One question that always comes up in an interview is: tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. To answer this question well, you need to do the following five things and do them well.
- Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses
- Be specific when talking about your strengths as well as weaknesses. Do not use vague words such as usually, probably, maybe, etc.
- Talk about strengths that are relevant to the job you are seeking
- If probed further, describe a situation where you demonstrated particular skill and made a difference
- Articulate your weaknesses in a positive manner
In this article, we will delve into these points in detail and also discuss some examples to help you formulate an answer that will impress the interviewer. However, you first need to understand what you must not do when the interviewer asks you to describe your strengths and weaknesses.
What you should not do when you are asked, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses”
To help you understand better, we present the answers of two candidates, Mia and Robert, who didn’t give a satisfactory answer to the above question.
When asked to describe her strengths and weaknesses, Mia responded, “I do my job with 100% dedication. My weakness is that I get stressed out in pressure situations.”
Robert replied, “At this point, I cannot think of any weakness. Maybe I should not get upset easily. I believe my strengths are probably my intensive knowledge about computers and communication skills.”
Let’s see what Mia and Robert did wrong.
Mia’s reply was wrong on the following counts:
- She was unimaginative. Everybody thinks they are hard working.
- She listed her weakness in a negative way
Robert’s response, in a way, was worse. Do you know why?
- He showed a lack of confidence and self-belief by using the words ‘I believe’
- Sent across the message that he was unprepared for the interview by stating, “At this point, I cannot think of any weakness”
- He showed a lack of self-knowledge. He used vague words such as ‘probably’ and ‘maybe’
What you should do when you are asked, “Tell me about your strength and weaknesses”
1. Talk about a few strengths that are relevant to the job
If you are not confident about what your strengths are, write down all your skills and divide them into the following 3 categories:
- Personal traits such as friendly nature, good team player, dependable, etc.
- Transferable skills such as good analytical skills, excellent problem-solving skills, good team-management skills, etc.
- Knowledge-based skills such as proficiency in computers, proficiency in different languages, and technical ability, etc.
Writing down your skills will help you understand them. When answering the aforementioned question, talk about only 2-3 strengths that are relevant to the job. Peruse the job requirements listed by the employer to get a clear idea about the skills the employer is seeking.
2. Give specific examples to illustrate why you say something is your strength
If crisis management is your forte, you must be able to give a specific example that illustrates it is indeed your strength.
3. Articulate your weaknesses in a positive way
Everybody has weaknesses, then why this hesitancy in admitting them? What works against you is not that you have certain weaknesses, but the fact that you know your shortcomings and still choose to do nothing about them.
Taking Mia’s example, she would have sounded much better if she had said something like, “I get stressed out in pressure situations, but I’m working on it. I’ve started taking yoga classes which have helped me improve my response under pressure. I’m sure I’ll learn how to stay calm in high-pressure situations with practice.”
The key to responding well to the question being discussed here is to focus on your strengths that are relevant to the job and mention your weakness positively.
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