This is one of the most difficult questions to answer in the interview process, particularly the weakness portion. There is no right or wrong answer, but there are ways to deal with the question more effectively.
Marie Montez, the HR manager at CZY company, interviewed three candidates for the position of Customer Service manager: Francine, William., and Joel. During the job interview, she asked each of them her favorite interview question: “What is your greatest strength, and what do you consider your weakness?”
“My strength is that I am a hard worker. My weakness is that I get stressed when I miss a deadline because someone else dropped the ball,” answered Francine. Not a very strong answer for either the strength or weakness. The strength she chose is unimaginative. Most people think of themselves as “hard workers.” Her weakness indicates someone who doesn’t handle pressure well.
“I really can’t think of a weakness,” stammered William. “Maybe I could be more focused. My strength is probably my ability to deal with people; I am pretty easygoing. I usually don’t get upset easily,”
William’s answer lacked conviction. It began with a negative, and then used vague words: “maybe,” “probably,” “pretty,” and “usually.”
“My strength is my flexibility to handle change. As Customer Service manager at my last job, I was able to turn around a negative working environment, after a merger, and develop a very supportive team,” answered Joel. As far as weaknesses, I feel that my management skills could be stronger and I am constantly working to improve them,”
Joel’s answer was the strongest because it emphasized some of the skills needed to be a Customer Service manager: managing a team, working under stressful conditions, flexibility, and the ability to motivate others. He also gave an example of past behavior demonstrating his strength: “At my last job,….” If he did it before he can do it again – at this company. When he talked about his weakness, he stayed away from personal traits and chose a skill that he is working to improve.
Assessing Your Strengths
Select strengths to describe yourself and what you have to offer – the areas you feel confident about.
Choose three to five skills or traits, which match those the interviewer is seeking to fill the position.
E.g., computer skills, language skills, management skills, math skills, communication and people
skills, analytical problem-solving and planning skills, dependable, flexible, friendly, hard-working,
expressive, formal, punctual, team player.
The best way to prepare is to think about skills that you are working on to become more effective. Select a trait, and a solution you are using to overcome your weakness. Concentrate more on professional traits.
“I pride myself on being a ‘big picture’ guy. I have to admit I sometimes miss small details, but I always make sure that I have someone who is detail-oriented on my team.”
What’s Behind the Question
When confronted with this question, remember the interviewer is looking for a fit. A single answer will probably not keep you from getting the job unless of course, it is something blatant. Put your energy into your strengths statement; what you have to offer. Then let the interviewer know that although you may not be perfect, you are working on any shortcomings that you have.
Giving some thought to your strengths and weaknesses beforehand will prevent “interview paralysis,” or worse yet, the blurting out of some answer will cause the interviewer concern about you being the the right person for the job.