Are looking for a career change?
You’re not the only one! Everyone needs a change from time to time.
Your current job may not provide opportunities for advancement or you may have decided to change fields.
Whatever the reason, if you’re searching for a job, it is time to begin preparing for the interview.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of questions during interviews? Most candidates dread answering, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Luckily, you have found a cheat sheet to find a flawless response. We’ll help you understand why interviewers ask this question and the best responses.
Table Of Contents
- Why Do Interviewers Ask, “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”?
- How To Answer “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
- Examples: How To Answer “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
- Additional Tips for Impressing an Interviewer Asking “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
- Additional Questions to Be Aware Of
- Wrapping Up
Why Do Interviewers Ask, “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”?
Interviewers speak with many job candidates, and the pool of applicants can all blend. Many potential employees will list the same qualifications, but few will answer personal questions in the same way.
Those applying to a position will cite a degree and their level of experience, much of which might be the same as another applicant. Yet, each person has unique strengths and weaknesses.
When interviewers ask, “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” they want to get to know you.
The answer will give your interviewer insight into your communication, interpersonal skills, and what sets you apart from other candidates.
What Is the Interviewer Looking For?
Your answers will state how well you understand the role and company to which you applied. Most interviewers prefer a person who has researched the position well.
These answers also indicate your level of self-awareness. Those with little self-awareness will not know their weaknesses. They also will not overcome them.
Overall, interviewers look for three things when they ask this question.
- Interviewers want to know if their future employees can handle pressure. Speaking about your weaknesses shows that you are confident. You believe you belong with the company despite your shortcomings.
- Interviewers enjoy hearing about obstacles the individual has overcome. Discussing plans to improve upon weaknesses is also impressive. These types of answers show determination and a willingness to improve.
- Interviewers need to ensure the candidate will benefit their company. Your strengths must align with the job responsibilities.
How To Answer “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
There are many acceptable answers to “what are your strengths and weaknesses.” There are no wrong answers, but some are better than others.
What to Focus On When Answering This Question
When describing your strengths, focus on aspects like:
- Specific details
- Relevant experiences
- Measurable results
Instead of listing three positive traits, explain why each is a strength. Often, telling a story in the ‘star’ format will achieve this result. Your story should include the situation, your task, the action you took, and a positive result. Keep the story short.
Also, discuss strengths that are relevant to your potential role. For example, highlight IT experience when applying to a software sales position.
Whenever possible, quantify your results. Tell the interviewer how much you increased website traffic or the retention rate.
When discussing your weaknesses, consider mentioning
- The downside of a strength you’ve already spoken about
- A story about overcoming a weakness
- How you plan to improve upon this weakness
If you have a long list of strengths, sneak one onto your weakness list by discussing its downside. A person who adheres to deadlines may become impatient when work is not completed on time. Discuss how falling behind frustrates you, and you are learning to cope with the stress.
Employers love to hire individuals who work hard to overcome their weaknesses. Focus on a weakness you recognized and fought through and tell this story.
You may discuss how you feared public speaking until you took a class in college. Then, you used your new skill when you presented an idea to your supervisor.
Finally, speak about your plans to overcome a weakness. Those who struggle to delegate work may need to establish frequent meetings with team members.
These meetings can involve discussions about progress and the quality of work other members are completing.
What To Avoid When Answering This Question
Pitfalls to avoid while answering “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” include:
- Criticizing previous colleagues or employers
- Being too general
- Ending on a negative
Interviewers do not ask, “what are your strengths and weaknesses” to listen to you brag. Remember that they are trying to see whether you are a good fit for the company. They do not need to hear a long list of irrelevant skills you have.
Also, employers like to hire team players. When you discuss improvements you made in a previous job, avoid criticizing colleagues. Discuss your role in the positive change rather than their role in the problem.
Many interviewees list similar strengths and weaknesses. If you pick a typical answer, such as perfectionism, dive deeper. Be specific and provide details.
Finally, never end on a negative trait. Discuss your weaknesses first and strengths last whenever possible.
Examples: How To Answer “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
Many applicants discuss technical skills, which apply to specific fields. Other strengths are transferable between fields. The examples below involve transferable traits.
