“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”.
At some point during the interview process, you may be asked to describe your personal strengths and weaknesses. Many job candidates are unsure about how to approach this question.
However, by establishing the appropriate context, you can give hiring managers an honest, thoughtful answer that highlights both your self-awareness and professionalism.
Knowing key strengths and weaknesses before going into a job interview can help prepare for this common interview question. It’s a popular question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Preparing both strengths and weaknesses can ensure that the hiring manager gets impressed with the answer. And feels compelled to ask further qualifying questions in the interview.
The prospective employer likes to know the answer to this question as it helps them assess the candidate’s potential core competencies within the organization.
Think of this as understanding personality traits and character strengths or character weaknesses. When being open about this, the employer can better position that employee within the company and ensure success.
We have covered a list of strengths and weaknesses you can mention in the job interview to stand out and the best answers that will impress the interviewer.
Why Do Interviewers Ask These Questions?
Before you get started planning your responses, it’s helpful to understand why interviewers are asking these questions in the first place and what they hope to get out of them.
You may hear these questions phrased in different ways, but the underlying reason employers ask remains the same. They want to know what you see as your strengths and weaknesses and also observe how you respond to a challenging question.
In addition to learning about what you can do, the interviewer wants to know about what you can’t do, or what you have difficulty with on the job. How you respond will also help the interviewer understand how well you know yourself, as well as whether you would be a good fit for the role.
The interviewer is looking for honesty, self-awareness, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
So, don’t give a cliched answer like, “I’m a perfectionist!” Hiring managers hear that one a lot, and they’ll assume that you’re either not aware of your actual failings or that you’re not willing to share them.
How to Answer “What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
When answering this common interview question, always share a story. Don’t simply list a personal strength or the biggest weakness. Think through a story that can be shared using a work situation.
A situation that presents one of the strengths or weaknesses you’ve decided suits your personality type.
When presenting a weakness, always allude to the weakness and then end the answer with how you might change this weakness for the future. A way that you’ve determined you’re going to change to overcome that weakness. Alternatively, for strengths, how the employee will continue to embrace that strength and develop those skills is important to reference in the answer.
Common Interview Questions About Weaknesses
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What part of the job will be most challenging for you?
- Tell me about something you would have done differently at work.
- What do people most often criticize about you?
- When was the last time you were angry? What happened?
- What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
- What is the biggest criticism you received from your boss?
Common Interview Questions About Strengths
- What is your greatest strength?
- How will your greatest strength help you perform?
- What strength of yours will help you most to succeed in this job?
- What can we expect from you in the first 60 days on the job?
- What was your biggest strength as a student?
- What strength will help you most to succeed in the job?
Think Carefully About What you Should Reveal
a) Use the job description to frame your answer:
Your strengths and weaknesses should reflect the requirements of the role. Ensure that you highlight your skills that are listed in the job description, and explain how you will gain or improve critical skills that you lack.
- In general, your strengths should be skills that can be supported through experience. For example, if you list communication as a strength, you may want to recall a situation in which you used communication to reach a goal or resolve a problem.
- Your weaknesses can include a hard skill set out in the job description, provided that you emphasize your desire to acquire this skill through a course or program. Similarly, listing a soft skill you lack should be supported with a plan to learn or improve this skill.
b) Try not to reveal too much:
While it is important, to be honest about your weaknesses, there are a few traits that are not appropriate or beneficial to mention in a job interview. This includes tardiness, poor attention to detail, and an inability to meet deadlines.
Tips for Talking About Strengths and Weaknesses
1. Be Honest
One of the most important things to get right when talking about your strengths and weaknesses in an interview setting is honesty. It might sound trite, but it’s also true. An answer that sounds genuine and authentic will impress, while one that sounds generic, calculated, exaggerated, or humble braggy will do the opposite.
2. Tell a Story
Talk about a time your strength helped you achieve something in a professional setting or when your weakness impeded you. For example, if you’re talking about how you’re calm under pressure in a fast-paced environment, you might tell the interviewer about that time you delivered a revamped client proposal after a last-minute change of plans.
If you’re admitting that your weakness is presenting in front of high-level executives, you might start by briefly describing the time you got so nervous presenting your plan for a new marketing strategy that you weren’t able to effectively convey your (thorough and pretty brilliant) approach and your boss had to step in and help get the plan approved.
Not only will sharing a real example make your answer stand out, but it’ll also make it sound thoughtful and honest and highlight all those other characteristics interviewers are actually looking for.
3. Remember to Get to the Insight
An answer that’s genuine and includes an illustrative anecdote is a great start, but it’s not complete until you add some insight. This goes for both strengths and weaknesses but looks a little different in each case.
