One of the trickiest part of interviews is being asked “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” The purpose of an interview is to convince an employer that you have the necessary skills, qualifications and experience for the position. The interviewer is trying to determine if you will be a good fit for the job, the team and the company. Therefore at some point in the interview, it is likely that you be asked to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. There are many different ways an interviewer might phrase this question. Here are some tips on how to answer this common interview question.
Firstly, let’s look at how best to discuss your strengths. The reasons why this is such a popular interview question is because it enables the interviewer to assess the candidate’s confidence and self-awareness.
The best way to answer this question is to draw on points from the job description. For example, if the position is a supervisory role and involves leading a team you could say you are a confident person, an excellent communicator who is self-driven and determined.
These strengths are highly relevant to the role because good communication is an important quality in an effective leader. Leaders need to be able to clearly explain tasks to their team and be equally as confident in communicating to senior management. In addition, a good leader is someone who can motivate themselves and their team as well as possess the innate determination to get results.
Focus on four or five key strengths and have examples of how you applied these strengths in previous roles. For instance, you could list that one of your strengths is being creative. You could then follow this up with how this helped you to conceptualise a suite of new digital properties for your previous employer. Then explain the results of this action, an increase in traffic to the website, higher customer conversions and an increase in quarterly revenue.
Recruiters will often ask a variant of the ‘what are your strengths’ question. For example, it may be a more specific question on how your greatest strength will help you succeed in the role. Or it may be a broader, open-ended question about what motivates you, what challenges you or why you are the best person for the job. Always refer to the job description and be honest and candid in your answer.
Similarly when thinking about answering the weaknesses question have a look at the job description first. Rule out mentioning any weaknesses that will immediately exclude you from getting the job. One example may be that you mention a weakness of yours is that you find it difficult to delegate work. The role is that of team leader, which will require you to assign tasks and communicate these tasks clearly. Therefore, the employer will be unlikely to see you as a good fit.
The weakness question is one that candidates should spend some time thinking about before the day of the interview. It often catches some people off guard and they give a vague or overtly negative response. Instead, you should use the opportunity when discussing your weaknesses to demonstrate your motivation to improve. Follow up the list of weaknesses with examples on how you tried or are trying to correct your weaknesses.
What is a weakness?
Think of an area of improvement that may have been discussed during a previous performance review. An old employer may have mentioned your lack of people management skills. Also, think of specific duties you didn’t enjoy doing or a project that didn’t go smoothly in the past. Then think about the actions you took to correct these weaknesses. Perhaps you took a training course in leadership and management to help you to build these skills. Maybe you hired a professional project manager for your next project or invested in project management software.
Similar to answering about your strengths, always back up your claims with evidence. Did your manager comment on how well you improved at your next performance review? Did your team perform better as a result of your better management and leadership? And did your next project cost less, take less time and/or perform better?
Don’t be afraid of the strengths and weaknesses question
Finally, be fully prepared for this question and take the time to prepare your answer in advance. It’s ok to use the weakness question as a segway into discussing your strengths and vice versa. And remember the question is a way to get you to think quickly, express your confidence and show self-awareness.