Many job interviews include one of the most dreaded and, at the same time, the most common interview questions that hiring managers ask. That is the question that asks job candidates to name their strengths and weaknesses. While there is nothing wrong with the question itself, not a single job seeker feels comfortable when the question pops up. And no wonder why!
If you say that you don’t have any, you appear dishonest, and if you start talking about your weak areas, it might send your potential employer a wrong message and reduce your chances of getting the job.
What is, then, the right answer to this common interview question?
In this article, we share the best job interview list of strengths and weaknesses so that any job seeker can prepare ahead. We will explain why it matters to know your strengths and weaknesses and make the interview preparation process easier.
Why is it important to know your strengths and weaknesses?
We all believe that we know ourselves the best, and yet, we often feel perplexed when we need to make meaningful decisions or significant choices. In crucial moments, it is often common to compare ourselves to others and select the safest and socially acceptable option.
But we are all born different, with a unique set of skills and preferences.
So personal strengths are defined as personal capabilities that define the way we think, feel and behave. When we create awareness of what distinguishes us from the rest of the people, we can start understanding ourselves. And, only then can we expect to get understanding from others.
In a job-related context, acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses creates a sense of self-awareness. It signals to the interviewer that you know how to make most of your strengths and at the same time that you’re working on your weaknesses.
Yet, your attitude and how you respond to this tricky interview question is what makes a difference.
How do you identify your strengths and weaknesses?
If you’ve never thought about your strengths and weaknesses, then you should start by identifying them. Even though this appears as a simple task, it will take you a considerable amount of time to select your character strengths and weaknesses.
And, no, it’s not because you are unaware of your character strengths, but because each of your strengths and weaknesses plays a role if you place it in a specific context. So, when creating a list of your strengths and weaknesses, think of them as to how they will make use in the business environment you are applying for.
The reason is simple. Your potential employer would like to hear which professional trait you possess will bring the company benefit and which of your weaknesses might slow you down. Think of all your personal capacities that put you in the ‘flow’ state, i.e., something that you enjoy doing effortlessly and eagerly.
Therefore, when creating the list of your strengths, ask the following questions so that you better define them:
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What kind of activities do I do effortlessly?
- What motivates me the most?
- What do others think I’m good at?
- What kind of activities do others ask me to help with?
- What can I work on for hours without feeling exhausted and overwhelmed?
- What are my hobbies and interests?
- When I have free time, what do I enjoy spending it on?
After you’ve answered those questions honestly, start defining your strengths. For instance, if writing on social networking sites makes you feel fulfilled and you enjoy sharing your opinion on various groups, then add ‘writing skills’’ as your greatest strength. You might enjoy assembling things for hours, working on complex projects that require precision and focus.
You can add ‘analytical problem-solving abilities’ as your most prominent personal quality in such a case.
Defining your weakness is always tougher than defining your skills. Nowadays, weaknesses are not seen as obstacles that prevent you from getting the job you’re aiming for, nor are they personal flaws. Weaknesses are defined as skills that are the least developed or things that you need more time to complete.
The following questions can help you define your weaknesses better:
- What do I always avoid doing?
- What makes me feel reluctant to do?
- Which activities do I find the least enjoyable?
- Which set of skills do I think I lack?
- What kind of help do I constantly seek from others?
After determining your biggest weakness, then proceed with figuring out which of them could be the major professional weakness. When you are determining your weak spots, think of ways to improve them or how to avoid the negative implication they may have.
When the list gets ready, try to review it with your close friends and family least developed skills to see if they see you the same way. Also, it is highly recommended that you do some of the personality tests available online or a strengths and weaknesses survey.
What are the key strengths of an employee?
While each industry has a set of skills that are considered required for employees within the field, there is a list of commonly accepted strengths appreciated whatever you’re applying for.
These strengths can be segmented into professional strengths and personal strengths. Professional strengths usually include technical skills and transferable skills, while personal strengths include soft skills.
Technical Skills (Hard Skills)
Technical skills are knowledge-based skills required to perform specific, job-related tasks. These so-called hard skills are very specific skills that focus on a person’s actual abilities that he/she has mastered during their lifetime to do a specific job in a specific industry.
The top, in-demand hard skills include:
- Leadership skills
- Management skills
- Artificial Intelligence
- Sales Leadership
- Data Sourcing
There’s another set of skills, called transferable skills, or so-called portable skills. These are the personal capacities that can be transferred when changing jobs or industries. Transferable skills are measurable and quantifiable, and they inform employers about what you’ve done in your previous workplace and your success rate.
Such skills involve communication, teamwork, dependability, adaptability, leadership, analytics, etc. The top-rated transferable skills involve:
- Problem-solving skills
- Conflict resolution
- Analytical skills
- Work ethics and responsibility
Lastly, personality strengths, i.e., those personality traits that make you fit in at a specific job, are called soft skills. Soft skills involve your character strengths, motivation, attitude, manners, and flexibility. Despite not being directly job-related, they are often considered crucial in employing, promoting, or firing an employee.
However, at a job interview, they are usually considered self-promotional since your hiring manager won’t know if you truly possess those skills up until they hire you. So, since they are highly subjective, if you emphasize your soft skills, make sure you stand up to the claims you’ve made.