When you’re talking about strength, the last beat of your answer should tie whatever skill or trait you’ve been discussing to the role and company you’re applying for. Tell the interviewer how that strength would be useful in this particular position at this particular company.
Determining Your Own Strength and Weakness
There are various methods for determining which strengths and weaknesses best suit ourselves. The first is to speak with a previous colleague. And ask them what employee strengths they noticed while working together. This could be a former supervisor or manager.
They can inform the candidate what it was like to be on the job with them, both good and bad. Ask someone from a recent previous place of employment, as sometimes asking a professional that wasn’t recently worked with can be challenging. It can be difficult for the colleague to remember a specific example of working together to be useful.
Another way to uncover key strengths and a personal weakness is to take a personality test. These personality tests can help to identify ways to improve in the workplace. The Caliper Assessment test is the best one to take. These tests are instrumental in identifying strengths and useful weaknesses.
Assessing Your Weaknesses
Let’s get the hard part out of the way first—your weaknesses. This is probably the most dreaded part of the question. Everyone has weaknesses, but who wants to admit to them, especially in an interview?
Some examples of weaknesses you might mention include:
- Being too critical of yourself
- Attempting to please everyone
- Being unfamiliar with the latest software
The best way to handle this question is to minimize the trait and emphasize the positive. Select a trait and come up with a solution to overcome your weakness. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more on professional traits.
For example: “I pride myself on being a ‘big-picture’ guy. I have to admit I sometimes miss small details, but I always make sure I have someone who is detail-oriented on my team.”
Some examples of weaknesses you might mention include:
- Inability to Delegate
- Direction Taking Abilities
- Active Listening Abilities
- Feedback Taking Abilities
- Presentation Abilities
- Interpersonal Skills
- Comprehension Abilities
- Teamwork Abilities
- Criticism Giving Abilities
- Feedback Giving Abilities
- Having a Hard Time Saying “No”
Assessing Your Strengths
When it comes time to toot your own horn, you need to be specific. Assess your skills to identify your strengths. This is an exercise worth doing before any interview. Make a list of your skills, dividing them into three categories:
- Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and experience (e.g., computer skills, languages, degrees, training, and technical ability).
- Transferable skills: Your portable skills that you take from job to job (e.g., communication and people skills, analytical problem solving, and planning skills)
- Personal traits: Your unique qualities (e.g., dependable, flexible, friendly, hard-working, expressive, formal, punctual, and being a team player).
Some examples of strengths you might mention include:
When you complete this list, choose three to five of those strengths that match what the employer is seeking in the job posting. Make sure you can give specific examples to demonstrate why you say that is your strength if probed further.
First, we’ll start with the Weaknesses.
Weakness is defined as a lack of strength or a character flaw, or something that you cannot resist. Some examples of weaknesses include disorganized, self-critical/sensitive, perfectionism, inability to delegate, and many more.
In most of the interviews, the employers want to know the weaknesses of the applicants. It can be hard to answer the question, “What is your greatest weakness?”—especially when you expected to be discussing the skills, talents, and capabilities that make you the strongest candidate for the job.
Framing your weaknesses positively can be challenging, but when you combine self-awareness with an action plan, you can quickly stand apart from other job applicants.
To properly answer this dreaded interview question, remember to focus on being self-aware, honest, and dedicated to improvement. If you’ve got these three qualities, your weakness won’t ruin your chances of landing the job. Try to reflect on your real weaknesses and what you’re doing to improve.
The key to preparing for this question is to identify weaknesses that still communicate strength. This will show the interviewer you’re introspective enough to know your areas of opportunity.
How to Answer What are Your Weaknesses With Examples
1. I am incredibly introverted, which makes me wary of sharing my ideas in a group setting or speaking up during team meetings. I feel that I had good intentions, I just wasn’t always comfortable speaking up. After my team didn’t meet expectations on two consecutive projects, I decided to start making changes to get more familiar with sharing my ideas for the benefit of my team. I took local improv classes and started trying to get comfortable discussing my thoughts. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s something that I’ve improved dramatically over the past year.
2. I can be too critical of myself. A pattern I’ve noticed throughout my career is that I often feel I could have done more, even if objectively, I’ve done well. Earlier in my career, this led to burnout and negative self-talk. One solution I’ve implemented over the last three years is to actively pause and celebrate my achievements. Not only has this helped my own self-esteem, but it has also helped me genuinely appreciate and recognize my team and other support systems.
3. I tend to be overly critical of myself. Whenever I complete a project, I can’t help but feel that I could have done more even if my work received a positive response. This often leads me to overwork myself and leaves me feeling burned out. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to take time to look at my achievements objectively and celebrate those wins. This has not only improved my work and my confidence but has helped me to appreciate my team and other support systems that are always behind me in everything I do.
