One of the most dreaded questions in any interview does not relate to work experience; it relates to you as a person. And who knows you better than you? Even though this question seems easy on the surface, evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses is difficult. The good news is that you can avoid mistakes by preparing. You will be able to speak clearly and confidently, saving yourself from stumbling or blurting out something inappropriate.
Choose three or four specific traits that relate directly to the position. Be careful not to just list them out or quickly talk through them. Speak thoughtfully, conveying that you put thought into your answer. Stay away from answers the other candidates will say, such as "I am hard-working." In most cases, traits the employer desires are listed in the job description. If these traits are applicable to your skills, definitely be sure to say so.
First, remember that everyone has weaknesses and you won't be crucified for yours. Does this mean you should tell them that you are incredibly cranky in the morning before you have coffee? No. Stick to traits that are non-issues, and do not relate to the position. For example, if you know the job does not require typing skills, explain that you are a slow typer but are working to get better. Always explain how you are trying to improve upon your weaknesses.
Paint a Picture
For each strength and weakness, prepare a story to illustrate your traits. They do not have to be long, but they should include an example from your previous work or school experiences. When talking about your weaknesses, consider them as challenges you've faced and the steps you've taken to overcome them. For example, discuss any additional classes or outside tutoring you've finished. The interviewer will respect your genuineness and honesty.
"I Don't Have Any Weaknesses!" and Other Answers to Avoid
Since this type of question is so common in job interviews, the interviewer expects a complete answer. You should not make jokes, stall or come up with nothing. You will look unprepared and unprofessional. You also don't want to point out anything that will hurt your chances, so don't mention a weakness if it is listed as a desired trait in the job description. Avoid sounding over-confident by exaggerating your strengths; remember that the interviewer can check your references.
Lisa Hope is a professional writer and entrepreneur. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism, specializing in online media, and a master's in mass communications specializing in social media, both from the University of Florida. She is a professor of communications, a novelist, and the founder of a firm that specializes in resume review.