Job interviews are never easy. The questions, though some are predictable, are becoming more personal and challenging for potential employees.
Also, with the addition of technology, employers are seeking to learn about the whole applicant— personally and professionally. The most common way to solicit this, besides Google, is with the question: what are your strengths and weaknesses?
There is no right or wrong way to answer this question. In fact, the question often reveals more about your personal ethics than what is initially believed. Many people become tongue twisted on this question, because they are unsure of what the interviewer desires to hear in response. The best thing to do is simply be real. However, that is a vague statement. So allow me to paint a picture:
Jane is the President of ABC Financials and she is looking to hire an advisor under the company’s investment sector. She is currently interested in two prospective applicants, Donald and Jessica. Both offer different qualities and come equip with strong educational backgrounds. To help determine who the stronger applicant is, she decides to ask a very well-known, yet challenging question.
Jessica answers the question, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” with, “My strength is that I’m a hard worker. My weakness is that I get stressed when I miss a deadline because someone else dropped the ball.”
This answer is unimaginative. Most people think of themselves as hard workers.
Donald has difficulty with the question. “I really cannot think of a weakness,” he begins. “Maybe I could be more focused. My strength is probably my ability to deal with people. I am pretty easygoing. I usually don’t get upset easily.”
This answer leads with a negative, and then moves to vague words: maybe, probably, pretty and usually.
So what is the best way to answer this question?
The best way is with honesty. It is not enough to just spit out typical answers. Employers screen many applicants and they hear the same responses often. The best way to capitalize on this and beat the competition is with authenticity. This is a very detailed question that requires a detailed answer through the process of an honest assessment beforehand.
Assessing your strengths
Begin with assessing your skills and you will eventually identify your strengths. Answers should encompass a little from three of the categories below:
Technical skills: This includes education, experience and any other knowledge-based skills that were acquired during this time. Some known examples are computer-related skills, second language fluency and special trainings.
Transferable skills: These consist of skills that can be transferable from job to job. A few examples of this are conflict management, time management, organizational skills and analytical skills.
Personal skills: These are completely unique to each individual. Examples include friendliness, punctual, flexible and team-oriented.
An effective way to accomplish this is to create a story that will encompass all three of the skills simultaneously.
Assessing your weaknesses
This question is often a bit more difficult, but nonetheless, it is attainable. The most authentic way to answer this question is to highlight a weakness that can be corrected. Be sure not to state a weakness that has little to no opportunity for correction. However, be sure that it is still unique to you and not common. To really show off your problem-solving skills, select a weakness and come up with a solution to it.
Preparation is essential to the completion of a successful interview. While assessing, be sure to come up with scripted answers that feel and come off naturally when spoken during the interview. Remember, employers are looking for someone who will be a good fit for their company, despite some shortcomings. Doing a thorough assessment will help to highlight strong skills and create a blueprint that will soon diminish your weaknesses. Remember, honesty is the best policy, personally or professionally.