As a recruiter I am tired of asking those questions because most of the time the answers are not really truthful, or the interviewee will tell me what they think I want to hear.
The Interview process is fundamentally about getting to know you. “I know some people feel like the recruiter/ hiring manager is trying to trip them up or put them in an awkward position, but at the end of the day it’s really about getting to know the person so that I can make the best hiring decision for the job opening.”
The actual strengths and weaknesses you bring up probably matter less than how you talk about them. “I’ve done a ton of interviews over the years and when pressed for it, I can’t really remember the answers. That doesn’t mean the questions aren’t important at all, it’s just that what an interviewer is evaluating likely goes deeper. We are trying to understand what kind of employee you’d be and how you’d carry yourself in the role.”
For me it’s: Are they honest?? Can they own their stuff in a professional and mature way? Is this someone that will grow with the company? How they answer those 2 questions tell me a lot about the person.
OK, that’s all great in theory, but what do you actually need to do to discuss your strengths and weaknesses successfully?
An answer that sounds genuine and authentic will impress, while one that sounds generic, calculated, and exaggerated will do the opposite. A boss doesn’t want to hire someone who can’t recognize and own what they bring to the table and what they need to work on. You’ll be a better employee if you can understand and leverage your strengths and acknowledge and learn from your weaknesses. So, you want to show in the interview that you’re capable of that kind of self-reflection.
Share a Story
“Show, don’t tell.” Anytime you can have a real-life work example it’s a good idea. It just helps to contextualize the response a little bit, “We just understand concepts and situations better with a story. Talk about a time your strength helped you achieve something in a professional setting or when your weakness impeded you.
Remember to Get to the Insight
An answer that’s genuine and includes an illustrative anecdote is a great start, but it’s not complete until you address the “so what?” When you’re talking about a strength, the last beat of your answer should tie whatever skill or trait you’ve been discussing to the role and company you’re applying for. Tell the interviewer how that strength would be useful in this job at this company. In the case of a weakness, “Really showcase your growth trajectory, you’re learning curve, what you’ve done as a result of the awareness of that weakness, it’ll help the interviewer understand how you’d approach problem-solving and professional growth in this new job.
You don’t have to devote half of the interview to these answers. You can keep your response relatively brief and focused on one or two strengths and /or weaknesses. Think quality, not quantity. Don’t dive in and rattle off a litany of things you think you’re good or bad at without explaining anything. Instead, narrow it down and go into detail.
While you definitely want to prepare and do your best to nail your answers, try not to stress too much. Be yourself and do your research on the job that you are interviewing for.
Come to The Job Forum Wednesday evenings on Zoom to practice discussing your best and strongest features. Talk with our career experts from local Bay Area companies who are there to advise and support you in your job search. Sign up on Eventbrite for customized help, free on Wednesday evenings: https://thejobforumwednesdays.eventbrite.com.
Written by Cindy Fassler – email@example.com