How to Answer the Dreaded “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses” Question
Here it comes. You’re sitting in the hiring manager’s office and are feeling confident about the way things are going so far. You’ve done your due diligence as far as getting to know what the company is all about and you’re ready to handle anything he throws your way.
Except this one thing. It’s the dreaded “What are your strengths and weaknesses” question. It’s the question that everyone loathes.
Why? Because few people are comfortable assessing themselves that way. And if they can come up with what they hope is a good answer, they fear losing the job offer by being too honest, or coming across as too weak, or by not answering the strength question well, because talking about your strengths….well, isn’t that just bragging?
Answering this question is not usually the make-or- break part of the interview. But it can be if you come across as super cocky in your strengths and/or fearful and timid in your weaknesses.
Here are some of the best ways to answer the dreaded ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses” question..
First of all, you usually will get asked this question in two parts. But some hiring managers like to ask them together. While this may seem daunting it can actually work in your favor, if you remember to answer the weakness one first. By finishing up with the strength part, you leave them on a high note, which is always a good thing.
Let’s start out with what not to say. Stay away from wishy washy words, such as usually, maybe, sometimes, probably. These words sound like your hedging what you want to say and you’re not fooling anyone by using them.
And please don’t say you don’t really have any weaknesses because that makes you out to be a liar right up front! We all have weaknesses. If you don’t admit to any, then what you are saying (beyond the fact that you think you are perfect), is that you have no self awareness. Or worse, that your ego is larger than the heads on Mt. Rushmore. Who wants to work with someone like that?
The weakness question can be answered easily better than most people think it can. In your research of the company, pick something that doesn’t matter or apply to the job. For example, mention that math is your weakest area if the job you are applying for doesn’t require you to deal with numbers. Or you might say that you are unfamiliar with the latest software. Even so, once you admit to your weakness, tell the hiring manager how you are working to correct it by referring to the fact that you are taking a refresher course in the subject.
And then stop talking about it! You’ve said your piece. You’ve minimized the weakness and then explained how you are going to work on it. Anything else is redundant.
Now as to the strengths. An answer that you think sounds positive, such as “I demand perfection in myself at all times” or “I’ve been accused of being a workaholic” can backfire on you and make you come across as arrogant and unwavering; not someone who would be a joy to work with.
Your strengths should also reflect your research on the company. If the job you are applying for requires you to deal with unhappy customers, for example, say something along the lines of, “I love the challenge of finding a satisfactory answer to a problem and I don’t get flustered easily.” Or if your job would require you to meet strict deadlines, something along the line of, “I’m good at organization and using my time wisely. In my last job, I was able to carry out work on three different graphic design projects at different stages of completion by prioritizing tasks and assignments”.
Both of these questions can be tricky if you go in to the interview unprepared. But if you come up with the answers you want to give at home, beforehand, and not when you are under the glare of the hot lights while you are worrying if you are smiling too much and hoping the sweat isn’t pouring off of you, you will be fine. Just write out what you want to say on a couple of index cards and carry them around with you to rehearse whenever you have a few moments. Within a few days you will be answering the question the way it’s supposed to be answered; with confidence and honesty.
And you will have gotten through the worst part of the interview; the dreaded “What are your strengths and weaknesses” question with flying colors.