4. I default to believing that I can solve any problem on my own. This works well in some situations, but in many cases, I need the help of others to overcome factors beyond my control. In one instance last year, I was spearheading a client event that had a lot of moving parts. It wasn’t until after the event that I realized how narrowly I had pulled it off. I was trying to manage everything from the strategic plan down to the tiniest details, like table settings. I did a lot of self-reflection afterward. Since then, I’ve been training myself to take a step back before diving into problem-solving mode and identify people or groups that can be resources to me.
5. I tend to want to take on complete projects all on my own without any outside help. In the past, this caused me to experience unnecessary pressure and stress. One specific example was last year when I was responsible for planning our annual event. I tried to do everything on my own, from the most substantial decisions like the venue to the tiniest things like organizing the table settings. I was so stressed leading up to the event, and I narrowly pulled it off. This taught me to take a step back and analyze when I need help. After that experience, I am trying to teach myself how to ask for help so I can keep my sanity. I’ve also found a team of people can produce a better outcome than one harrowed person.
6. I find public speaking intimidating and have often struggled with presentations. As a result, I am currently taking a public speaking course at a community college to become more confident and learn to structure a speech more effectively.
7. I often struggle with delegating and choose to take on a larger workload to ensure that a task is completed perfectly. This puts more pressure on me, so I have been using software to assign tasks and track their completion. So far this has helped me to trust my co-workers and focus more on my own tasks.
8. I’m not familiar with the latest version of the software that you use. I’ve spent my time recently focused on generating a positive user experience and have always been willing to learn new things. Throughout my career software has always changed and I’ve always been willing to adapt to changing technology. I will put in the time it takes to learn this new software.
9. I always try to avoid confrontation, in both my personal and professional life. This caused me to compromise sometimes on the quality of my work or what I needed to complete a project just to keep the peace. This became a real problem when I became a manager. One of the most critical aspects of managing people is telling them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. I recognized this weakness and had been actively working to voice my opinions constructively and helpfully for the betterment of the team.
10. I struggle with negative criticism and can become obsessed with perfecting my work after receiving notes from a supervisor. While I appreciate the guidance, I think I can learn to be less harsh on myself.
11. When I get hyper-focused on a problem, I can forget about the team’s needs that week. And that’s an issue. I try to remind myself that there are many problems to solve, not just one. And to diversify my efforts evenly. This is something I need to work on.
12. I love being creative. That feeling of having the spark of imagination and something coming to life. Though, I need to remember that quantitative insights are critical in decision-making for a business. And being creative, with quantitative insights, is the key to success.
13. I’ve always been a procrastinator. I used to think it wasn’t such a bad habit because I was only creating stress for myself. But when I was working for XYZ Company several years ago, I was on a group project where I could see how my putting things off to the last minute created stress for everyone else. It was a wake-up call. I started creating daily schedules that hold me accountable to my team, and I broke the habit. It was hard at first, but using the Agile process was a real breakthrough in my workflow and mindset.
14. I tend to be a perfectionist and can linger on the details of a project which can threaten deadlines. Early on in my career, when I worked for ABC Inc., that very thing happened. I was laboring over the details and in turn, caused my manager to be stressed when I almost missed the deadline on my deliverables. I learned the hard way back then, but I did learn. Today I’m always aware of how what I’m doing affects my team and management. I’ve learned how to find the balance between perfect and very good and being timely.
15. When I’m particularly passionate about a problem, I can struggle with taking constructive criticism. Though, I’ve come to realize that all criticism is good and should be evaluated properly. It is that first ‘punch’ of the feedback that I struggle with. After that, I’m okay.
Now, we can move with the strenghs.
During the interview process, it’s likely that the hiring manager will ask you to describe your strengths at some point. Many candidates probably wonder how to answer what are your strengths without bragging too much or risk appearing narcissistic.
Even the most experienced candidates can struggle with the question of describing their strengths.
So, we’ve compiled a list of examples to inspire your strength story. You can take tips from each of these key strengths examples to craft a compelling reason that the hiring manager should choose you.
How to answer what are your strengths with examples:
1. Whenever new software is released, I’m always the first one to test and get familiar with it. I love pushing the edge and learning every aspect of the new software. In fact, just last week I found a software issue with one of my video games. I called the developer, and they fixed it right away. This position will give me the opportunity to apply my passion and help make programs better for your company.
2. In my previous job, I was put into a position where I had to learn quickly. Instead of falling to the side because of the pressure, I decided to embrace the challenge. Learning new things has since become fun for me. And I have a process for embarking on new responsibilities at work.
