So you’re in a job interview, everything’s ticking along nicely. You’re doing well, batting away at those tricky interview questions. And then the big one lands… the dreaded one that, let’s face it, everyone hates: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Whenever I’m asked this question, I have to forcibly hold in that inward sigh, “Not this question again, please!” Then I run through possible answers.
How Not to Talk About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Do you lie about your strengths and weaknesses, but cover it up in an attempt at (terrible) humor? “Me, I have no weaknesses. Didn’t you know I’m Wonder Woman?” Or, “I’m a perfectionist. I do things too well. And often work too hard.” Groan!
Or should you be completely honest and give them a list of all your terrible habits and weaknesses? What would that sound like? “Actually, I have quite a few weaknesses. I’m a terrible communicator and don’t particularly work well with others. I’m also not known for my timekeeping. So expect me to be late… a lot.” You’re definitely not going to get the job with that answer!
Talking Weaknesses: Avoid Clichés and Be Honest
While honesty is clearly a good trait to have, there is a thing as too much. You don’t want to uncover any big chinks in your armor that might concern an interviewer.
So, instead, it’s best to avoid clichés when you talk about your strengths and weaknesses. While “perfectionism” might sound like a good answer, it’s not realistic, and the interviewer has likely heard it before.
Spend some time before your interview thinking through your weaknesses. And be honest with yourself! Perhaps you aren’t a great communicator. If that is the case, you can still frame it in a positive way when you come to give your answer. For example, you could say, “My biggest weakness used to be my communication skills. But I’ve been working on developing these. Now I make sure that I touch base with colleagues every morning to share project updates.”
Talking Strengths: Focus on What’s Relevant to the Job Role
When you get the chance to talk about your strengths… embrace it! This is your moment to shine. So don’t be embarrassed or coy about what you’re good at. Celebrate it!
You may have many strengths that you’re eager to share with the interviewer, but remember that you only have a limited amount of time to do this. So it’s best to focus on one or two key skills or abilities that you’re really proud of and – more importantly – that demonstrate your suitability for the role.
For example, if project management is going to be a key aspect of the role that you’re applying for, frame it as one your key strengths. You could say, “I have particularly strong organizational skills. This means I have a great track record of managing and delivering key projects to budget and on time.”
Watch the Latest Episode of Mind Tools Minutes
If you want to discover more quick tips on how to answer tricky interview questions, head over to our YouTube channel to watch our brand new Mind Tools Minutes series on Getting a New Job.
From writing a cover letter and résumé, to prepping for a job interview, this seven-part series will provide you with everything you need when taking that next career step.