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Although it can be difficult to predict what you’ll be asked in a job interview, you can be sure that at least one of the questions will have to do with your strengths or weaknesses, if not both. You’ll typically be asked to discuss what your greatest strength or weakness is. Regardless of whether it’s strengths or weaknesses the interviewer is asking about, it is possible to give an insightful, relevant answer that’s both honest and original.
It’s important to be honest in a job interview as the employer may check your responses with your referees. It’s possible to be honest about your weaknesses while also putting a positive spin on them. For instance, if you have a weakness that you’re currently working on eliminating, share with the interviewer what the weakness is and what steps you’re taking to improve that area of your life or work. If you’ve started writing a to-do list each morning to become more organized or you’re using a calendar or diary to improve your time management skills, say so.
When asked to talk about their strengths in a job interview, candidates often respond by listing qualities such as commitment to teamwork, being a good communicator and being well organized. To stand out from the rest of the job candidates, be more original when choosing strengths to talk about. For example, instead of simply saying you pay attention to detail, say you take pride in every single detail of your work. Instead of vaguely saying something about how you take the initiative, explain that when you see that a task needs doing you do it without needing to be told.
One way to demonstrate your insight in a job interview is to discuss how one of your characteristics is both a strength and a weakness. If you’re not a perfectionist, tell the interviewer and then explain why this is both bad and good. It’s bad because it means you don’t try to make every piece of your work perfect, but it’s good because you know when a piece of work is good enough and that allows you to move onto the next task.
Keep it in Context
When answering interview questions on your strengths and weaknesses, keep in mind the specific you’re interviewing for is and tailor your answers accordingly. When choosing one of your weaknesses to talk about, don’t pick one that makes you seem unsuitable for the job. For example, if the interview is for a job in a bank don’t say you hate working with numbers. When listing your strengths, mention the qualities you possess that are needed to do well in the position. If the role involves managing the company’s budget and you’re naturally thrifty when it comes to your own household budget, for instance, talk about how this thriftiness manifests itself in your everyday life.
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Based in London, Autumn St. John has been writing career- and business-related articles since 2007. Her work has appeared in the "Guardian" and "Changing Careers" magazine. St. John holds a Master of Arts in Russian and East European literature and culture from University College London, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in modern history from the University of Oxford.