well and good being genuine and providing a compelling example to illustrate your response, but you need to tie it back to the position for which you’re interviewing. This demonstrates that you’ve put real thought into the interview, and helps the interviewer or hiring manager imagine you in that position. Understanding what the company is looking for is key here, so do your research, and close each answer with an insight that shows how your strength makes you a good fit for the specific position and the responsibilities it entails.
How to talk about your weaknesses
Understanding the nature of your shortcomings involves critical self-reflection. Don’t just think about what you don’t like to do; take a look at your past roles, projects, successes, and failures while analysing where you struggled along the way. This can be an enlightening process, and a great basis for future self-improvement, regardless of the result of your interview. Bear these tips in mind.
Be honest but tactful
Because you’re interviewing for a position you probably hope you’ll hold for a long time, it’s important to start things off on an open and honest footing. After all, misrepresenting yourself in an interview could land both you and the company in trouble down the line. Remember, while everyone is looking for a perfect fit, nobody’s actually perfect. Interviewers talk to a lot of people, and they will recognise authentic, genuine answers from calculated or generic ones.
Nevertheless, when explaining your weaknesses, a little tact can go a long way. Consider the core competencies of your job – if you’re bad at one of them, you probably shouldn’t come clean on that fact in the interview (furthermore, you might want to consider a career change). Instead, try picking a skill that isn’t essential to the position, and explain how you struggle in that area. If your job requires a lot of one-on-one interaction with people, you could mention how although you’re good at this form of communication, you’re less comfortable dealing with large groups. This is just an example – taking a reflective, honest look at your strengths and weaknesses will help you to provide a reflective, honest answer.
Blaming others is never a good idea in a job interview, regardless of the question you’re answering. Every workplace has difficult colleagues and interpersonal issues. The interviewer isn’t interested in other people and their problems; they’re interested in you and how you deal with others. Pinning your shortcomings on others doesn’t demonstrate a mature grasp of relationship management.
Focus on what you’re doing to improve
Probably the most important part of discussing your weaknesses is to keep your answer positive. Be honest, but try to minimise the negative. Focus on professional aptitudes, not personal traits. Interview answers for weaknesses should be followed with a solution that mitigates them. If you admit that your detail-oriented approach occasionally causes you to neglect to focus on the bigger picture, mention that you’re conscious to work with at least one team member who’s good at that. Or perhaps you’re taking a course on strategic planning. This is actually a great opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to personal and professional development, which is increasingly essential in today’s world of fast-changing skills.
Strength and weakness examples
Analytical and reasoning abilities
Find difficulty in delegating responsibilities
Lack of familiarity with latest software
Practise makes perfect
The better you prepare, the greater your chance of nailing your interview. Interview Skills provides personalised, practical training in a variety of programmes, with detailed feedback to help you hone your interview skills and land the job of your dreams. Contact us to learn more.