When gearing up for a job interview, there are many types of questions you can easily prepare for. You know who you are, your aspirations, and your career history to date. The most dreaded of all interview questions however, will ask the candidate to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, and on the surface this style of question can seem like a trap. While self-analysis may seem intimidating, the interview panel is really just interested in getting to know you better, finding out more about the way you think and seeing whether you are able to learn from your experiences.
How do I talk about my strengths?
There are probably lots of things that you are good at, but in this situation you need to choose a strength that will help you win over the panelists. Have a look at the position description, and see how the most important elements of the role align with your own skills. If they value communication skills, find a way of talking about your own without parroting their exact language back to them. You could talk about the way you interact with clients, or your passion for writing. Remember that an interview is all about presenting the best version of yourself, so take this opportunity to really show off your skills. Talk about your strengths, times when you have used them, feedback you have received and any efforts you have made to progress in this area.
Example of a good answer:
“I would say that one of my strengths is my ability to work well under pressure. In my most recent role we often had to deliver products to our clients within very narrow time frames which meant that there was the potential for a lot of stress in the workplace. I came up with a great system for managing these projects which is used by the entire office now, and my boss actually asked me to talk to my colleagues about some of the other methods I use to keep calm in the face of a deadline.”
How do I talk about my weaknesses?
Talking about your weaknesses can be a little more difficult. Many people will try to mask a strength as a weakness such as being a “perfectionist” or “caring too much”, however you won't find many interviewers who haven't heard these answers hundreds of times before. Try for more sincerity, think of something which you may not be amazing at, or a skill you may be missing, which will not directly impact your abilities in this particular role. Demonstrating that you are aware of this weakness and have been taking steps to better yourself will also impress the panel, much more than if you appear to be acknowledging the weakness for the first time.
Example of a good answer:
“I've actually spent a lot of time working on my public speaking skills. I used to be quite shy in front of crowds, but I have had to speak at several conferences in the past two years so I started taking advantage of any opportunity to practise with lower stakes. I spoke in front of several staff functions and then moved on to speaking in front of bigger crowds. I am still working to combat my nerves and hone my skills, but I'm actually starting to enjoy it.”