Why do interviewers ask about your strengths and weaknesses?
Interviewers want to get to know you as much as they can and in the limited time that they have. There are very specific preplanned or spontaneous questions that they will ask you. This is important because, if they don't know who you are, how you respond in situations, how much do you know about yourself? can you take responsibility? How do you handle criticism etc... the less the chance they will employ you.
In short, they’re trying to understand what kind of employee you’d be and how you’d perform in the role.
How you answer these question tells them so much about you. It is not about the end result but more about behavior, your responses and your thought processes.
Some tips about how you should answer a strengths and weaknesses question in an interview
1. Be Honest. An honest and genuine answer will impress, while one that sounds, exaggerated, or braggy or unknown will not go down well. Your interviewer or hiring manager wants to hire someone who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses and lessons learnt from failures.
2. Narrate Incidents Words without facts are plain words, but when you narrate actual events as examples, it becomes a realistic story to listen to. Describe how you have used personal traits that have helped you achieve something or narrate shortfalls that you have learnt from. For example, if you’re talking about how you buckled under pressure when you were asked to deliver a last minute presentation to a management team, explain how you got so nervous presenting your plan that you weren’t able to effectively convey your approach and your boss had to step in and help get the plan approved. Explain what you learnt and how you convinced your manager for another chance that went well and what you actually learnt form the first instance. Not only will sharing a real example make your answer stand out, but it’ll also make it sound credible and honest, characteristics interviewers are actually looking for.
3. Give Insights When you’re talking about a strength, your answer should meet whatever skill or trait is required by the company or in the job description. Tell the interviewer how that strength would be useful in this job at this company. It’ll help the interviewer understand how you’d problem solve when such situations arose.
4. Be Brief Keep your answer brief and focused on one or two strengths and/or weaknesses. Think quality, not quantity. There is no need to explain several strengths and weaknesses, instead chose the highest quality ones essential to the job role and then describe in fair detail.
What are some example strengths and weaknesses you could use in an interview?
Here are some possible strengths and weaknesses you can use.
Example strengths for job interviews
Being adaptable - Being proactive - Building relationships - Being willing to go above and beyond to help others - Coming up with innovative solutions - Delegating - Displaying emotional intelligence - Having experience with a problem that the company is currently facing - Figuring out how to effectively use a piece of software - Giving or receiving constructive feedback - Handling conflicts - Managing projects - Motivating employees - Noticing small details - Prioritizing - Public speaking - Setting deadlines - Self-motivating - Critical thinking - Working well under pressure
Example weaknesses for job interviews
Being too hard on yourself - Getting too caught up in small details - Getting nervous about speaking to groups or on the phone - Ignoring or rationalizing away constructive feedback - Locking in on a certain idea or way of doing things - Losing track of deadlines, tasks, or work products - Maintaining work-life balance - Not being comfortable with vague instructions - Not being willing to change your mind - Not knowing when to ask for clarification - Missing deadlines - Overlooking small details - Procrastinating - Struggling with time management - Taking on too much work rather than delegating or saying no
How to answer “What are your strengths?” in an interview
Use this opportunity to emphasize the most important qualities you’d bring to the role, team, and company. Read the job description carefully and learn as much as you can about what the company requires. The company website and media should give you a good indication. Use what you’ve learned to identify which of your strengths is most relevant and how it will allow you to contribute. Then make the connection. Give a confident and honest assessment that does your skills justice, but don’t over brag.
Example answers for “What is your greatest strength?”
“I think that my greatest strength is changing up design styles to match different campaigns or brands. I love the challenge of being creative within different rules, such as brand guidelines or just a mood that a client is going for. I love to expose myself to a lot of different artists and art styles so that I always have new ideas and don’t get stuck in one groove. At my current job, I’ve designed campaign graphics and templates for medications being explained to doctors and pharmacists, exercise equipment being advertised to teenagers and young adults, and more—all with great results."
How to answer “What is your greatest weakness?” in an interview
You don’t necessarily want them associating a weakness with what is essential for the job role. For example, if the job description for a sales role lists excellent verbal communication skills, you shouldn’t say one of your weaknesses is English, even if you’ve worked hard to improve and feel more than competent now. Make sure you admit the weakness from a list of weaknesses you have and chose wisely. Don’t pick a “weakness” like, “I’m such a hard worker,” or, “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” It comes off as fake, or immature—and one that will not help get you the job.
Example answers for “What is your greatest weakness?”
“My greatest weakness would probably be waiting too long to ask questions to clarify the goals of a project and to make sure I’m on the right path. I noticed in one of my first coding jobs I assumed I should be able to work independently, I’d waste time going down a particular road that didn’t 100% align with the ultimate goal and then would have to spend additional time making changes. After it happened once or twice, I started asking my manager more questions about why we were adding a particular feature, who it was intended for, what about the previous functionality had made for a poor experience, etc. And especially for bigger projects, I would reach out when I needed a gut check to ask follow-up questions as well as to share the work I’d done so far and what I was planning to do next. In the long run, it meant I could finish projects faster and do better work.”