Soft skills usually include:
- Communication skills
- Moral values
- Hard worker
- Attention to detail
- Good with people
How do you answer what are your strengths and weaknesses in an interview?
When the job interview question of strengths and weaknesses comes, experts advise that you start with your weaknesses first and then proceed with your strengths. The reason behind this claim is straightforward.
Namely, people focus and remember more the last things a person says, so make sure that whatever you say makes a positive impression and ends on a positive note.
When you start discussing a professional weakness, ensure that it is relevant to the business area you’re applying for. So, if that is a technical field, provide a sample answer involving your hard skills or portable skills. If that’s a social field, discuss your personal strength or weakness.
The simple answer is to start with your greatest weakness and then immediately comment on how you realized your weakness. Then emphasize that your awareness of your least-developed competence has motivated you to work on developing other skills that can compensate for it, or (in case you feel like it) it inspired you to work on it and minimize its effects.
It is very important to show that you comprehend the effects your weaknesses have and that you will do whatever it takes to reduce any possible adverse effects. It is sufficient to discuss a few of your weaknesses relevant to the job you’re applying for. One usually means you are dishonest. Stating more than four-five means that you’ll be struggling to maintain your balance and energy.
When discussing your strengths, try to provide a context of where you’ve used and acquired them. Single out your key strength and provide a specific example of where or how you have acquired it.
You can discuss personal development and professional achievements and mention how they can help with the job you’re applying for. The hiring manager will be eager to hear how you can leverage the company’s potentials and enhance its performance.
Common strengths include knowledge-based skills, skills that emphasize your unique qualities, and those that define your personality.
What are the good weaknesses of a job interview?
Stating all your weaknesses makes no sense, so it is recommended that you single out your greatest weakness that is considered ‘positive.’ Such weaknesses are not essentially bad, and when tackled, they might turn into personal strengths.
The following are examples of good weaknesses:
- Overly detail-oriented – If you are a detail-oriented person, it means you are likely to spot any inconsistencies, and that’s a good trait. However, spending too much time on details might lag you behind, and it is then that it turns into a weakness. Employers could appreciate your focus on quality while at the same time they recognize your awareness to save and focus your energy on ongoing projects.
- Sometimes I need more confidence – Lack of confidence is very common among beginners and workers who haven’t had the chance to use their skills efficiently. That could give a message of inefficiency and inability to make quick decisions. However, if you emphasize that you are ready to gain more experience, learn from others, and develop your potentials, it can signal readiness to work in a team and follow the rules.
- I struggle to ask for help – Being independent is definitely considered a strength, yet it can easily turn into a weakness when it leads to inefficiency and poor performance. In cases when you feel burnt out or when you lack expertise, it is more than recommended to ask for help. But, if you show understanding that despite your independence and self-reliance, the business will prosper better when you ask for help, it will indicate the hiring manager a sense of high self-awareness and need for balance. It is a highly valued professional strength that shouldn’t be overlooked.
- It’s hard for me to say ‘No’ – Helping others and accepting requests is an excellent personal and professional trait. Yet, you can’t put yourself in a Mother Theresa role anytime someone asks something from you. It can interfere with your deadlines, and instead of being a good worker, the management is likely to perceive you as inefficient and unproductive. Therefore, it will be very effective if you add that you have found a way to efficiently manage your tasks so that any extra work doesn’t interfere with your main responsibilities.
- I need more expertise in…– Admitting that you need more experience in a specific skill can be a great answer as no one is expected to know everything. You can also provide a specific answer where you think you need an improvement. It can range from professional skills to soft skills or even transferable skills. Some of the possibilities include improving your writing skills, management skills, written communication, leadership skills, etc. Yet, when admitting that you need certain expertise in a specific area, avoid stating a weakness that is crucial to the job you’re applying for.
What potential opportunities can be found within your weaknesses?
Your weaknesses aren’t your flaws. These are those skills you have the least expertise in or areas where your interest is the lowest. Weaknesses should not define you or be a direct obstacle to the path of your dream career.
Sometimes, you don’t have the skills you call weaknesses simply because you weren’t given the opportunity to develop those skills. This implies that once you have the chance to develop those skills and you are willing to do so, your greatest weaknesses can turn into your strengths.
You prepare in advance and inform your interviewer that you are more than willing to upgrade your skills or learn new ones.
Should you improve weaknesses or focus on strengths?
Different theories have contrasting viewpoints regarding this question. Traditional psychology theorizes that individuals are supposed to seek improvement and work on their weaknesses and even reduce them.
On the other hand, many new psychology branches, including Positive Psychology, have an opposing standpoint. Namely, studies have shown that people grow and become more successful when they improve and work on their strengths rather than focus all their energy on their weaknesses.
The claim is supported by the theory that implies that when a person does what he/she loves doing, then they easily understand complex processes, their interest and alertness are much more developed.
Working on your weaknesses should not be ignored though, however, if you spend too much energy trying to develop a new skill or do something that is not your interest can be time-consuming, frustrating, and discouraging. Therefore, focus more on your strengths, and work on your weak sides when you feel motivated and inspired.
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