Interviewing

Interview Question: "What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"

August 25, 2020

At some point during the interview process, interviewers might ask you to describe your personal strengths and weaknesses. By establishing the appropriate context, you can give hiring managers an honest, thoughtful answer that highlights both your self-awareness and professionalism. Preparing for these types of questions ensures you deliver a thorough, detailed response. In this article, we describe why employers ask these questions and how to answer them.

Why employers ask strengths and weaknesses questions

When employers ask about your strengths and weaknesses, they want to know more about how you work. It can also give them insight into how aware you are about where you excel and where you can improve. Giving an honest answer that details how you achieved certain strengths and how you're working toward overcoming your weakness shows how you can contribute to the company.

You may hear a variation of the "strengths and weaknesses" question, so it's helpful to prepare for some variations, like, "What would your last supervisor say your greatest strengths and weaknesses are?"

List of example weaknesses

Begin with a truthful answer and build your script from there. Select an answer that a hiring manager would not consider to be essential qualities or skills for the position as well as qualities that you are actively improving.

Some examples of weaknesses include:

  • Disorganized
  • Self-critical/sensitive
  • Perfectionism
  • Not adept at public speaking
  • Competitive
  • Limited experience in a nonessential skill
  • Not skilled at delegating tasks
  • Take on too much responsibility
  • Not detail-oriented/too detail-oriented
  • Not comfortable taking risks
  • Too focused/lack of focus

“What are your greatest weaknesses?” example answers

In the event that the hiring manager asks about strengths and weaknesses at the same time, discuss your weakness first so that you can end on a positive note.

When addressing your weaknesses, give examples relating to either skills, habits or personality traits. You may want to choose which to focus on depending on the type of job for which you're interviewing. Reread the job description to see what matters most for the specific role.

You should follow a formula to give a brief, detailed and positive response. First, state your weakness. Second, add additional context and a specific example or story of how this trait has affected your professional life. That context will give potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth. Here are some examples:

  • Self-critical
  • Lacking confidence
  • Difficulty asking questions
  • Lacking experience
  • Procrastination

Self-critical

“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.”

Lacking confidence

“I'm naturally shy. In my early professional interactions, it prevented me from speaking up. After being a part of a workgroup that didn't meet our strategic goals two quarters in a row, I knew I owed it to my team and myself to confidently share my ideas. I joined an improv acting class—it's fun and has really helped me overcome my shyness. I learned practical skills around leading discussions and sharing diverse perspectives. Now, in group settings, I always start conversations with quieter employees. I know exactly how they feel, and people can be amazing once they start talking.”

Difficulty asking questions

“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 getting into problem-solving mode, and now I identify people or groups that can be resources to me.”

Lacking experience

"I'm not as familiar with JavaScript as I would like to be. The company where I currently work created proprietary software that automates a lot of the writing process for our products, so my knowledge of JavaScript is a little out of date. I recently started a side project using JavaScript so I could practice more."

Procrastination

“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. When I was working for Morgan 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. I started creating daily schedules that held 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.”

List of example strengths

If you aren't sure about your strengths, ask some of your friends or colleagues what they see as your best qualities. Refer to any written feedback you've received in the past from peers or managers.

Some examples of strengths include:

  • Action-oriented/entrepreneurial
  • Attentive/detail-oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Committed/dedicated
  • Creative
  • Determined
  • Disciplined/focused
  • Empathetic
  • Enthusiastic/passionate/driven
  • Flexible/versatile
  • Honest
  • Innovative
  • Patient
  • Respectful

“What are your greatest strengths?” example answers

As with weaknesses, you can generally choose between skills or habits and personality traits. Use the job description as your guide as you select your strengths. Follow the same formula: strength + context and story. When providing context for your strengths, address the specific qualities that qualify you for the job and distinguish you as a candidate.

Here are some examples:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Technical skills
  • Persistence
  • Organization

Leadership

“I've always been a natural leader. With more than 10 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've regularly honed my management skills through 360-degree reviews and candid sessions with my team, and I know continuing to build my leadership skills is something I want from my next role.”

Interpersonal skills

“I'm an empathetic person who's skilled at relating to people and making them feel heard. In one memorable instance from earlier this year, I was on a support call with a customer whose contract we had terminated. Reinstating the service agreement would have increased their rates dramatically. They were understandably upset and felt trapped because they couldn't be without car insurance.

It became clear very quickly that we couldn't meet their needs, but I wanted them to have a favorable impression of the service we provided. I talked them through some of the other options, even letting them know of other providers who might be able to offer a lower rate so they could avoid a lapse in coverage. In the feedback survey from that interaction, they specifically mentioned that they would still recommend our services to others. In my career in customer support, I've had many interactions like this—they are complex but end with the customer still feeling positive.”

Technical skills

“I'm obsessed with the newest version of Tableau. I started pushing the boundaries of what it could do as soon as it was released. I'm excited about applying my passion and abilities to this position and pushing the envelope of this program for your company.”

Persistence

“I'm thorough and tenacious. When I'm on a project, I keep track of the details. Because I have a comprehensive understanding of the components, I can spot the essentials and rigorously advocate for them to meet deadlines. I regularly see this reflected in my peer and management feedback.”

Organization

“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.”

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