One of the most common questions you’ll come across in any job interview is “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”
At first glance, this interview question may seem like a trap.
How are you supposed to talk about your strengths without coming off as too boastful, or discuss your weaknesses without harming your chances of getting hired?
In reality, though, this is a valuable opportunity to showcase your skills and personality. By having a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you can demonstrate your self-awareness, your ability to improve, and your fit for the position.
In the end, it all comes down to knowing how to answer - and this is exactly what we’re here to help you with.
In this article, we'll cover:
- Why do hiring managers ask about your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tips to talk about your strengths and weaknesses.
- A list of strengths and weaknesses you can use when crafting your answer.
Let’s dive in!
Why Do Interviewers Ask About Strengths and Weaknesses
The first step to acing this tricky interview question is understanding why interviewers ask it in the first place.
There are 5 reasons for this:
- To assess your self-awareness. Being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses is a sign of self-awareness, which is a valuable trait in the workplace. Self-aware employees can make the most of their strengths and work to improve on their weaknesses.
- To see whether you can improve. Everyone has weaknesses, but not everyone works on them. As such, when asking this question, the interviewer wants to see whether you are the type of person who actively works on improving your skills and yourself.
- To learn about your work style. The way you answer this question can reveal a lot about your personality and work style (e.g. how you cope with stress, whether you’re a team player, etc.).
- To evaluate if you’re the right fit for the job. At the end of the day, the interviewer wants to know whether you have the necessary skills and work experience to succeed in the role. In this regard, your strengths can be what proves you’re a right fit whereas your weaknesses can show what areas you need to work on.
- To see how you handle a tough question. Talking about your weaknesses can be stressful, and interviewers may use this to see how you handle the pressure.
In a nutshell, the “strengths and weaknesses” question can provide valuable insight into the candidate’s skills, personality, and self-awareness, as well as show the interviewer whether they’re the right fit for the job.
To learn what the best answers are for other popular interview questions and answers, check out our comprehensive guide.
5 Tips to Talk About Your Strengths
Now that we got the “why-s” out of the way, let’s talk about some practical tips you can take advantage of when discussing your strengths:
- Be relevant. You should mention strengths that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Take a close look at the job description and company values to identify them. Make sure to mention them when asked about your strengths (as long as you really possess them, of course).
- Back up your claims. To really make an impression, back up everything you say with evidence. Instead of saying “I’m a great leader,” say something like: “I’d say my strength is being a team leader. In my previous role, I led a team of five that increased company sales by 20% in seven months.”
- Show humility. While it’s beneficial to “show off” your strengths, it’s just as important to show humility and acknowledge you still have room - and willingness - to learn and grow.
- Be authentic. Don’t exaggerate or embellish your strengths and, most importantly, don’t lie about them. Sooner or later, your employer will know and that’s not a situation that you want to be in.
- Emphasize how your strengths can benefit the company. As much as you can, tie your strengths back to how they can benefit the company and contribute to its success. For example, “Creativity is one of my biggest strengths and I think it will help me create more successful and engaging advertising campaigns for your products.”
Talking about your strengths is close to an elevator pitch. Our article on how to make an impactful elevator pitch can help you perfect your answer.
List of Strengths You Can Mention in Your Interview
Incorporating all the above-mentioned tips into your answer can be challenging, so we suggest you take some time prior to the interview to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Start by making a list of your top strengths that also match the job description and the role requirements. Then, think about these two questions as you structure your answer:
- Why are you good at X? How can you prove it?
- How can X help you in this position/has helped you in your previous roles?
Both of these questions can help you come up with an answer that’s impactful, genuine, and relevant to the job or field you’re applying for.
In case you’re not sure which of your top strengths to mention, here are some in-demand strengths for many jobs, across a number of industries:
- Taking Initiative
- Continuous Learning
Check out this guide for some other helpful words to describe yourself in a job interview.
5 Sample Answers for “What Are Your Strengths?”
Even the most experienced candidates can struggle with describing their strengths, so we’ve compiled a list of examples to inspire you:
#1. Continuous Learning
“My greatest strength is my passion for continuous learning. For example, whenever new software is released, I am always the first one to test and get familiar with it. I enjoy exploring and learning every aspect of the software, as I believe it's essential to stay ahead in this ever-evolving industry. I believe this position would provide me with the opportunity to apply my eagerness to learn and use it as an asset to help Company X adapt to new tech.”
