Questions about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are a classic interview tactic. Often interviewers are trying to find out what you like about yourself and how honest and self-aware you are. We have put together a few examples of strengths and weaknesses and show you how to put these across in a convincing manner at interview.
The following strengths play well with interviewers:
Flexibility is a character trait that all interviewers value. In every company, situations will arise which require workers to perform tasks outside of their normal duties. The problem, however, is that everyone claims to be flexible. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to ensure you have a concrete example to back up your claim. Particularly useful here are references to projects with previous employers which show that you have operated successfully in very different areas. A note of caution: Don’t brag too much about your successes – you don’t want to come across as a show-off.
Do you perform particularly well under pressure? That is something you should not forget to mention. The ability to work under pressure is a characteristic that many employers value because it signals professionalism and endurance. Here, again, it is important that you can demonstrate your stress resistance on the basis of credible examples. Always try to be as concrete as possible. Someone with three children who has always worked already has a convincing story to tell. Of course, professional achievements are also relevant if you can show that you were able to achieve high quality results under intense pressure. However, beware of blowing your own trumpet too strongly when it comes to your ability to deal with stress. There is a danger of inviting your employer to overload you with work which could lead to unmanageable stress levels and even burnout.
Good team player and good communicator
As the saying goes “no man is an island”, so the ability to work in a team and good communication skills are both hugely important when it comes to chalking up brownie points at interview. The interview itself is a golden opportunity for you to show off your ability to communicate. Be open and ask a few questions of your own to show that you are interested. If possible, you can try to engage in conversation with some of the staff to show how you can team build. This will demonstrate how quickly you can build relationships. A good time for this is during the obligatory introductory walk
That certain something extra
Strengths like flexibility, the ability to work under pressure or in a team can open the door to a new job. Nevertheless, something else is often needed to leave the competition behind once and for all. Try to think about why you are particularly suited to the job on offer before the interview. What special qualities do you have? The candidate that offers that certain something extra at interview significantly increases his chances of securing the job.
What weaknesses is it safe to admit to at interview?
Fear of public speaking
A fear of speaking in front of others is something a lot of people admit to. It may be a point in your favour as your interviewer may share the problem and therefore sympathise. As long as you are not applying for a position as a press spokesperson, then this handicap should not impact all that heavily on your ability to do the job. That someone is occasionally nervous at an internal meeting is usually not a big problem for a potential employer. However, if your fear of speaking in public starts to stand in the way of your career, you might consider going on a public speaking course. Many employers are supportive of this.
Time for creativity
Creativity cannot be forced. It is worth mentioning (if it is the truth) that even though you are a good team player, you still sometimes need time on your own to think. The advantage to this weakness? – there are lots of different ways of dealing with it that won’t disrupt everyday work. For example, many companies offer the option of working from home one day a week. Alternatively, you can negotiate fixed hours when you can work independently.
Not a born leader
This weakness is rarely problematic. It is important, however, that you “sell” it the right way. Highly critical interviewers often interpret this weakness as an inability to express one’s own opinions effectively. You can counter this prejudice by presenting your weakness as a tactical advantage. Explain that you sound out your immediate colleagues before meetings to ensure that they are all on board with your ideas. You have no problem selling ideas to them but for meetings with the boss you just need a little public speaking training.
You should keep the following in mind:
Whatever the subject, when you are talking about your own strengths and weaknesses, you should always have concrete examples to back up your claims. When listing your strengths, you should cite how they have helped you in practice. At the same time, when it comes to your weaknesses, you must make clear how you deal with them constructively in your everyday work. In this way, the interviewer will know exactly what you mean and you can avoid misunderstandings.