The Dreaded Interview Strength and Weaknesses Question

by Roberta Maginnis - Date: 2010-10-28 - Word Count: 905 Share This!

Being asked what you feel your strengths and weaknesses are at Interview is almost certain but its rare as an interviewer that you will get a really good answer. Most people find this question extremely hard to answer and end up either lying (which is obvious), getting flustered and embarrassed or saying what they think the Interviewer wants to hear. This can sound rehearsed and the weakness usually isn't really a weakness at all. You can tell I have had experience of this as both an interviewee and an Interviewer.

It is also this question that can help you set yourself aside from your competitors so it is an important piece to prepare for yet most people forget or are too afraid to even approach it hoping they come up with something on the spot.

So why do employers ask this?

It's not to catch you out or make you feel uncomfortable as most people think. It is the Interviewers job to get the best from the person at Interview. It is in their best interests to find the right person for the job, not just the person that has the talent to do well in an interview situation. That's why most Interviewers will use different techniques to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

The true reason why this question is asked is to find out the following -
1. If you are self aware
2. If you understand the impacts your strengths and weaknesses have on others
3. If you are someone who values self-development and pro-actively improves yourself.

Looking at your Strengths

This is a quick exercise I always find useful. Take a piece of paper and put down all the things you like doing and that you have been successful at both in work and your personal life.

Now look at 2-3 common traits that these hold. For example if you are the captain of a successful football team and you have a successful sales team in work that would do anything for you then you could say one of your strengths is being able to Lead and Influence people.

Now identify why these Strengths might be useful in the job you are applying for. Which one stands out as the most useful? This is the strength you will talk about.

Tip: Don't just say I am good at Leading and Influencing people. Have a paragraph ready that tells them what your strength is, why you believe it's your strength and how it could help in this job.

Example - I have the ability to Lead and influence people. I am the captain of a successful football team and Sales team where motivation, leadership and influencing gets results. From what I know about this job it will be very useful when managing the team of sales agents through the change that the company is planning.

Looking at Weaknesses

Identifying your weakness can be a little harder. In fact, let's face it, it can be a lot harder. If you have ever had 360 feed back then this will not be just so hard. If you haven't (and you should) you are going to find this a little harder. If possible ask someone that you have worked closely with, that you know will be honest and you value their opinion to tell you what they feel you need to develop on.

If you are no longer in a job and you don't feel you can call anyone then complete this exercise. Write down things that you don't like doing things that would make your heart skip a beat if you were asked to do them or something in the job spec that you felt difficult to find a good example for. It is likely that something you find difficult, don't like doing or scares you is where you need to develop. For example if you were asked to speak in public and you hate audiences, your sweating at the thought of it and you would find it hard to give an example of public speaking then this could be your weakness.

Now of course if this is one of the main requirements for the job then you don't want to use this and the chances are you won't want the job.

If it is something you might have to do on occasion then that is fine. Make sure you detail what you are doing about developing in this area. Maybe it's joining a public speaking forum or talking at your local sports club committee on a regular basis.

Now you can talk about your weakness, describe how you are developing on it, possibly give some examples of how you have improved through your development and how excited you are at the opportunities within this role that will help you develop further.

Tip: You can complete a personality test online to identify strengths and weaknesses just google 'free personality test' or free career assessment'. This can be a refreshing exercise for self awareness.

Tip: Be yourself and if you find familiar ground with the Interviewer then use it. This can help relax the atmosphere for you and people automatically warm to people with the same interests. Whilst this won't help the decision it will help make you comfortable with the environment. This is for your benefit not the Interviewer. If there are no obvious familiarities then don't try and find one or make one. It's not a necessity. Like I said be yourself.

Once again I hope you found this useful. Good luck with your Interview.

New Mum and Entrepreneur. 10 years Financial Experience, Sales Coaching and Self Development. Recruited and designed interview questions for several companies. See my blog for help with writing a CV, coping with redundancy and more HEREn
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