A common question in a job interview is ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’. How you answer this question can give employers or recruiters an insight into you as an employee and help build an impression of you as a professional.
There are a lot of people who dislike answering this question because they either can’t talk about themselves positively or struggle to discuss weaknesses in a positive way.
Despite this, demonstrating self-awareness and how you combat your weaknesses is a great way of establishing context for your wider career.
Below we explore how to answer the question ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’, providing example answers that you can tailor to your own experiences.
Answering ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses in a job interview’
It’s worth preparing an answer to this question as it represents one of the evergreen questions you’ll likely be asked in some form. By having several examples in mind you can quickly provide an answer and ensure you don’t lose your flow during the interview.
Initially, you’ll want to split the question into two. Firstly, what are your strengths? Secondly, what are your weaknesses?
When you approach these two separate questions you’ll want to think about personality traits, gaps in your skill set or examples of situations where you played to your strengths or came back from a weakness.
Ultimately you want to show that you know your limitations and how you can either adapt in a new role or combat those limitations directly.
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How to answer ‘what are your weaknesses’
Below are several different ways you can answer the question ‘what are your weaknesses’ in a positive or progressive manner:
Example 1: In larger projects I sometimes find myself defaulting to a more independent work style. I enjoy solving problems and if a challenge presents itself, I like to consider how I could find a solution. In a larger group setting this isn’t necessary and collaboration is often the best course of action, which is a concept I’m trying to implement in my working style.
An example of this is during my last marketing position where I worked on improving a client’s web presence. While my main responsibility was redesigning and implementing a new website, I also took on the role of creating variations of their logo to use throughout the site and came up with the content at the same time. While the client was happy with my work, in hindsight, this was an opportunity to collaborate with designers and copywriters that could have reduced the time it took to complete the project. Now, I always make more of an effort to work with the right people to get the job done.
Example 2: One of my main weaknesses is that I’m very self-critical of my work and struggle to properly reflect on larger wins as I’m considering things we could have done differently. Early in my career that often resulted in burnout after refusing to ‘switch off’. Since then, I’ve attempted to take a step back and look at my successes objectively with a more business-oriented viewpoint. This has helped me to identify what was positive and how we can take that success into the next project.
Example 3: I’m very passionate about my specific profession and sometimes that has caused communication issues with colleagues who I work with in different fields. While I’m never rude or abrasive, I did find myself overruling people’s opinions or ideas about a project because I thought they wouldn’t work. Rather than potentially finding a new way of working or an unexplored solution, this often meant sticking to the same formula which, while successful, didn’t foster innovation. Since then I’ve become much more aware of how I communicate with colleagues around my field and how an outside viewpoint may lead to progress.
How to answer ‘what are your strengths’
Below are several different ways you can answer the question ‘what are your strengths’ without seeming obnoxious and how to structure a response:
Example 1: One of my key strengths is my leadership skills. While I’ve never worked in senior management, I’ve often been a key voice in the team that other colleagues listen to for advice. I feel like this is a good skill to have – despite not being in management – as it helps keep the team laser-focused and provides another support outlet, which reduces the time a manager may spend answering questions.
Example 2: I feel like I’m an effective communicator, which helps in my role despite it not being customer-facing. I’ve regularly had to help resolve conflict between colleagues and ensure both sides see the merit to a compromise. I excel at providing constructive feedback and likewise, receiving it – particularly in a project setting where it’s important that everyone feels heard and receives the collaborative support they need.
Example 3: A key skill for me is my time management. I rarely miss deadlines and use basic time management concepts to ensure that I’m organised and everyone understands where I’m at just as much as I do. In the past this has helped me successfully manage multiple projects within my team, ensuring that everyone understands what they need to be doing and the wider workflow moves smoothly.