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All Articles / Career advice

How to talk about your strengths and weaknesses in a job interview

Ah, the much-stressed-over job interview. There’s nothing quite like it. And despite a job seeker’s best efforts, it seems most people don’t quite understand how to nail one.

This is understandable, of course – interviews are nerve-wracking, and it’s tough to think straight when you’re under that kind of pressure. What’s more, no one ever prepares for some of those hard questions such as “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”.

Seems like an outdated question don’t you think?

Nonetheless, if you are asked this in an interview, there’s ways of avoiding the feeling like you’re giving the interviewer a reason not to hire you. It’s all about how you phrase your answer.

The challenge of explaining your strengths and weaknesses

It’s not enough to list them off – you have to be able to talk about your strengths and weaknesses in a way that makes sense, and more importantly, sounds good to potential employers.

This is where many job seekers trip up. They start listing off strengths that are either irrelevant to the job they’re interviewing for, or weaknesses that make them sound like a bad fit for the position.

The key to nailing this tough question is to find a balance – you want to humanise yourself and show that you’re aware of your own shortcomings, but at the same time, you don’t want to come across as someone who’s not up for the challenge.

Make sure you keep it relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Answering the strengths and weaknesses question

The first step is to understand what your interviewer is looking for. They’re not interested in hearing about every single one of your strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they’re looking for a few key things:

  • Do your strengths make you a good fit for the job?
  • Are your weaknesses something that can be overcome?
  • Do you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can answer this question in a way that will impress your interviewer.

Talk about relevant strengths

When it comes to your strengths, you want to focus on qualities that make you a good fit for the job you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service position, mentioning that you’re patient and good at diffusing difficult situations would be a great way to show that you’re suited for the role.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a job that requires a lot of creativity, mentioning that you’re good at thinking outside the box would be a more relevant strength to highlight.

The bottom line is that you want to make sure your strengths are relevant to the job you’re applying for – this will show that you’re a good fit for the position, and it will make your answer more interesting to your interviewer.

Acknowledge your weaknesses properly

No one is perfect, and acknowledging your weaknesses shows that you’re aware of your own shortcomings. However, you want to be careful about how you talk about your weaknesses – you don’t want to come across as someone who’s not up for the challenge.

A good way to do this is to focus on weaknesses that can be overcome. For example, if you’re not very experienced in a certain area, you can mention that you’re willing to learn and grow in that area. This shows that you’re open to new challenges, and it shows that you’re willing to put in the work to improve.

Another way to talk about your weaknesses is to focus on qualities that are actually strengths in disguise. For example, if you’re a perfectionist, you can mention that you’re always striving for excellence, which is a great quality to have in any job.

Use specific examples

When you’re talking about your strengths and weaknesses, it’s always a good idea to use specific examples. This will make your answer more interesting, and it will show that you’re not just making things up.

For example, if you’re talking about a time when you had to diffuse a difficult situation, you could mention a specific customer service call that you handled, what you did to overcome it, and what the result was (success!).

Using specific examples will make your answer more concrete, and it will show that you have real-world experience to back up your claims.

Say this, instead

If you need a better idea of you to frame your answers with the aforementioned tips in mind, read these samples.

“What Are Your Strengths?”

“I’ve always been a very collaborative person. In my previous role at XYZ consulting, I found that I not only worked as a marketing research analyst but also as a project manager coordinating with different departments. Because of it, I’ve nurtured my natural ability to work well with others. I’m confident that it’s a quality that would suit this team well.”

“I’m very systematic in my thinking. When it comes to approaching problems, whether they’re analytical or creative, I like to take a step back and consider all the different angles before making a decision. This allows me to be quite flexible in my thinking, and I’ve found that it’s a quality that comes in handy whether I’m working on a project alone or with a team.”

“I have a knack for quickly understanding complex systems and I’m always excited to learn new things. In my previous role, I was responsible for implementing a new CRM system for the company. Even though it was a complex system, I was able to quickly get a handle on it and train the rest of the team.”

“What Are Your Weaknesses?”

“I tend to be a perfectionist, so I often spend too much time on small details that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. This is something that I’m working on, and I’m getting better at delegating tasks and trusting others to do a good job.”

“I’m not very experienced in Excel, but I’m willing to learn and I’m confident that I’ll be able to pick it up quickly. I’m always happy to spend time up-skilling”.

Interview questions are notoriously nerve-wracking, but tackling them doesn’t have to be a challenge. By preparing yourself with the right mindset and perspective ahead of time, you’ll be well equipped to speak to your strengths, weaknesses and anything else that comes up during the interview. And if in doubt? Be yourself, and smile of course.

Good luck!

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