Interview Question: “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

‘What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses’ question is usually asked in almost every Interview Process. The motive of asking this question is to know how much self aware and professional an individual is. You can’t answer this question by your personal Strengths and Weaknesses, instead your answer should be on professional basis.

Many people fail to answer this question but if prepared well it can be countered well. A good response to this question can be very valuable and positive point in the Interview process.

“What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?”

When answering to the What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses? question you should take examples relating to either skills/habits or personality traits. You should decide which one to focus according to the type of job you’re applying for. Go through the job description again for clues on what may matter most for this specific role.

Firstly, talk about your weakness.Then, add additional story or a specific example of how this trait/weakness/habit has emerged in your professional life. That context will give potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth.

Personality Traits

Example 1: I can be too critical of myself. A pattern I’ve noticed throughout my career is that I often feel I could have done more even if, objectively, I’ve done well. Earlier in my career, this led to burnout and negative self-talk. One solution I’ve implemented over the last three years is to actively pause and celebrate my achievements. Not only has this helped my own self-esteem, it has helped me genuinely appreciate and recognize my team and other support systems.

Example 2: I’m naturally shy. From high school and into my early professional interactions, it prevented me from speaking up. After being a part of a work group that didn’t meet our strategic goals two quarters in a row, I knew I owed it to my team and myself to confidently share my ideas. I joined an improve acting class. It’s fun and has really helped me overcome my shyness. I learned practical skills around leading discussions and sharing diverse perspectives. Now, in group settings, I always start conversations with the quieter folks. I know exactly how they feel and people can be amazing once they start talking.

Example 3: I default to believing that I can solve any problem on my own. This works well in some situations but in many cases, I need the help of others to overcome factors beyond my control. In one instance, last year, I was spearheading a client event that had a lot of moving parts. It wasn’t until after the event that I realised how narrowly I had pulled it off. I was trying to manage everything from the strategic plan down to the tiniest details like table settings. I did a lot of self-reflection afterwards. Since then, I’ve been training myself to take a step back before diving into problem-solving mode and identify people or groups that can be resources to me.

Skills and Habits

Example 4: I’m not familiar with the latest version of [insert name of non-critical software]. Instead, I’ve focused on [insert name of preferred software] because user-centric design has become a strong passion of mine. In my last few jobs that’s where I’ve spent time learning and growing.

Example 5: I’ve always been a procrastinator. I used to think it wasn’t such a bad habit because I was only creating stress for myself. But when I was working for XYZ Company several years ago, I was on a group project where I could see how my putting things off to the last minute created stress for everyone else. It was a wake-up call. I started creating daily schedules that held me accountable to my team and I broke the habit. It was hard at first but using the Agile process was a real breakthrough in my workflow and mind set.

Example 6: I tend to be a perfectionist and can linger on the details of a project, which can threaten deadlines. Early on in my career, when I worked for ABC Pvt. Ltd., that very thing happened. I was labouring over the details and, in turn, caused my manager to be stressed when I almost missed the deadline on my deliverables. I learned the hard way back then but I did learn. Today, I’m always aware of how what I’m doing affects my team and management. I’ve learned how to find the balance between being perfect and very good and being timely.

Example 7: Math wasn’t my strongest subject in school. To be honest, as a student, I didn’t understand how it would be applicable in my adult life. Within a few years of being in the working world, though, I realised that I wanted to take my career in a more analytical direction. At first, I wasn’t sure where to begin but I found some free online courses that refreshed the important basics for me. In my most recent job, this new foundation has enabled me to do my own goal setting and tracking. Actually, getting over the math anxiety I had when I was younger has been incredibly empowering.

Examples of Weaknesses

We all have shortcomings and weaknesses that we easily don’t admit and in case we know our weakness we are not able to express it.You should always Select an answer that a hiring manager would not consider to be essential qualities or skills for the position as well as qualities that you are actively improving.

Some examples of weaknesses include:

  • Non-organised
  • Self-critical/Sensitive
  • Perfectionism (this trait can be a positive point but if it comes through over-confidence it can be negative point)
  • Shy/not able to speak confidently
  • Competitive (this trait can also be a positive point but if it goes over the limit than it can be negative point)<)
  • Limited experience in a non-essential skill (especially if obvious on your resume)
  • Not skilled at delegating tasks
  • Take on too much responsibility
  • Not detail oriented/Too detail oriented
  • Not comfortable with taking risks
  • Too focused/Lack of focus

What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

Same pattern can be to answer this type of question as for the weakness. You can use all of your positive traits, personality points leadership qualities etc but you have to always state your strengths in such a way that you don’t look overconfident.

