Few candidates can show up to an interview and answer every question with ease. Preparation is key to a successful interview. If you have to sit and think about what your greatest strengths are during the interview, you’ll risk appearing unsure of your own capabilities and the interviewer won’t be reassured in your ability to perform well in the position. Prior to an interview, you should know exactly what your top strengths are in the workplace. Make a list of all your strengths and then choose the top 5 you want to express in the interview based on the desired skills and attributes for the specific position you are interviewing for. You should always remember to back up the strengths you profess with examples of times you have demonstrated those strengths in the workplace. Use this question to highlight how your attributes will help you succeed in this position.
Tip: Use the job posting as a guide to match your own strengths with the skills and attributes the company is looking for in an ideal candidate. Although you might be a whiz with numbers, there’s no point listing it as your greatest strength if you’ll be working directly with clients and not using any numbers in the position. Be honest and don’t say you’re great at something you’re not, however you should prioritize the key strengths you want to express to the interviewer with the ones they list on the job description. For example, if the job description says the candidate they want is “highly detail-oriented and organized”, then one of the strengths you mention should be your strong organizational skills or that you are detail-oriented.
2) What is your biggest weakness?
This is a tricky question if you’re not prepared. You are trying to land the job, so of course you don’t want to tell employers all of your weaknesses that may make you look bad. On the other hand, you also don’t want to avoid the question, lie and say you have no weaknesses, or give a clichéd response. For example, I’ve heard a lot of candidates say their biggest weakness is that they are a perfectionist in the workplace…really? Although some interviewers will enjoy a joke to this question, most hiring managers want a real answer.
This is a key question you need to prepare for before the interview. Don’t mention any weaknesses that will prevent you from getting hired for the job. Remember the weakness should be work-related so hiring managers don’t want to hear about how you leave your dishes in the sink for over a week. A well thought-out answer can turn this tricky question into a positive. Be sure to back up each weakness with things you are proactively doing to improve on that weakness.
The best way to respond to this question is to either:
a) Mention a weakness that is irrelevant (or at least not critical) to the position you are applying for. In order to be effective, you should already know the key skills and attributes desirable for the position and think about skills that are not essential to succeed in the position. You can even find weaknesses that can actually be seen as strengths for certain positions. For example, if the position requires strong attention to detail you can say that sometimes you are overly meticulous about the details of a project.
b) State a weakness that is only a weakness because you haven’t had the opportunity to develop your skills in that area. For example, you can say that although you’ve taken a course in public speaking, you haven’t had the opportunity to use your presentation skills in your previous position and you’d like to develop your skills more in this area.
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