Advertising
Advertising

How to Talk about Your Strengths and Weaknesses in Interviews

How to Talk about Your Strengths and Weaknesses in Interviews

Anyone that has ever endured the joys of a job interview has probably been faced with some variation of the dreaded, "tell me about your strengths and weakness," question. This question is incredibly obscure and tricky to navigate. Should you answer honestly?

"My strengths are I am the life of the party, I don't do hard drugs, I'm tall and I have a great sense of humor. My weaknesses are I am always late, have problems with authority, steal office supplies and love to tell dirty jokes in meetings"

Or, should you give an answer that is vague and where your weaknesses are actually strengths in disguise, such as:

"I am a hard worker, a logical and analytic thinker and work well with others. My weaknesses are that sometimes I work too hard, I am a perfectionist, I am always over prepared and I meet every deadline – no matter how impossible it is…"

While the first response is incredibly honest and the employer knows exactly what they are getting – you probably won't get hired. The second response is obvious bull crap and while you may get hired, you've essentially set yourself up to fail. You've also shown the hiring personnel that you lack the ability to personally reflect and self-analyze.

Why do interviewers ask the strengths and weaknesses question?

Before we dive in and work on how to answer this question, it's important to understand why the interviewer is asking it. The main reason the hiring manager or team asks this question[1] is to try and determine if you possess qualities that will enable you to succeed. They also want to know what qualities you have that could hinder your job performance. Simple as that.

How to answer the strengths and weaknesses question

Now that you know why interviewers ask this question and what they are looking for, you can craft a response tailored to accurately satisfy this question. Let's look at the strengths first:

Advertising

How to discuss your strengths

Tailor your strengths to specifically match the job description

When facing questions about your strengths and weaknesses, always keep the job description and duties in mind. Highlight the strengths you have that are suited for that particular job. Try to include language similar to what was in the job description. Here's an example:

You are applying for a project based position requiring lots of collaboration, meetings and interaction with other co-workers. You would want your strengths to focus on addressing these areas. Some things you could list are: deadline driven, team player, effective communicator, exceptional people skills and problem-solver. You most likely, wouldn't want to highlight that you work best alone and are an excellent independent worker. The strengths you highlight should match your job description.

Make sure your strengths align with the organization's mission and value system

Aligning your strengths with the values of the organization assists you in helping the hiring official more clearly see that you were made for the position and fit the company's culture. Do some research prior to the interview and determine what the organization values.

For example, if a tech company has on their website the following phrase: "…providing practical and innovative solutions for all of your technology needs…", you may want to include in your list of strengths: creative, innovative thinking and pragmatic.

Be able to explain and provide a concrete example for each strength

Advertising

The best and most efficient way to attack this is to provide an example that demonstrates multiple strengths. This is the quickest and most concise way to answer this portion of the question without going on and on about yourself. It also communicates that you are precise and are prepared.

Let's say you are interviewing for a position as a sales manager and you strengths are: you're great with people, you're an excellent communicator and you are flexible. You could say:

"My strengths are: I'm great with people, an excellent communicator and I am very flexible. A great example of this is on one occasion in my last position as a sales associate, I was confronted by an angry customer who stormed into the store demanding a full refund on a recent purchase. The customer had purchased merchandise online, did not have a receipt for the item or any proof of purchase. Our store policy was that online purchases were exchange or store credit only.

I was able to calm the customer down and listened intently to his complaint. I determined that the customer had purchased the wrong product. I explained how both products worked and the differences between the two. The customer gladly exchanged the original product for the new, more expensive one and happily paid the difference in price between the two."

The candidate was able to provide three job specific strengths and back them up with solid proof. When preparing your answer to this question prior to the interview, come up with two or three examples just in case they ask for more and to give you options, in case one is more apropos than another.

How to discuss your weaknesses

Discussing weaknesses can be a bit more tricky than discussing your strengths. If the interviewer poses the question where they are grouped together such as: "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" A good rule of thumb is to discuss the weaknesses first[2]and end on a positive note. Here are three things to keep in mind when discussing your weaknesses:

Be authentic

Advertising

Give an answer that legitimately touches on an area where you struggle. Providing an honest answer makes you more authentic, trustworthy and believable. It is also so much easier to discuss something you genuinely connect with versus something you've fabricated for the moment.

A great example could be the fact that you are a global or "big picture" thinker. You could explain that sometimes you can become overly concerned with the big picture that you may miss some of the smaller details.