Example Answer 1
I have found that I can focus too much on the details. I always felt that I could be more descriptive when completing performance evaluations. With practice, I learned to include helpful information without overwhelming colleagues.
Collaboration has always been a strength of mine. My employer tasked me with increasing our employee retention rate. I established weekly meetings to discuss concerns. Then, I set aside time to acknowledge the team’s hard work. This boosted the retention rate by 25 percent over three years.
Why This Answer Works
This response is specific but concise. The weakness shows a willingness to learn and the ability to overcome challenges, but it can be useful at work. Many companies hire detail-oriented people to maximize results.
The individual utilizes the star method and tells a relevant story about strength. The situation took place at their previous job. Their task was to keep more employees. They took action by establishing meetings. Their result also includes a percentage. This provides an objective measurement of their success.
Example Answer 2
As a perfectionist, I struggle to delegate work. Recently, I prioritized communication within my team. This helped me and others feel more confident in the work we complete. I still find it difficult to delegate, but it is getting easier.
I work very well under pressure. A colleague left my company, and their project was due within a week. I made a to-do list and worked extra hours to complete this project on schedule. Upon listening to my presentation, our sponsors agreed to increase funding.
Why This Answer Works
This response impresses interviewers because it shows the individual took action. She improved herself, but she is self-aware enough to recognize there is room to grow. Plus, her meetings helped those around her and strengthened the company.
Like the last example, this story about strength uses the star method. The situation involved an unfinished project. Her task was to complete it. She took action by making a list and working overtime. The result was a finished project which increased funding.
Example Answer 3
Since the beginning of my career, I have been too self-critical. I often feel that I should have all the answers, and I am disappointed by my need to ask for guidance from time to time. Lately, I take a moment at the end of each day to appreciate my progress and how much I have learned.
This struggle allowed me to develop incredible patience. Many students avoid questions because adults talk down to them. I prioritized making my classroom a safe space for students. They often ask me questions about my class and others.
Why This Answer Works
This final response is the perfect way to show your ability to turn a negative into a positive. The individual showed his commitment because he was willing to ask for help. He did not allow his pride to interfere with his work performance.
The individual describes how his self-awareness made him a better instructor. He used personal experiences to relate to his students. His result is not measurable, but it is meaningful.
Additional Tips for Impressing an Interviewer Asking “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
Interviewers asking this question focus on self-aware candidates who understand the job. You can prove both of these by adhering to the best tips and tricks to try.
Prepare for Your Interview
Most interviewers who ask this question are wondering how well you understand the role. Research details about the company, your role, and the typical dress code.
Proper interview etiquette is essential. Interviewers may disregard your meeting if your attire is too casual for the role.
Knowledge of the company will also help you tailor your answers to match the company’s needs.
Ask Questions Related to the Job
When you ask questions about the job, your interviewer will see your interest in the company. Plus, you will showcase self-awareness as you reflect on your ability to perform well in the role.
Rather than asking about pay and benefits immediately, discuss:
- Company values
- Anything you may need to clarify about your qualifications
- Skills missing from the team that a new hire should have
- Opportunities for growth, education, and collaboration
Tell the Interviewer You Want This Job
Interviewers are aware that many candidates have applied for several jobs. It can be frustrating to invest time into evaluating a person who chose another company.
Before you leave your interview, ensure the interviewer knows you want the position. This simple detail shows your confidence and enthusiasm.
Additional Questions to Be Aware Of
You may encounter several challenging questions during an interview, such as:
- Why Are You a Great Match for This Role?: This question shows your relevant skills and experience.
- What Motivates You To Do a Good Job?: Interviewers try to judge whether their system will motivate you. This answer will also show whether your goals align with theirs.
- Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?: Your answer discloses your career goals. It also shows how you handle adversity.
- What Do You Like to Do For Fun?: Interviewers want to know whether your interests align with the job. Your answer will also tell them whether you fit into the company’s culture.
- Tell Me About a Time You Failed: Your answer will show whether you can take responsibility and improve yourself.
Interviews can be overwhelming, but there are tricks to help you through them. “What are your strengths and weaknesses” sounds like a complex question, but interviewers want to know two things. They hope you are self-aware and a good fit for the role.
Your strengths should match the responsibilities of the position. Even your weaknesses should highlight a positive feature. With practice, you can impress interviewers with your answer.