Answer “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” like a pro: A job interview is like an exam. There are a lot of questions — some easier than others — and the key to success is preparation.
Companies conduct interviews to evaluate your qualifications and organizational fit. And interview questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” provide the recruiter or hiring manager with meaningful insights into your personality and abilities. Understanding what they expect from your response will help you craft an A+ answer and land your dream job.
Why do interviewers ask about strengths and weaknesses?
For most job seekers, the interview is the most stressful part of a job hunt. One reason interviews are challenging is that they often rely on behavioral questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer.
LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report found that at least 75% of talent acquisition specialists rely on open-ended questions to assess a candidate’s soft skills, like creativity, collaboration, and adaptability.
When approached with these common questions, it’s important to remember the interviewer isn’t trying to trip you up. They want to develop a clear picture of who you are as a person and potential employee so they can make the right hiring decision. In the case of “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” the interviewer wants to understand the following five things.
1. Your self-awareness
Self-awareness involves reflecting on your behavior and emotions. Research shows that people who’ve developed this skill are more confident, communicate effectively, and establish closer relationships. In other words, they make better leaders.
When asked about your strengths and weaknesses, the interviewer wants to learn whether you can identify and maximize your existing abilities while self-correcting your deficiencies to benefit the organization.
2. Your capacity for self-improvement
Everyone has areas requiring improvement. That’s part of being human. Your interviewer wants to see if you’re the type of person who, when confronted with weaknesses in your skill set or character, will put in the work necessary to improve.
3. Your work style
How you answer this question reveals much about your personality. Depending on your answer, the interviewer can assess whether you’re a team player, how well you respond to feedback, your level of determination, and more.
4. How you’ll fit with the organization
Unless your work requires utter independence, you’ll be a part of a larger team. The interviewer will want to evaluate how your skills mesh with your colleagues, like if you share common strengths or whether someone can compensate for your area of weakness.
5. How you react under pressure
Work environments can be stressful, and how you behave under pressure determines how well you’ll handle challenges and conflict. By asking a potentially uncomfortable question, the interviewer can evaluate your behavior when confronted with a difficult situation and whether you have the necessary tact to capitalize on it.
Let’s talk about strengths
When discussing strengths, the interviewer wants to know which qualities and skills you bring to the table. The question is as much about what the company needs as what you can do. This is your moment in the sun, so don’t be afraid to brag a little and show you’re an excellent fit for the job.
Begin by asking yourself:
- Why am I good at X, and how can I prove it?
- How does X help me at work?
Once you know those answers, you can define your list of strengths for the interview. There are many methods for creating compelling answers to interview questions. In this case, try using the following four-part framework:
- Your strength
- Example of that strength in action
- The impact
- The value of that strength
As you formulate your answer, keep the following in mind:
- Be relevant: Whichever strength you choose, be sure it aligns with the job description and company values.
- Offer proof: Expand on your noted strength by providing specific data and context for how it helped you in a work situation.
- Be humble: Yes, you want to sell yourself, but it’s essential to do so without sounding conceited. This is a balance worth learning, as 76% of interviewers would disqualify a candidate for arrogance. Reassure the interviewer you’re aware there’s much to learn and want to continue your education.
- Emphasize the benefits: Show the interviewer how you can leverage your strengths to help the company meet targets and succeed.
Sample answer — team management
“My greatest strength is team management, like encouraging everyone to share their perspective and unique expertise. Doing so keeps employees feeling valued and useful, in turn increasing motivation and productivity. This allows me to reduce conflict and deliver tasks on time, if not earlier. It’s why I completed two projects in the second half of the year and stepped in on a third when the team lead fell ill.
From what I understand, the nature of your work requires efficient collaboration and teamwork. My team management skills can help colleagues work together to produce high quality work.”
Sample answer — communication skills
“One of the most challenging parts of my job is explaining technical concepts to new people. Over the years, I’ve become very good at taking high-level ideas and demonstrating real-world applications to everyone, from the CEO to marketing interns. I particularly enjoy the “Aha!” moment when a concept clicks.
This is why the sales team at my previous job was so successful. I helped our reps understand confusing concepts and why people needed certain technologies. As a result, our sales beat our direct competitor by 15%.”
15 examples of strengths
Here are 15 great strengths examples you could use in your interview:
- Emotional intelligence
- Communication skills
- Conflict management
- Organization skills
- Project management
- Stress management
- Experience with current company challenges
The interviewer may want to shake things up and use alternative wording to “What’s your greatest strength?” Don’t feel thrown — they’re all reaching for the same information. Instead, they might ask:
- Why should we hire you?
- What would your teammates say is your strongest area of expertise?
- What’s a skill you’re most proud of?
