What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses? Answering the Question for Job Interviews


Written by JobNow Contributor
April 7, 2021

interview

 

Are you preparing for your next job interview?

For many people, this is the scariest stage of the job-hunting process. You've already passed the initial application, but you're now faced with presenting your personality to your potential employer. 

There are many interview questions that you should prepare for. You know that the employer will ask for your experience, why you're a good fit for the job, your ideal salary, and how well you handle different kinds of relevant problems for the career, but there's one question that every potential new hire dreads.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This question feels like a trap. How do you answer this without sounding overconfident, cliche, or incompetent? 

We're here to offer some advice. Keep reading to learn a few ways to prepare for this question, what you should do and avoid. 

 

First: Is This a Trap?

While it seems this way, your potential employer isn't trying to trap you with this question. After all, they don't want to waste their own time. So why do they ask? What are they looking for

This depends on the employer, but often, they ask because that's "what you do", and they're following a standard interview procedure.

If they've put more thought into it, they may want to know how you think and how much tact you can use in a conversation. Tact and quick thinking are crucial when it comes to interacting with customers and other employees. 

Finally, they may be curious. While this question is often considered a "gotcha" question, the answers still matter on some level, and they want to know if your strengths and weaknesses make you a good fit for the company.

 

What Is Your Greatest Strength?

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you should be careful. It would be best to always talk yourself up during an interview, but you don't want to come off as conceited. 

So how do you formulate the best "what is your greatest strength" answer? 

First, make sure that you're tailoring your answer to the business at hand. Sure, you might be a great independent worker, but this isn't a helpful answer if this job is all about collaboration. 

Remember the job application. What kinds of skills are they looking for, and how can you incorporate that into your answer while still being honest? 

Make sure that you have examples ready when you're answering this question. If you say that you're a great leader, how do you know? What experiences contribute to this belief? 

When you come off as confident and prepared to answer this question, your employer will be impressed.

 

What Shouldn't I Do?

This is no less important than what you should do.

First, you shouldn't go overboard with your answer. You know that you have plenty of strengths, but you want to fine-tune your answer down to one or two so you're not coming off as overconfident or insincere. You also want to make sure that you're not too aggressive about your strengths. 

Make sure that you don't talk about a strength that's actually a weakness. You might think some things are great, but they're actually red flags to your employer.

Are you a workaholic? Do you always take control of group situations? Either find ways to reword these things or keep them to yourself. 

 

What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

This one is trickier. Of the two, this is more likely to trip you up. 

You should always come into the interview prepared to answer this question. While not all employers use it, enough so that you can expect that it will come up. 

Make sure that you're honest with this answer while also not blocking your own shot. 

As with your strengths, you want to tailor your "weaknesses" to the job that you're interviewing for. This doesn't mean that you should show your employer all of how you're going to fail them, though.

When you're talking about weaknesses, try considering them as challenges instead. What are some work challenges you've faced in the past, and how have you overcome them? By talking about how you're working on your weaknesses, you show your employer that you're proactive and always trying to improve yourself.

For example, instead of mentioning that you tend to take over tasks meant for a group, talk about how you struggle with letting go of control in a collaborative setting, but how you have worked on that problem in the past. 

 

What Shouldn't I Do?  

Tread carefully here. It's easy to make mistakes with this question, especially if you overthink it. 

First, don't do the stereotypical thing: Talking about a weakness that you consider a strength. Employers have heard this time and time again, and it sounds like a stock answer. 

"I work too hard and don't quit until something is perfect. You could call me a perfectionist."

How many times has your employer heard this one? They know that it's insincere. If you are a perfectionist, try to talk about how you manage your perfectionism and how it's caused problems in the past. This way, it doesn't sound like you're trying to trick the employer.

You also shouldn't pretend that you don't have any weaknesses. Everyone has a weakness, and pretending that you don't might seem like the confident answer, but it raises red flags to potential employers. Always be humble. 

 

Are You Ready for Your Job Interview?

The best answer for the strength and weakness question is going to vary depending on the job and the interviewee, but if you keep these tips in mind, you'll be able to formulate an answer that can impress even the pickiest employer. 

Your job interview is a performance. You want to impress your employer without going overboard. They know that you've rehearsed these answers, but make sure that you always come off as sincere and thoughtful. 

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