Below is our guide to overcoming questions on strengths and weaknesses in a job interview. To best understand this topic, use the written section below alongside the video insights from our co-founders Geoff Balmer and David Landau.
Please find the full video transcript available at the bottom of this page.
"What are your key strengths?”
“Can you tell me about a few of your weaknesses?”
If you’ve attended a job interview before, these questions will probably sound familiar to you, because strengths and weaknesses questions are asked in nearly every interview. The reason they are so readily used is that they require you as the interviewee to self-evaluate yourself. However, most people don’t like to sell themselves and many don’t like admitting to having weaknesses, which can make these standard questions difficult to answer.
The key to answering both of these questions is to arm yourself with research. Research the company, research the position and find out what the desirable attributes of the role are. Read the job advertisement thoroughly and note down how you align with its requirements.
This question is your chance to talk about your professional skills and attributes, as well as your personality and cultural fit, so take it wisely. Give examples of your strengths and relate them to your current role. Ask yourself how you showcase this strength currently and give a practical example of how it adds value.
Be careful when answering this question to not say anything that might come across as boastful or arrogant. Although you don't want to sell yourself short, giving an overly ostentatious answer may leave a bad impression and damage your chances of getting the role.
This is one of the most feared questions asked in interviews, and for good reason. The question is essentially putting you on the spot and asking you why the employer shouldn’t offer you the job. However, your answer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. In fact, it can actually help you land a job.
When answering this question, crucially make sure that the example you provide isn’t a success criterion for the role. Instead, discuss a weakness that doesn’t directly impact your ability to do the job, and then importantly, let the interviewer know how you’re overcoming it. This way you show that you have the character to address your weaknesses and improve, which is a desired attribute for any role.
In summary, when answering this question, be honest, and fair and give relevant examples of how you’ve demonstrated your strengths and addressed your weaknesses. This way you’ll showcase your strengths effectively while demonstrating your character and development.
For other useful job search hints and tips please click here, or take a look at the following resources for more advice:
Geoff: This video is all about helping you answer the question about your strengths and your weaknesses.
David: The strengths and weaknesses question is very common. And amazingly it's something that a lot of people do struggle with in an interview situation. No one really likes selling themselves and no one really likes to admit to their weaknesses. Some tips to consider before you even try to answer the strengths question. Make sure you've researched the company, make sure you've researched the position description and on many position descriptions, there will actually be an element over there where they talk about the desirable attributes of the person for the position. Run through those and before going to your interview make sure that you've noted down the attributes that you have that align to the requirements of the role.
Geoff: The best way to answer the strengths question is to give examples.
David: Answering this question really does allow you an opportunity to talk about your skills, your attributes for the role, and your personality match and cultural fit as well. Let's look at an example. So perhaps the role that you're applying for is a deadline-driven one where the analysis that you do is going to be relied upon for executives to make business decisions. Your answer may go something like this, My main strengths are my accuracy and my timeliness. In my current role, I am very heavily relied upon to make sure that the information I am producing is accurate and on time. With that in mind, I make sure that I get my work completed at least 24 hours before the deadline to make sure that I'm comfortable that is accurate and that I've had time to go over it once or twice.
Geoff: Another example may be, One of my strengths is that I'm a strong team player. We have a team of five, and I take on the role in the team which always makes sure that the team is well-run and is well organised. For example. It's important to answer the question because it's a very common interview question and you're gonna get it asked at most interviews.
David: Weaknesses are probably one of the most feared interview questions out there. The most simple tip I have is don't give an example that is a success criterion for the role.
Geoff: I often feel the best way to answer the question is to say, In my last review my manager highlighted that I had the following development point to work on. And what I'm doing to develop in this area is the following. So answering in a very honest and fair manner would generally come across well.
David: Your example of weaknesses might go something like, I have a real fear of public speaking. So as a result I've done is I enrolled in a public speaking course and I'm really trying my hardest to get through that. So, so far I've done two presentations in front of 30 people and I'm starting to grow in confidence from that perspective because I know that for my future it is going to be an important element for the role that I want. So what this example shows is that it doesn't directly impact the candidate's ability to do the job. What it does show is the character overcomes weaknesses.
Geoff: For more information visit the Richard Lloyd website and on the job seeker page, there's the job seeker toolkit.