How to answer "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

Why Do Interviewers Ask These Questions?

Before you start thinking about your answers, it helps to know why the hiring manager asks this tough interview question and what they hope to learn from them.

When interviewing for a job, it’s quite likely that the interviewer will ask you to describe yourself at some point during the interview process.

All interviews are about getting to know somebody. They are not there to trip you up or put you in an awkward position. It's about getting to know you quickly so they can make a decision on whether you could be suitable or not? 

With the right amount of practice, you'll be able to answer this interview question well and impress the hiring manager with your responses.

The answer doesn't really matter as much as how you talk about it. It doesn't mean that the questions aren't important at all; it's just that what an interviewer evaluates may go deeper than which specific strengths or weaknesses you cite. They’re looking for employees who fit their culture and values.

Think carefully about what you should reveal

Use the job description as a guide to help you answer.

You need to match your strengths and weaknesses to the requirements of the job you're applying for. Make sure that you highlight your skills and abilities that match the requirements of the job description, and describe how you will gain or enhance the skills that you lack.

Your personal strengths should be skills that you can develop through experience. For example, if one of your strengths is communication, you might want to remember a time when you used communication to achieve a goal or solve a problem.

Your personal weaknesses may include a lack of skills that are required for the position, but if you emphasize your desire to learn these skills through a course or program, then you might be able to overcome them. Similarly, if you list a soft skill that you lack, support it with a plan to learn it or improve it.

Be Honest

Being honest is one of the most essential things for you to get correct when discussing your biggest strength and weaknesses with a potential employer. A genuine and authentic answer will impress, while a generic, calculated, exaggerated or humblebrag answer will not.

They want to hire someone who can identify their strengths and weaknesses. If you want to become a better employee, you need to understand and leverage your strengths and acknowledge and learn from any weaknesses. You want to show in the job interview that you're able to reflect on yourself.

It is important, to tell the truth when asked about your weaknesses. However, there are some things that should not be mentioned during a job interview. These include lateness, poor attention to detail and an inability to meet timeframes.

Keep It Short

You can keep your answers relatively short and focused on just one or a few strengths or weaknesses. Don't just jump into listing off everything you think you're good at or bad at without explaining any of it. Instead, focus on one thing at a time and get specific. Although short, ensure you give a thoughtful answer. 

Example of Strengths

Communication skills.

People skills.

Writing skills.

Analytical skills.

Honesty.

Leadership skills.

Patience.

Empathy.

Initiative.

Self-motivation.

Computer literacy.

What your strengths might sound like, sample answers 

"My leadership and management skills are one of my greatest strengths. As a Production Manager at my company, I've successfully merged several teams and trained all team members so they're confident in their new roles within the business through my strong communication skills. After starting out as a new team, we were able to productivity by 5% within the first month."

"I've learned how to communicate effectively thanks to my experience in my current role as an HR Advisor. As part of my job, I had to facilitate training workshops for staff members, and mediate any conflicts that arose in the workplace. And I've also taken a course on an effective communication from CIPD"

"I am very honest. If I feel that my workload has become too large to handle, or if I don’t understand something, I always tell my supervisor.

"My people skills are my greatest strength. I find it easy to connect to people so I think I'm an empathetic person."

Examples of Weaknesses

Self-criticism.

Shyness.

Lack of knowledge of particular software.

Public speaking.

Taking criticism.

Lack of experience.

Inability to delegate.

Lack of confidence.

Time Management.

What your weaknesses might sound like, sample answers

"Public speaking or presenting to my colleagues is intimidating for me and I've often struggled with presentations as I have limited experience. As a result, right now I'm taking a public speaking class at a community college to improve my confidence and learn to structure a presentation better, also through an online course"

"I often struggle with delegating and choose to take on a larger workload to ensure that a task is completed perfectly. This puts more pressure on me, so I've been using software to assign and track tasks. It has helped me to trust others and focus on my own tasks"

"Shyness is something that I struggle with in large groups. It's intimidating to ask questions or make points, so I've often stayed silent in the past. To become more confident, I've been trying to speak up more in smaller groups"

By Scott Williams

I’m an independent owner of Food Recruit - Search & Selection.

Passionate about the Food Manufacturing industry having spent time as a Supply Chain Manager and Business Development Manager for two of the UK’s largest meat importers.

High Care, Low Care, Chilled and Ambient I have worked across all markets including B2B, Foodservice, Wholesale and Retail.

I fell into recruitment in 2016 to start a Food & Drink desk in a long-standing Engineering Recruitment business in the West Midlands.

Progressing on to Business Development Manager covering multiple markets before starting my own agency in September 2020.

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