Let’s talk about weaknesses
Nobody likes to talk about their imperfections, especially in a job interview. But perfection isn’t the goal — having a growth mindset is. Recognizing your shortcomings and taking steps to overcome them demonstrates maturity, drive, and effective problem-solving — all things that look good to a hiring manager.
Prepare for this question by asking yourself:
- What’s my weakness?
- What work have I done to improve?
- What are the positive impacts of my efforts?
Make sure your choice is a fixable flaw you can improve through training and commitment. While being truthful is essential, some weaknesses, like tardiness, poor attention to detail, and chronically missing deadlines, are better not disclosed. These can be deal breakers for potential employers.,
Once you’ve settled on your choice, reframe your weakness as a challenge, and even go so far as to replace the word in your reply. Use the following framework to form your answer:
- The weakness/challenge
- Minor consequences of the weakness
- Steps you’ve taken to overcome the challenge
As you formulate your answer, keep the following in mind:
- Be tactful: Keep your response professional and avoid oversharing personal details.
- Focus on self-improvement: Actions speak louder than words. Talk about your efforts to overcome this challenge, including examples of your success so far.
- Stress a willingness to learn: Demonstrate your openness to change by stating that you welcome feedback and advice. And include details of how you incorporated constructive criticism into efforts to address your weakness.
- Highlight your ability to compensate: Talk about the skills or strengths you leverage to compensate for your flaws. If you struggle with time management, discuss how you use your cell phone to create reminders and schedule your day so you don’t miss deadlines.
Sample answer — delegation
“I believe my biggest weakness is my tendency to take on too many responsibilities. I often fail to delegate work to my teammates. My manager pointed this out after my third straight night of overtime. After our talk, I’ve determined part of the issue stems from feeling uncomfortable telling others what to do.
Since then, instead of assigning tasks, I list project responsibilities and let my teammates choose the ones they want. I make sure to balance workloads, and if anything is left over, I take it on when I have time or we hold a lottery to see who’ll do it. I’ve also started working on leadership skills that will help me become more comfortable heading up a team.
Since then, I haven’t worked overtime, unless the rest of the group stays late, in over six months.”
Sample answer — question-asking
“When starting a new project, asking questions to clarify expectations, goals, and outcomes is challenging. I feel excited about starting something new and will dive in without ensuring I have all the details. I’ve had to postpone delivery occasionally or work overtime to make up for a misunderstanding.
After some self-reflection, I asked the project manager to review my responsibilities before each kick-off meeting. It takes five minutes, but touching base helps me start on the right foot. In the last year, I’ve cut back on the amount of rework I do so much that I’ve had time to begin a passion project.”
15 examples of weaknesses
Here are a few weakness examples to get you started:
- Discomfort with public speaking
- Lack of flexibility
- Time management issues
- Poor writing skills
- Difficulty turning vague instructions into concrete action
- Low confidence
- Lack of experience with a minor aspect of the role
- Failing to delegate
To shake up expectations, your interview might ask:
- What aspect of your professional development would your manager say you need to focus on?
- If you could change one aspect about your work ethic, what would it be?
- Are there any common complaints teammates have mentioned during performance reviews?
6 bonus tips
The following six suggestions can help you add the “Wow!” factor to your answer:
- Be specific: This applies to any job interview question. Being specific offers the interviewer the details they need to fully understand your performance. Describe your aptitudes and how you leverage them, and create a story about how you turned a weakness into a strength.
- Be honest: Don’t claim a strength that isn’t yours or fabricate strategies to compensate for a weakness you never follow. Your boss will eventually find out, and that’s not a position you want to be in.
- Be authentic: Don’t go for a generic answer or one that sounds too calculated. The interviewer is looking for a genuine response that shows you know your worth, understand where you can improve, and a willingness to do so.
- Keep your answers short: Focus on 1–2 examples of strengths and weaknesses and add plenty of detail. Remember, the quality of your answers is what counts, not the quantity.
- Don’t stress: While you should prepare for this question, don’t worry too much. It’s not the only piece of information the recruiter will use to make their decision.
- Practice: Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your response. Once you’ve drafted some ideas, ask a trusted friend, mentor, or coach to help refine your answer. This includes adjusting how you use body language when expressing yourself, since the same LinkedIn report found that 75% of recruiters assess nonverbal cues to understand your honesty and confidence.
Put yourself in the best light
Whether interviewing for a senior management position or an entry-level role, don’t let open-ended questions addressing your strengths and weaknesses put you off. These prompts offer you a golden opportunity to spotlight what makes you exceptional. They’re your chance to show an interviewer you have the skills and personality traits necessary to thrive in this role.
And the best answer is yours for the taking. All you need is some thought and preparation to ace this question.
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