3. I’ve always been a natural leader. With more than 5 years of experience in finance and sales, I’ve exceeded my KPIs every quarter and have been promoted twice in the past five years. I look back at those successes and know that I wouldn’t have reached them if I hadn’t built and led teams composed of highly skilled and diverse individuals. I’m proud of my ability to get cross-functional groups on the same page. I’ve regularly honed my management skills through 360 reviews and candid sessions with my team, and I know continuing to build my leadership skills is something I want from my next role.
4. My greatest strength is my writing skills. I work well under pressure, and I’ve never missed a deadline. One specific example that comes to mind is when I was asked to complete a project that a fellow colleague forgot about. My editor didn’t realize this until two hours before the deadline. It was an important piece, so I got to work, and with feverish precision, I was able to complete the article. Not only was it finished on time, but it was received very well by readers of the publication.
5. In my previous job, the company’s management, and structure were changing rapidly. I learned that changing environments doesn’t mean job insecurity. And this remembrance of an idea kept me motivated and “heads down” on my work. I feel like this is a great strength now.
6. I never miss a deadline. I’m highly organized, and I’ve applied my natural skill for organizing people and projects to all aspects of my work. After seven years of working as a project manager, I’ve had only one late product launch. From that experience, which took place three years ago, I learned a crucial lesson about trade-offs. I spent time addressing a crucial design need and that pushed everything else back. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned from that experience for anything—being sure to communicate to stakeholders about upcoming roadblocks chief among them.
7. Thanks to my experience as an HR representative, I have gained excellent communication skills. I was responsible for facilitating informational workshops for staff members and mediated any conflict in the workplace. I have also completed a course on an effective communication from UCLA.
8. My strongest asset is my work ethic and my willingness to step in when needed. I’m not afraid to take on a difficult client or do a project that nobody else wants because those are the clients and projects that teach me the most. I typically love to work outside of my job description and do whatever is asked of me. I’m not above any single task, and I take great pride in my ability to step in and adapt to any situation to get the best results for the company.
9. I like to think I’m a “right-brain” and “left-brain” thinker. This means that I’m capable of being creative and using quantitative insights to drive home my work. I was able to do this by looking at sales engineering problems and use creative thinking to help address them.
10. I appreciate the skill of active listening. Not simply listening to someone but going through understanding what that person is communicating and why. This is not only a skill but a strength that can apply to any specific job or situation in the workplace. Listening is key.
11. I know the industry inside and out. After working in sales and marketing for over 15 years I know I have the skills to maximize your marketing dollars and improve your bottom line. In fact, when I started at my last company, their sales were declining, and under my leadership, I was able to increase revenue in consecutive years, by 7% and 5%, respectively.
12. Part of ownership and responsibility is the ability to admit when a mistake was made. This is a strength, in my opinion. It builds character and confidence with the team when I’m able to admit when I did something wrong and commit to making a change.
13. I’m an empathetic person who is skilled at relating to people and understanding their needs. At my internship over the summer, I was working the support line and received a call from a disgruntled customer who had been dropped from our service. While the company couldn’t find a solution for her, I walked her through other options she might have so she walked away with a positive interaction with the company. I know the importance of a happy customer, and I’m willing to remain upbeat and solutions-oriented.
14. I don’t let time or deadlines impact my ability to make good decisions. This took me time to develop a “thick skin” for not being impacted by deadlines. But this is a quality of mine that I’m pleased about, and it’s proven to be valuable to each one of my employers.
15. Work should be fun. Happy people often do better work, see things more clearly, and generally stay with the company longer. I want to have fun while accomplishing work. Not just have fun in a social setting. I like to bring that with me wherever I go.
Examples of Poor Answers
Poor answers to this interview question are ones that sound generic, lack personality, and avoid providing invaluable competency information to the hiring manager.
Sample poor answer: I played LaCrox throughout college, and my coach was always telling me that I needed to hustle more. I pushed back on him and told him that I was doing just fine. If I had to describe a weakness of mine, it would be challenging people. I can find myself challenging others and then not working as a team. Friends, family, and previous colleagues have reported to me that they feel negative about this trait in myself.
Sample poor answer: One of my strengths is being the team’s best player. I struggle with being able to find others who can meet me on my level. I’m hoping that this company has a higher caliber of talent available for me to work with. Because, honestly, I’ve had a hard time finding executors who can match me when it comes to our capabilities. What does the team look like, and how are they going to keep up with my progress?
Though often one of the most dreaded interview questions, when you take time to prepare a thoughtful response, you can create a unique story about who you are and where you want to go. With the right amount of practice, you will nail your response and impress the hiring manager with your answer when they ask, “What are your strengths?” or “What are your greatest weaknesses?” As you prepare your answers, turn weaknesses into challenges that you’ve overcome and strengths into the reason you’re a great fit for the job.