Interviews are generally a bit anxiety-laden, and questions like, ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ have the ability to make one feel strained and uncomfortable. Most often, the problem lies not in the answer itself but in the correct way to frame the answer.
Candidates are stumped on how to appropriately put across these two traits in a qualifying manner. The possibility of giving a wrong impression makes one fumble more.
A simple online search will throw up this question as one of the most probable ones in an interview. If you are preparing for one, it makes sense to get armed.
Why Do They Ask This?
Interview questions are designed to gauge all functioning capabilities of a candidate. From technical to soft skills, social skills, and personality, interviews give the organization an idea about the possible contribution a candidate can make towards it.
This particular question allows the management to understand how well a candidate can evaluate themselves and their self-awareness level. An interviewer is constantly assessing how a candidate would match the job demands, what potential issues there could be, and his/her capacity to be self-reflective. By answering this question, a candidate is framing why they are a good fit for the job and for the company in their own words.
Why Answering It Properly Is Invaluable?
Identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses and framing them in a clear, compelling narrative takes enormous powers of self-reflection and a methodical thought process. It also positively reflects on one’s ability to effectively communicate in a professional setting.
These indications can go a long way towards impressing employers about a candidate’s suitability and capacity to perform. Besides, it makes sense to have a well-thought-out answer for an important interview question such as this rather than have them wait while you articulate it.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The key is to acknowledge them and present them to the interviewer in a smart manner.
Talking About Strengths
This is not an invitation for self-praise. The most common pitfall to avoid here is to avoid looking over-confident. The focus should be on attributes that will help in the role being discussed. Of course, a candidate can stress either on hard skills or soft skills or both, depending on the beneficial impact on the job.
One of the best ways to approach this answer is to first understand the job description thoroughly. 47% of interviews turn out unsuccessful due to a candidate’s ignorance about the company they had applied for. This, in turn, helps to streamline what kinds of strengths align with positive business results in that role. Qualities can then be mapped to the job profile. For instance, strengths in conflict resolution to suit a Customer Relationship Management role or knowledge of a foreign language for an international news desk role.
Some qualifying strengths are problem-solving, critical thinking, an eye for detail, team player, time management, flexibility, quick learner, good communicator, consistent performer under pressure, etc.
Support With Facts
A dry enumeration of strengths is another pitfall to avoid. Strengths should always be backed with evidence. There should be instances in the previous work experience or academic course where a candidate’s strength can be shown to have successfully impacted a project or situation.
An example-based answer helps the candidate sound more honest and believable to the interviewer. It also showcases real-world applications of strengths giving credibility to the answer. However, it is always advisable to keep the list short and quantifiable.
Approach Weaknesses Professionally
It is easier to reflect on successes rather than on the areas of struggle. Hence, articulating confidently on the weaknesses is the trickier part of the response. To begin with, one must start with some some-reflection to identify any forms of weakness, whether in hard or soft skills and set a course of improvement.
Every employer expects one or the other weakness. A candidate’s frank answer goes to show the prospective employer that he/she has a growth-mindset set on honesty and improvement. Hence, lying and or answering with an obvious strength can hamper the positive outcomes of an interview. For instance, stating that ‘working too hard or ‘possessing an idealist temperament’ are clichés that employers are too well aware of.
Weave a Story of Improvement
Once weaknesses have been determined, the key is to talk about them with a story. A candidate should approach a weakness along with the steps that were taken to work on it and the process to overcome it. It is important to put across that being aware of a weakness and taking proactive initiatives to address them is better than not acknowledging them at all.
Similar to strengths, mapping weaknesses to the job profile is recommended. One should not list weaknesses that could render them ineffective for the job. There are complementary ways of approaching this. First, one should list weaknesses that do not affect the role description and, in turn, the hiring prospects. Second, certain legitimate weaknesses can be mentioned after ensuring that they do not largely impact the role and have an easier scope of improvement.
Certain identifiable weaknesses can be attributed to average public speaking, possible detail-lapse during deadline focus, tendency to procrastinate, learning to multitask, being straightforward, etc.
Be Prepared to Nail This Answer in an Interview
The question on quantifying strengths and weaknesses is difficult and significant. It is important to have a strategy for answering this successfully. The guidelines cited above can help build a strong framework to qualify a confident response. This shows why interview preparations are essential. However, what’s more, important is—being the right fit for the job in terms of expertise and skills.
Possessing the correct qualification, especially hard skills, lends a level of confidence to candidates that can hardly be matched by any kind of response preparation. Once an interviewer is convinced about the core capability of a candidate vis-à-vis a job profile, the interview has been nailed.
Whether a fresher or an experienced professional, any jobseeker can only gain from adding to their skills. In the last year, almost 65% of interviews have been canceled due to the pandemic. Thus, a broadening of horizons can positively impact careers. When it comes to exploring the field for more possibilities or getting started with attaining skills, the free courses available on Simplilearn’s SkillUp are a great way to start.