Job interview questions may change based on the industry you’re working in, but one question that employers love to ask is: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Despite how common this question tends to be, many candidates aren’t prepared for it, nor do they know what kind of answer the employer is looking for. For your next job interview, here’s how to tackle this challenging question.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know by This Question
The strength and weaknesses question may seem like a trap, but interviewers aren’t looking for you to list out the reasons why they shouldn’t hire you. When employers ask about your strengths and weaknesses, they’re looking to gauge your self-awareness.
Interviewers are really asking: how self-aware are you about your most valuable traits and the areas where you need improvement? Authentic answers about your talents and your flaws can boost your chances of getting hired, while “playing it cool” usually does more harm than good.
For example, telling the interviewer that you don’t have any flaws isn’t going to convince them you’re perfect – it’s just going to show that you lack self-awareness and may be difficult to teach.
However, listing out all your flaws and admitting that you don’t know what your strengths are is going to have a similar effect. Your interviewer may think you’re humble, but they may also get the impression that you lack the confidence for the position too.
5 Examples of Potential Strengths
Even the most self-aware people in the world can struggle to come up with a good answer on the spot, so here are five potential strengths you can use as an answer.
- Organized: Good organizational skills show that you can meet deadlines and goals, and effectively keep up with your workload.
- Honest: Regardless of the industry you’re working in, employers value workers that won’t try to lie or deceive them.
- Results-Driven: Telling an employer that you’re results-driven lets them know you’re motivated to get things done and meet your goals.
- Patience: Patient people make great team players as they keep a better check on their emotions.
- Good Communicator: Good communicators can voice their concerns or ideas easily.
Regardless of what strengths you use, it’s important to make sure they’re applicable to the job you’re applying for. For instance, if you’re applying to be a cashier, patience and organization may be especially important to your employer.
How to Answer the Strength Example (With Real-Life Examples)
- “I’m a highly organized person in all areas of my life, including work. My organizational skills help me keep track of deadlines, projects, and my overall workload.”
- “I’m a straightforward, honest person, and I’ve learned that telling the truth is always important, even if it doesn’t get me my desired result.”
- “I won’t stop working on something until I’ve accomplished the goal that I set for it.”
- “I don’t mind explaining something to a co-worker several times until they fully understand.”
- “I enjoy getting to know my co-workers and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable to voice their ideas and concerns.”
5 Examples of Potential Weaknesses
Coming up with potential weaknesses for your interview is trickier than your strengths – your employer will be looking for an answer that’s genuine, but you also don’t want to name a flaw that hurts your chances of getting hired. Here are five potential good answers.
- Disorganized: Disorganized people may have trouble keeping track of deadlines or managing their workload effectively.
- Shy: Shy candidates may have trouble getting to know co-workers or customers immediately. Shy/introverts may find these tips for interviewing valuable.
- Risk-averse: Risk-averse people may avoid impulsive decisions, but they can also miss out on good opportunities too.
- Impatient: Impatient people may struggle to deal with frustrating projects or co-workers without losing their temper.
- Self-Critical: People that are too self-critical may overanalyze their flaws while also overlooking their talents.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just list out your flaws – you should follow these weaknesses for a job interview with statements or ways that you’re actively trying to improve these traits. Employers want to see that you’re not only self-aware of your flaws but that you understand how to improve them too.
How to Answer the Weakness Example (With Real-Life Examples)
- “I’ve been disorganized with work, but I actively write down deadlines and clean out my office twice a week to combat it.”
- “I have a naturally shy personality, but I regularly attend work and social functions to make sure I’m meeting new people.”
- “I’ve never been a risk-taker, but my friends have encouraged me to try an activity that scares me once a month.”
- “I’m not the most patient person, but anytime I feel frustrated, I take several deep breaths until I feel relaxed again.”
- “I can be overly critical of my own performance, so I ask for feedback about what I can improve on and what I’ve done well.”
A strengths and weaknesses interview can be challenging for anyone – answers that are too honest could hurt your chances of getting hired. Still, potential employers will see through disingenuous responses too. If you’re unsure where to start preparing your strengths and weaknesses, the traits above are a good place to start. If you're interested in preparing for an upcoming interview, check out these 20 common interview questions and the best answers.
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