Obtaining a job interview is half the task…the other half is passing it successfully and getting that job! Of course you should do the usual preperations: review your resumè and bring a printed copy with you, study what the company does and how you can contribute with your work, be sincere and try to avoid showing too much anxiety. But most of all you should think in advance about what questions the interviewer could ask you and prepare some answers.
One of the most common questions is definitely the infamous “could you tell me which are your strengths and weaknesses?”. You should be prepared to answer in a way that seems sincere but at the same time doesn’t unveil things that could make you seem unsuitable for the job. So let’s examine some strategic answers to this classic interview question.
First things first: why do the interviewers keep asking this question?
The answer is simple, interviewers ask you about your strengths and weaknesses because they want to get to know you better, to understand what kind of employee you would be. Are you honest? Are you capable of being honest with yourself? How do you cope with feedback? How would you interpret the role you could be given? So, if you want to be in a good position to get the job, you should try to understand what kind of person they are looking for, and – while obviously being sincere – you should avoid highlighting certain characteristics that could give a bad impression of you.
In any case, one thing is sure: they are not asking in order to uncover hidden weak points, so stay calm and show confidence. This is not going to represent the decisive question. It is for sure an important question to answer but it will be accompanied by all the other elements they have to decide on.
How to answer about strengths
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you in defining how you are a good fit for the position you are aiming for. First of all you should do some research on the company website and on its social channels and understand what they are looking for. Then prepare a brief speech that highlights, possibly using real-life concrete cases, how your strengths could contribute to the achievement of the company’s goal. Keep it short! You shouldn’t consume all of your time speaking of this.
Try to be a sort of storyteller, make your story interesting. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are the best fit for that role, so always keep that in mind! Show the interviewer how your skills and experience could help to solve the company’s needs. Pick out one or two major strengths that you think are important for the role. Listing out 10 strengths will have less impact so just consider the ones that you see contributing most to the company’s development.
How to answer about weaknesses
When you arrive at this question, you should avoid showing weakness in areas that may be critical for the role and what you could be doing inside the company. So if for example the role requires a considerable amount of teamwork and collaboration, best to avoid saying that you prefer to work alone!
The best thing to do is to prepare some answers in advance which can be personalised for any occasion. Never fall into pitfalls like masking strengths for weaknesses, like when you say “I work too much” or “I am too precise”, because in that case it is obvious that you are trying not to answer the interviewer’s question. Instead show (using the same narrative strategy as before) how your weaknesses, and coping with them, helped you in your process of personal and professional growth. Add an example story of how and when your weakness emerged during your professional life. Of course, never leave these questions unanswered but at the same time, don’t lose yourself in an overly extensive list.