“I’d say it’s my ability to work well with others. I have always enjoyed working as part of a team and find that my collaborative nature is one of my strongest professional attributes. In my last role as a project leader, I was able to meet all deadlines and deliverables by improving team collaboration via new processes and software. I am confident that I can bring this strength to your team and contribute to building a positive, collaborative work environment.”
#3. Writing Skills
“I’d say my greatest strength is my writing skills. I take pride in my ability to write with clarity and precision, and I always make sure to meet deadlines. One specific example I want to mention happened in my last role when a colleague couldn’t finalize a project and only told my editor two hours before the deadline. The project was important, so I immediately got to work, and completed the article on time. Despite the time crunch, I was able to deliver high-quality work that was well-received by our audience.”
“My greatest strength is my empathy and my ability to relate to people and understand their needs. During my internship last summer, I was working on the support line and received a call from a frustrated customer who was unhappy with our services. By listening to her concerns and communicating with her both on a professional and on a personal level, we managed to retain her as a customer. I believe that a happy customer is a vital component of any successful business. and I am confident that my empathetic approach can help you build positive, lasting relationships with yours.”
“My greatest strength is my problem-solving skills. I pride myself on being able to quickly and efficiently analyze and solve complex problems by considering different perspectives. This skill allows me to remain effective even in a stressful situation. Additionally, I am also a confident communicator, able to effectively convey my ideas and insights to both senior executives and junior team members. By considering all sides of an issue, I can offer a well-rounded perspective that can provide the team with valuable insight. I believe that my ability to solve problems efficiently and communicate effectively can be an asset to your team, and I am eager to contribute my skills to help the team succeed.”
If you want more answer samples for the “what is your greatest strength?” question, check out our guide!
6 Tips to Talk About Your Weaknesses
Effectively highlighting your strengths when answering the “strengths and weaknesses” question is only half of the work.
The rest is about discussing your weaknesses the right way.
After all, you don’t want to be one of those candidates who make the interview mistake of answering with something like “my greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.” The interviewer will not appreciate your lack of self-awareness and inability to talk about your weak points.
At the same time, you don’t want to mention a weakness that can actually ruin your chances of getting the job (e.g. saying your weakness is impatience while applying for a role as a teacher).
So, how can you talk about your weakness in a way that shows self-awareness and the willingness to learn? Here are our top tips:
- Be honest, but tactful. Talk about a genuine weakness, but avoid mentioning a weakness that’s critical to the job or that’s too personal (e.g. “my weakness is that I’m unlucky in love and often get used by people”).
- Talk about self-improvement. Actions speak louder than words. Explain just how you’re working on overcoming your weakness by highlighting the steps you’ve taken or that you’re currently taking to improve.
- Show willingness to learn. When you’re discussing your weaknesses, make sure to stress that you’re open to feedback, advice, and help to continue learning and growing.
- Highlight strengths. For every weakness that you mention, show that you possess a strength or skill to compensate for it. For example, if you mention public speaking as a weakness, you can say your creativity compensates for it.
- Be specific. This applies to literally everything job-application-process-related, interviews included. The more specific you can be about an example where you identified a weakness, overcame it, or turned it into a strength, the more you’ll be able to impress the hiring manager.
- Practice your response. Talking about our weaknesses doesn’t come easy to most people, so don’t let this question catch you off guard. Check the job description and role requirements in advance, think about a genuine weakness that won’t penalize you as a candidate, and practice your answer before the interview to deliver it as confidently as possible.
Wondering what to wear for your job interview? This guide can give you great ideas based on your industry.
List of Weaknesses You Can Mention in Your Interview
Identifying your weaknesses can be easier said than done - especially when you need to make sure none of your weaknesses can jeopardize your chances of getting hired.
If you’re having a hard time finding your weaknesses, turn to a friend or close coworker to help you determine what you can improve on. Always remember that weaknesses are not permanent, and just because you have a few weaknesses does not mean that you are doomed.
Alternatively, here’s a list of weaknesses that you can use to inspire your response:
- Extremely Introverted
- Extremely Extroverted
- Creative Writing
- Too detail-oriented
- Financial Literacy
- A Particular Software
- Too sensitive
- Presentation Skills
Asking the right questions during a job interview is just as important as giving the right answers. Our guide on the topic can show you just what kind of questions to ask the interviewer.
