1. Prepare ahead & identify your strengths and weaknesses
First things first – in order to talk about your strengths and weaknesses in a job interview you need to know what they actually are.
What are your greatest strengths? One way to list your strengths is to draw on any previous feedback you’ve been given. If you have previous work experience, this is pretty straightforward – you can probably think of specific circumstances where you did good (and it was noticed!) and felt able to utilize your talents to go that extra mile.
But you may be new to the job market or have experienced some time out from working life. Here you can always draw on educational or personal feedback that’s been positive.
What are your biggest weaknesses? If you find it hard to think of your weaknesses, come back to your list of strengths. What is the opposite of these strengths? Is that something you may struggle with? If you are, for example, really good at connecting with people, networking, and forming relationships, would you, on the other hand perhaps, find it difficult to work by yourself?
2. Apply your strengths and weaknesses to the desired role
Now that you have your list, think about the job you are applying for. What strengths are relevant to it? What weaknesses are not welcomed? Pick a strength that is relevant to that particular role. It’s always best to provide examples of when you have displayed that strength in the past and how exactly this could be useful in the role you are applying for.
3. Focus on weaknesses that are NOT relevant to the role
When talking about your weaknesses, home in on those that are not essential for the role – you don’t want to disqualify yourself.
4. Don’t just state your weakness – show your willingness to improve
Don’t stop after naming your weakness. Ensure the weaknesses you share are fixable as well as demonstrating how you are working on them. Showing how you’re taking steps to improve on weaknesses will not only show self-awareness, it will show commitment to personal and professional growth.
5. Turn negatives into positives
Switching it around shows you are mindful of this characteristic and are able to prevent it getting in the way of your performance.
6. Have more than one example prepared
Sometimes one example may not be enough. The interviewer may just want to get to know you better or was not fully convinced by the first one you presented. Make sure you prepare at least 3 examples, so you have your responses ready.
7. How NOT to answer ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?
a. Don’t be arrogant or dishonest about your strengths and abilities – you’ll be found out eventually – and the point of the interview is to make sure the job is a good fit for you
b. Don’t use the obvious ‘old’ examples, especially for weaknesses – I’m too attentive to detail, too much of a perfectionist, too hard-working – those may sound disingenuous as recruiters and hiring managers will have heard these many times.
c. When talking about your strengths or weaknesses, don’t humblebrag – it comes across as self-elevation and no one wants to work with someone who puts down others to boost their own self-esteem.
d. If you’re not talented at making jokes – the interview is not the best time to start practicing them.
e. Don’t be defensive or apologetic for your weaknesses – everyone has them, there is no need to apologize.
The key is to be honest, show self-awareness, and the ability to learn from mistakes – Do this and you will nail the interview!