Let’s look into this! As a candidate, I will talk about my strengths ostentatiously but when it comes to my weaknesses, I will think that I am either too good to have any or I might just start blabbering my real weaknesses which (for sure) will not get me the offer letter. It is easy to note that the interviewer would like to understand what the strengths of the candidate are in order to probe and ask further questions related to it. The answer to this question will help the interviewer decide whether the candidate suits the job profile or not; however, when it comes to the question related to weaknesses, the underlying question in the interviewer’s mind is “Is there anything I am missing that could eliminate you from this interview?” Through your answer, the interviewer is also seeking to understand whether you have a continual improvement mindset. They also want to know that your current weakness will not impact your performance at work.
Questions related to your strengths and weaknesses could be asked in several different ways. Let’s take a look at them –
- What strength of yours will help you contribute most effectively to this job?
- Why should I hire you?
- Why do you consider yourself the best candidate for this position?
- What motivates you? / What are you passionate about?
- Describe a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
- What have you learned from your mistakes?
- What do you think will be the most challenging part in the job?
- Tell me about a developmental goal that you have set
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What would you want to work on improving in this current year?
So how do you really handle these questions?
Before going for the interview, take time and assess yourself. Run S.W.O.T. (Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats) for yourself and see where you stand. Speak with your peers, seniors, mentors, juniors, friends and family to understand their perspective. Don’t give a justification for any weakness that is highlighted; instead accept it and think of how you could convert it into a strength (remember, they are just sharing feedback that you asked for…it is how THEY perceive you). Apart from S.W.O.T., you could also assess yourself under the KSA Model (Knowledge; Skills and Attitude). After completion of this exercise, pick the top 2 – 3 strengths that match what the interviewer is looking for. Be ready with pragmatic examples to support each strength, otherwise, it will sound absolutely pseudo and made-up. (The above exercises should be done to genuinely improve oneself in the longer run rather than just for the sake of an interview)
Answering about your weaknesses could be stressful. Remember, there are 2 steps to this – 1. The real weakness (that should not be a handicap for the new role) and 2. Are you already working on it? Remember, it is all about how you sell yourself to the interviewer (Ref my previous article). Pick a weakness that is accepted for the job. If it is a finance interview, don’t talk about how you dislike mathematics and if it is a customer-centric role interview, don’t talk about how soon your anger bulbs get triggered. Pick a weakness like, “I am great while speaking with people individually; however, I get the jitters when I am asked to address an audience. I have started nominating myself for addressing public forums in order to overcome this fear / weakness.” Another example could be: “I am very direct while giving feedback to my colleagues and this, I think has been a weakness; however, through different training classes / coaching sessions, I have realized that there are different ways in which you speak with people at different levels; plus, I am now working on how to provide feedback constructively, rather than bluntly.”
I have also had experiences in the past where what’s worked perfectly for me is that I talk about something unorthodox as my weakness or strength; e.g. “As a personal weakness, chocolates are number 1 on my list; however, it also becomes a strength, when I see that it brings people together. I learned from my husband that when you keep a bowl full of candies / chocolates at your desk, other employees who you might not know, walk up to you and introduce themselves (of course, the excuse is to pick a candy from your desk). This way, you get to socialize and become familiar with your colleagues.”
Preparation is the key, but don’t respond as if you have memorized the answers. Speak naturally and that is what will show your confidence.