Personality Traits

Example 1: I’ve always been a natural leader. With over ten years of experience in finance and sales, I’ve exceeded my KPIs every quarter and have been promoted twice in the past five years. I look back at those successes and know that I wouldn’t have reached them if I hadn’t built and led teams composed of highly skilled and diverse individuals. I’m proud of my ability to get cross-functional groups on the same page. I’ve regularly honed my management skills through 360 reviews and candid sessions with my team and I know continuing to build my leadership skills is something I want from my next role.

Example 2: I’m very collaborative and have always preferred to work in groups. In the project teams I’ve directed, members work with a variety of people and are motivated by diverse creative tasks. Since I began managing my current team, I’ve increased productivity by 15 percent and retention by 25 percent over three years.

Example 3: I’m an empathetic person who’s skilled at relating to people and making them feel heard. In one memorable instance from earlier this year, I was on a support call with a customer whose contract we had terminated. Reinstating the service agreement would have increased her rates dramatically. She was understandably upset and felt trapped because she needed car insurance for her and her family. It became clear very quickly that we couldn’t meet her needs but I wanted her to walk away with a favourable impression of the service we had provided. I talked her through some of the other options even letting her know of other providers who might be able to offer her a lower rate so she could avoid a lapse in coverage. In the feedback survey from that interaction, she specifically mentioned that she would still be recommending our services to others. In my career in customer support, I’ve had many interactions like this. They are complex but end with the customer still feeling positive.

Skills and Habits

Example 4: I’m obsessed with the newest version of [insert name of new software]. I started pushing the boundaries of what it could do as soon as it was released. I’m excited about applying my passion and abilities to this position and pushing the envelope of this programme for your company.

Example 5: I’m thorough and tenacious. When I’m on a project, I keep track of the details. Because I have a comprehensive understanding of the components, I can spot the essentials and rigorously advocate for them to meet deadlines. I regularly see this reflected in my peer and management feedback.

Example 6: I never miss a deadline. I’m highly organised and I’ve applied my natural skill for organising people and projects to all aspects of my work. After seven years of working as a project manager, I’ve had only one late product launch. From that experience, which took place three years ago, I learned a crucial lesson about trade-offs. I spent time addressing a crucial design need and that pushed everything else back. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned from that experience for anything—being sure to communicate to stakeholders about upcoming roadblocks.

Example 7: I have extremely strong writing skills. I’ve worked as a copywriter for eight years in several industries and I am committed to both creative excellence and performance metrics when it comes to my work. I’ve had to learn how to find the perfect balance between that creativity and analytics and it’s a personal passion of mine to demonstrate what good writing can achieve for the bottom line—in advertising or otherwise.

Additional Tips

  • Try not to list multiple, vague strengths. Focus on one or two main qualities and support them with suitable examples/stories.
  • Don’t make jokes.
  • Don’t act arrogant, brag about your strengths or lie about your abilities.
  • Also, don’t be too humble or underestimate yourself.
  • Examples of Strengths

    When you are not sure about what strengths are; you should talk to your friends or family and ask about your strengths. You can also go through into any written feedback you’ve received in the past from past job or managers.

    Some examples of strengths include:

    • Creative
    • Patient
    • Empathetic
    • Determined
    • Flexible/Versatile
    • Honest
    • Enthusiastic/Passionate/Driven
    • Collaborative
    • Disciplined/Focused
    • Committed/Dedicated
    • Respectful
    • Innovative
    • Attentive/Detail oriented
    • Action oriented/entrepreneurial

    Important points to remember when preparing for “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” question:

  • Always make sure that your strengths support the job description and set you apart as a candidate
  • Do not behave over humble or funny
  • You should be specific in your responses
  • Questions like this can be very tricky to answer but when prepared in thoughtful manner and support them with logical examples you can overcome this question and make a good impression in the Interview process.As you prepare your answers, turn weaknesses into challenges that you’ve overcome and strengths into the reason you’re a great fit for the job.

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