How to answer the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ interview question

How do you answer that perennial interview question: tell me about your strengths and weaknesses? has some advice.

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Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences, especially when faced with the classic question: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Many candidates find it challenging to strike the right balance between showcasing their skills and being honest about areas of improvement. But with the right approach, you can make this question an opportunity to impress the interviewer with your self-awareness.

We present some tips on how to answer the strengths and weaknesses question effectively, leaving a positive impression with your potential employer.

Answering a Strengths interview question

Be honest and authentic:

When discussing your strengths, be genuine. Avoid generic or overly rehearsed answers. Instead, focus on real strengths that align with the job requirements. Being authentic in your response shows your interviewer that you are self-aware and open to personal growth.

Emphasise relevant strengths:

Tailor your strengths to match the job you’ve applied for. Highlight qualities that directly relate to the role and set you apart from other candidates. If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, for example, you might mention your communication and team-building skills.

Provide specific examples:

Back up your claimed strengths with concrete examples. It will add credibility and helps the interviewer visualise how you could contribute to the team. Specific examples help to demonstrate that you do possess the skills you claim to have.

Avoid false humility:

It’s important to be humble, as overconfidence can be seen as arrogance – but avoid downplaying your strengths to the point where they seem insignificant. Present your strengths confidently while staying grounded.

Responding to the ‘what’s your greatest weakness?’ interview question

It’s definitely harder to list weaknesses for a job interview, as these meetings are meant to be about selling yourself to the employer. HIghlighting your weaknesses seems counter-intuitive.

But this interview question is more about assessing your honesty and self awareness than an opportunity to talk yourself out of a job. Here are some suggestions:

Take a positive stance:

When discussing weaknesses, focus on how you’ve recognised them and taken steps to overcome them. Show you have a proactive attitude towards self-improvement. As an example, your weakness might be nerves when presenting to a large group. To manage that weakness you may have taken a public speaking course, or sought out speaking opportunities to build your confidence.

Highlight how you have learned:

Discussing weaknesses is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to learn and grow. Share instances where you successfully addressed a weakness and turned it into a strength. This shows resilience and a willingness to take on challenges.

Don’t overwhelm with weaknesses:

While it’s important to acknowledge areas for improvement, don’t delve into a shopping list of weaknesses. Focus on one or two that are relevant and show you’re actively working to improve.

Turn weaknesses into opportunities:

Frame weaknesses as opportunities for growth. If time management is a weakness, for example, explain how you’ve adopted new tools or techniques to better prioritise tasks and meet deadlines.

The key thing with the classic strengths and weaknesses question is to have thought about it in advance. Rehearse your example strengths and weaknesses, so you feel confident and natural when answering during the interview itself.

The “strengths and weaknesses” interview question is an opportunity to showcase your self-awareness and adaptability. Be authentic and well prepared and you should be fine.

For more ideas, take a look at our article on the most common interview questions and these dos and don’t for a second interview. There’s lots more useful content in our Career Advice section.

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