5 Samples Answers for “What Are Your Weaknesses?”
And here are some sample answers to “what are your weaknesses?” that can help inspire you:
“One of my weaknesses is that I tend to be overly critical of myself. After completing a project, even if it's received positive feedback, I often feel like I could have done more. This can lead to overworking and burnout. To address this, I've learned to take time to objectively evaluate my achievements and celebrate my wins. This has not only improved my work and confidence but has also helped me appreciate the support of my team and other systems behind me. I still strive for excellence but have learned to balance it with self-care and a healthy perspective on my accomplishments.”
“I used to struggle with sharing my ideas in group settings and speaking up during team meetings due to my introverted nature. However, I have since recognized the importance of participating and have been actively working to improve in this area. After my team underperformed on two consecutive projects, I realized that I needed to make changes to contribute more effectively. To overcome my introversion, I enrolled in local improv classes and started pushing myself to speak up more during team meetings. Although it’s still a work in progress, I have made significant improvements over the past year and am continuing to work on my communication skills to be a more effective team member.”
#3. Avoiding confrontation
“I tend to avoid confrontations, both in my personal and professional life. While I believe it's important to maintain a harmonious work environment, I understand that conflicts can arise and need to be addressed promptly. I am taking steps to improve in this area by developing my conflict resolution skills. For example, I have been attending workshops and reading books on conflict management. I am also practicing having difficult conversations with colleagues and friends to get more comfortable with the whole process.”
“My greatest weakness is my tendency to second-guess myself and my abilities. For instance, I sometimes doubt my work and worry that it may not be up to the required standards, even when it is. However, I am taking steps to overcome this weakness. I have been working on building my confidence by reminding myself of my past accomplishments. I also actively seek feedback from others, including coworkers and managers, to help validate my work. I understand that this is a common issue, and I am willing to put in the work to overcome my insecurities.”
#5. Presentation Skills
“My greatest weakness is my presentation skills. While I am comfortable communicating one-on-one or in small groups, I tend to get nervous when giving presentations to larger groups. However, I am taking steps to overcome this weakness. For instance, I have been practicing and watching online tutorials on how to improve my presentation skills. Additionally, I have been seeking opportunities to present in front of others, both in and out of work, to gain more experience and confidence. For example, I recently gave a presentation at a local meetup group which allowed me to practice my skills in a more relaxed environment.”
If you want more sample answers for the “what is your greatest weakness?” question, check out our article!
FAQs on Strengths and Weaknesses
1. What are some strengths and weaknesses of a student?
Some common strengths and weaknesses of students are:
- Curiosity and eagerness to learn new things
- Ability to adapt and adjust to changing situations
- Good time-management skills
- Strong work ethic and determination to succeed
- Creativity and innovative thinking
- Good communication skills and ability to work in teams
2. How can I assess my strengths and weaknesses?
To assess your strengths, think about skills that you really possess and that you can prove that you possess with specific examples and achievements. Then, pick the strengths that have helped you the most in your career so far or that can come in handy for the role you’re applying for currently.
When it comes to identifying your weaknesses, here are some strategies that can help you:
- Seek feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors on areas where they think that you can improve. This can help you identify blind spots you may be unaware of.
- Spend some time reflecting on your professional performance. Think about situations where you faced challenges and try to pinpoint the underlying reasons.
- Use objective assessment tools, such as personality traits or skills assessments to identify where you need to improve.
- Set goals to address all the weaknesses you’ve identified.
3. What are some good strengths and weaknesses to mention in a job interview?
There is no one-fits-all answer to this question, as each individual has their strengths and weaknesses in their personal and professional life.
In the professional context, you should mention a strength that highlights skills that are relevant to the role or industry you’re applying for and that you can prove with facts and achievements.
And that’s a wrap on this popular job interview question!
We hope that our tips and sample answers will help and inspire you to effectively talk about your strengths and weaknesses to potential employers and increase your chances of landing your dream job.
Just remember to always show confidence, honesty, and self-awareness when answering this question and you can rest assured the interviewer will approve.
For more advice, check out the rest of our career blog!