Recruiters and employers often use a job interview as a way of gauging your work ethic, personality and skills. One of the most common questions you might experience is ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’
For many people, this is a difficult question to answer because they either don’t like talking about themselves or they’re unsure how to discuss a weakness in a positive way.
That said, if you’re able to establish context and use evidence to back up your answer, you can often provide more insight into your life whilst demonstrating professionalism and self-awareness.
Below, we explore how to answer the question what are your strengths and weaknesses in a meaningful way.
How to answer ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ in a job interview
Preparing an answer for this question is a valuable use of your time because it’s such a common question that appears. By having several examples in mind you can quickly provide a response and keep the flow of the interview going.
It’s a good idea to consider the question in two halves – strengths and weaknesses. Have several examples of your strengths and your weaknesses that you can fall back on.
Many people consider using certain personality traits as examples of weaknesses or strengths, as these are elements they can find solutions for or work on during their careers.
You may also want to highlight a weakness in certain non-critical skills if they appear within the job description. This shows that you’ve read through the role and understand where you can improve your skill set.
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Example answers for ‘what are your weaknesses’
Below are some examples of how you might answer the question what are your weaknesses and how to frame your answer:
Example 1: I find one of my weaknesses is that I’m very self-critical of my work and often struggle with the feeling that I could have done something differently, even if the project is successful.
Early on in my career, this meant I suffered from burnout after working long hours and it negatively impacted my self-esteem. Since then, I’ve learnt to take a step back and look at my successes from an objective standpoint. This has helped me celebrate my achievements and recognise when I have a useful, successful support system in place.
Example 2: My default approach to a problem is that I can solve it myself and while this can be useful in performing independently, some elements of my role require collaboration which is something I’m working on.
This was most recently highlighted in my last position where I was working on developing a webinar for our clients. My approach meant managing everything from client invitations and email campaigns to the presentation itself. On reflection, this was something that I could have asked for help from the rest of my team. Since then I’ve been making a more concerted effort to identify the different people that can help on a task and work with them to get the job done.
Example 3: I tend to focus on completing projects to the best of my ability, even if that means sometimes taking more time to finish than is allocated.
In the past, this has meant that while the work was high-quality and received compliments from clients, it meant cutting deadlines close which isn’t ideal for the wider team who may be working in tandem with me. In my recent positions, I’ve been more mindful of the team around me and the importance of meeting deadlines well in time as there’s always the potential for amendments or external factors that impact the workflow.
Example answers for ‘what are your strengths’
Below are some examples of how you might answer the question what are your strengths and how to structure your response:
Example 1: I’ve always been thought of as a leader by my colleagues, even if not necessarily in a management position.
In my last role, I led a number of projects that were set by my director, helping to coordinate the wider department and ensure that all of the work was completed to a high standard and met deadlines. I feel I’m particularly good at maintaining a multi-channel approach to a project, making sure that different teams are operating on the same wavelength and working towards the same goal.
Example 2: I feel that I’m a sympathetic person that understands the effect that empathy can have in the workplace.
In my last customer service, I regularly had to deal with both customer queries and complaints, both of which required different forms of empathy. When a customer is calling the business and is angry at the experience they’ve received, I feel that I’m good at understanding their frustrations and finding solutions that suit everyone involved. I also apply this to my colleague relationships, ensuring that everyone around me is positive, as this reflects in their work.
Example 3: I’m extremely organised and I feel this has been a vital transferable skill during my career. I always apply this to my own personal work, meaning I never miss a deadline and understand how to create an effective workflow for a project.
In the past, this has helped me in project management roles where I also had to manage the time of a wider team of creatives that all relied on one another. Being organised makes this form of management easier and thus, the work more effective. This then aids any reporting that is required by key stakeholders.