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How to Answer: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

One of the most common questions on a job interview is “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” This question may sound ridiculous for some because it is pretty easy to answer the “what is your greatest strength?” question because you are confident with the skills you can offer. Also, who would want to spill their weaknesses to the interviewer or hiring manager, right? So, better answer that you don’t have any weaknesses.

The truth is that the “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” job interview question has some good logic behind it. It is a tricky and challenging question to answer. You need to talk about your strength without sounding conceited and be open about your weaknesses without undermining your candidacy.

What the interviewer wants to know 

First, you must understand why interviewers ask the “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” question so that you can plan your response. A job interview is all about getting to know a person. The interviewer wants to understand what kind of employee you are, what you can do, and what you can’t do. 

Some other forms or themes may include:

  • What part of the job will be most challenging for you?
  • What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
  • Tell me about something you would have done differently at work.
  • When was the last time you were angry? What happened?
  • What is the biggest criticism you received from your boss?

Your response will determine how good of a fit you are for the role. Being honest and positive in answering this question is important because the interviewer will know if you are not telling the truth. But there are certain weaknesses and even strengths that you should not mention during the interview to avoid damaging your chances of being hired.

How to answer: “What is your greatest weakness?”

When addressing your weakness, you need to be careful in sharing your example. This is a tricky question because your answer might jeopardize your chances of securing a position. 

Preparing and thinking ahead of time with your answers is paramount to a successful job interview. You can choose your greatest weakness from your hard skills and interpersonal skills or soft skills.

Hard skills

Hard skills are technical knowledge that is teachable and measurable. Examples of hard skills are: computer skills, marketing skills, presentation skills, project management skills, etc.

Interpersonal or soft skills

Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills, soft skills, emotional intelligence, are the behaviors a person uses to interact with others effectively. Examples of soft skills are: delegating tasks, organization, patience, public speaking, creativity, etc.

How to approach the weakness question

No one is perfect, and therefore, everybody has weaknesses. You need to avoid answering, “I have no weaknesses” or “I am a perfectionist” as your weakness because you will just sound insincere, or worse, arrogant. 

When you need to mention your weakness in an interview, focus on the qualities or skills that are not central to the requirement of the job you are interviewing. For example, if your job interview is for an Accountant position, then you should not say that you are not proficient in mathematics, and it is your weakness.

Once you have identified your weakness, you must remain positive despite your weakness. You can talk about how you transformed your weakness into a strength. You can mention that you are taking online classes in Skill Success, or that you are working with a mentor or life coach to improve yourself. 

Before you prepare an answer to these interview questions, you need to list your weaknesses. Try to come up with weaknesses you have worked on or currently working to correct.

Next, check the job posting and list down the skills that you can find. Here is an example below:

Looking for someone who can provide timely and accurate processing of financial transactions in accordance with accounting principles, city, and department policies.

Position Requirements:

Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance

Strong analytical skills

Knowledge of Excel

Resourceful and self-motivated

Ability to work independently

Notice the underlined skills. Look at your list of weaknesses. Choose the skills that you will use as an example of your weakness that is NOT essential for the job.

How to answer: “What is your greatest strength?”

It can be challenging to project confidence and humility when discussing your strength in a job interview. This question gives you an opportunity to demonstrate why you are a good fit in the job position and company. 

The main reason why the interviewer asks this question is to see if your strengths align with the job requirement and if you are a good fit in the role and company. Your answer will determine if you are the strongest candidate for the position.

Use the same approach in answering the “what is your weakness” question. Start by listing down your skills and qualifications that match those that the employer is seeking. This may include soft skills, hard skills, education, and work experiences. Take all of the qualifications you have gathered and put them together and tailor them to one single answer. You should also prepare a backup or example story to verify your strengths.

A general approach for the “what is your strength” question

If you are struggling thinking of your strength, you can use the following soft skills as your answer.

  • Leadership skills
  • Management skills
  • Able to work independently
  • Organized
  • Hard Working
  • Willingness to take on responsibilities
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Determination
  • Problem Solver
  • Team Player
  • Creative
  • Reliable
  • Positive
  • Flexible
  • Clear attention to details
  • Quick Learner
  • Strong People Skills

Consider trying to fit two or three of these skills into your answer, ensuring that whatever skills you are highlighting should apply to you and are a good fit for the job or company. 

Interested to learn the basics of how to answer common, difficult, and tricky job interview questions, the common mistakes that candidates make in job interviews, and the best ways to answer those most challenging questions? Then you better start taking these online courses:  

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