What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
These are two very common questions asked in job interviews, and they should catch no job seeker off guard if they've prepared their answers.
The problem for many applicants is that those answers aren't very good ones. They may be something like, "Oh, my greatest weakness is that I work too hard." (Internal eye roll from the hiring manager.) Or: "My greatest strength is that I love people." (Another internal eye roll from the hiring manager.)
There's nothing horrible about such answers, and they may even be true. But such answers don't really tell the hiring manager anything about you, and may even turn her off enough with the triteness of the responses to eliminate you from consideration.
When a hiring manager asks you about your strengths and weaknesses, here are some do's and don'ts:
- Do tell a story. People remember stories, especially those that have an emotional element. Craft your "strengths and weaknesses" around a (concise) story that will make it more memorable and give it greater impact for the hiring manager.
- Don't lie. There's no reason to craft some fake story worthy of a television mini-series. All of us have our own battles to fight and our own victories to claim. It may take some internal digging, but you'll find those stories. When they come from a place of truth, they will have the necessary impact.
- Do emphasize what you learned. More employers are looking for employees with emotional intelligence -- an ability to show empathy to others -- so always try to show how you've grown as a person and a professional when citing your strengths and weaknesses.
- Don't go overboard. Bringing up your strengths and weaknesses may touch a nerve with you, but don't let it get out of hand. Don't start swearing, getting teary-eyed or become angry. The employer wants to see someone who can clearly look at strengths and weaknesses and express them professionally and honestly without losing control.
Citing your strengths and weaknesses should show the employer how you've grown as a person and a professional. Whether it was learning how to play fair and stand up for yourself after being bullied on the playground or finding that your strength comes from helping others overcome obstacles at work, everyone has a unique story to tell.