At first, it might seem like a ridiculous question, but the strategy behind asking it is actually brilliant. The interviewer is intentionally trying to get you to answer a question that is designed to trip you up.
Do you notice how this question is essentially in two parts?
Don’t worry, we’ve got some strategies to help you turn a potential stumbling block into a launching pad of awesome!
Before we get into your strengths, let’s take a moment to talk about your weaknesses.
This is a classic example of how you should tailor your answer to the job. Make a list of the requirements of the job and demonstrate that you possess these, giving examples of how your strengths have helped produce excellent outcomes in previous positions.
For example, if developing business project plans is a job requirement, show how you have managed this in the past and make sure to mention that the result was that the team working on the project were appreciative that they had such a strong plan to work with, that the job was completed within the projected time frame and that you saved your employer X amount.
Some generic skills-based answers include:
- ‘My time management skills are excellent. I’m organised and take pride in excelling at my work.’
- ‘I’m very good with customers and I am efficient at resolving any problems that they have. My customer service skills also help me to get along with other members of the team.’
Suggestions of other valuable strengths include: your leadership skills, problem-solving skills, ability to prioritise and work under pressure. Just make sure it correlates directly to the job you are applying for.
Here are the mistakes that they typically make:
1. Trying to turn a negative into a positive.
You’ll find many books and articles that advise you to “turn a negative into a positive” by sharing a supposed weakness that is actually a desirable quality in an employee. A few examples:
• I am too much of a perfectionist.
• I work too hard sometimes.
• I care too much about my work.
Clever idea. At this point, though, it’s an old trick and the interviewer sees right through it. She has seen many candidates try the same song and dance. In fact, this approach will likely make her think you are hiding something.
2. Refusing to answer the question.
Some candidates will assert that they can’t think of a single weakness. This is probably because they don’t prepare for the question properly and freeze up, afraid to say the wrong thing. This answer also makes you look like you are hiding something.
3. Revealing a weakness that raises red flags.
Another mistake is to be too candid and confess to a weakness that would hinder your ability to excel in the role. I once had a coaching client answer, “I have trouble getting up in the morning and getting to work on time.” His real weakness was that he was way too honest.