Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone on the team spends time with candidates weekly – encouraging, coaching, preparing and nagging – that’s part of the job when you get to help people with their careers.  It occurred to me that you might appreciate some help getting ready for those tough interview questions so that the next time you are in an interview situation you can NAIL IT!

I’ll spend the next few months addressing some of the common questions you’ll encounter.  File these for future reference – they might be helpful.

Question:  What do you consider your biggest professional strengths?

Answer options can be one of the following – or a classy combo thereof.

  1. Think about the role and the skills you want to highlight. This takes some practice but ideally, you will have the background information necessary to finesse this answer.  “I believe that 3 of my greatest professional strengths align nicely with what you are looking for…..”
  2. ALWAYS limit your answer to 2 or 3 examples. This will keep you from over answering the question and sounding insincere.  “I gave this a lot of thought last evening as I was preparing for today – I think that my 2 most valuable strengths are…..”
  3. Use testimonials. “In thinking about how to best approach my job search, I pulled my past 3 performance reviews.  Each of my managers notes these 3 strengths in my evaluation…..”

Question:  What is your biggest weakness?

I have to start this explanation by stating that I really dislike this question.  As a hiring manager, do you really think that anyone is going to admit their deepest, darkest weakness to you (we’ve only just met and you may have the power to sign or veto my offer letter)? Seriously??!!!

Now, onto how you should rehearse your answer to this question because it will be asked at some point.  Again, use one of these options or combine them in whatever way feels best.

  1. Prepare a unique answer for each position. The weakness you cite for a tactical, operational role is completely different than the weakness you offer for a role that requires creativity, vision and strategy.  For instance, when talking about an operational role you wouldn’t want to say that you have trouble focusing on details.  Conversely, for a creative role you wouldn’t want to admit that you have trouble with abstract ideas.  That may sound obvious – but it’s not.  You would be surprised how often candidates trip up on this question.
  2. DON’T OVERANSWER!!! This, of all the tough questions, is the easiest one to have verbal distress over.  Only cite ONE weakness, more than that sounds too prepared and reveals too much information.  “Well, I’m human like everyone else, so I definitely have weaknesses.  I think that sometimes I lack ….. and that is something I am working to improve.”
  3. Overcoming a former weakness. “One of my biggest fears early in my career was public speaking.  As a marketing professional, that simply wasn’t going to serve me well.  So, I joined toastmasters a few years ago and have been working on overcoming this weakness.  I’m never going to be a professional speaker on circuit, but I can present in front of small and large audiences skillfully.”

Remember, interviewing is like an audition.  Get through the trial with enough preparation so that you have a chance to REALLY SHINE on the job!  We’ll tackle “Why did you leave your last job?” next month.  Until then…..

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