Make sure the weakness is minor and will not directly effect your job performance

Pick weaknesses that are relatively small, will not directly effect your job performance, is not contradictory to the organization's mission and core values and does not reflect poorly on your character and integrity. So you may not want to divulge that you are a compulsive liar, petty thief, use drugs, or cheat on your taxes.

If you were applying for a job as a staff accountant you could pick as your weakness: public speaking, delegating tasks, and being a bit too straight forward at times.

Cast your weakness in a positive light and refrain from going on and on about them. Don't be overly critical of yourself and avoid self-deprecation. The trick here is striking a balance between being honest and humble while still maintaining your confidence.

State your weakness and chase it with a solution

Advertising

The best thing about the "describe your weaknesses," question is that our deficiencies – no matter what they are – are fixable. This question affords you the opportunity to show that you are self-aware, own your deficiencies and are proactively working to correct them.

Let's look at the example above. If you are applying for a position as a staff accountant and your weaknesses are public speaking, delegating tasks, and being a bit too straight forward at times, you could frame your response like this:

"One weakness that I have is that I am not fond of speaking in front of large groups. To help me in this area, I make it a priority to be well prepared when I have to speak. I also make sure that I have a good set of talking points with me if I know there is a chance I may be asked to speak, impromptu, in a large-scale meeting. I am also a member of Toastmasters Club[3]so I am confident and communicate well, but I still do feel the butterflies sometimes.

Another one of my weakness is that I tend to do extra work in lieu of delegating it. To help with this, I make it a point to be aware of the strengths and aptitudes of the people who could assist with these tasks. This way I immediately know who should perform the task and am confident that the work will be done well.

I can also be a bit to straightforward at times. To help me catch and stop myself from being overly direct, I have instituted my own personal five minute rule for written communication. So, I'll craft an email, put it aside for five minutes and then go back and find at least three places where I can soften the language a bit and then I hit send. It takes a few extra minutes but those extra minutes would be spent explaining what I meant or apologizing for being so blunt. I truly enjoy my colleagues and really work to be a pleasant professional."

In a nutshell

When facing the dreaded strengths and weaknesses question, keep in mind the interviewer's intent. He or she is looking for a good fit. A single answer won't make or break the interview, unless, of course, you say something particularly egregious. Focus your time and energy on your strengths statement and highlight what you have to offer. You are what they are looking for – and the proof is in your answer to this question.

Reference

[1] the Balance: Strength and Weakness Interview Question
[2] Monster: List of strengths and weaknesses
[3] Toastmasters International: About

More by this author

Denise Hill

Speech Writer/Senior Editor

30 Best Business Podcasts That Help Entrepreneurs Become Successful 20 Simple Ways to Bring Positive Energy into Your Life Right Now Day 10 Shocking! Exercise Right After Eating Ain’t That Bad for Health The 10 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time You Should Not Miss How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward

Trending in Productivity

1 10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance 2 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 3 How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max 4 How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work and Take Control of Your Day 5 How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 12, 2019

10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance

10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance

I have spent the majority of my life as an entrepreneur, as did my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. It just seemed to be something in our genes that made us want to stretch out our wings and do our own thing.

But a few years ago, I sold my businesses and got tired of the golf 5 days a week. Not to mention that health insurance as well as other costs where going up and my income wasn’t. So I decided to take a job as a manager with a fortune 500 company. Here I would get income, benefits and a taste of corporate life that I had never experienced.

I lasted two months! In my opinion, the management style hurt productivity much more than it helped. As a manager, I was expected to rule my team with an iron fist. It was literally in their handbook that no matter how good an employee was, there was no such thing as a perfect employee so I was to address the most minor issues with the best employees. This never helped team cohesiveness and frankly created resentment between management and employee.

So after two months, I walked into the bosses office and said that I was not fit for the corporate culture at this company. Despite never telling me I had done a good job, he started offering me incentives to stay, more pay, a better position etc… But I knew that this was the companies culture from the beginning and it wasn’t going to change, so I politely declined and started my own affiliate marketing business.

Now over the years I have owned and operated many different types of businesses with the number of employees ranging from 1 (me), to over 400 and plenty in-between, I have tried many different management styles and while depending on the business and who your employees are, some management styles worked better than others. But generally, I have found ten relatively simple ways to improve team management skills and boost productivity.

I have found that if you’re an owner, high level executive or just a manager of a single team of people these ten tips can boost productivity in almost every situation:

1. Be Clear About Your Goals and Write Them Down

Now this part in particular needs to be written by the owner or CEO, as the lower level managers will take those goals and apply them to their own teams of people.

Note that this doesn’t mean writing down “We are going to make widgets and become the most profitable widget maker in the world.” Anyone could come up with that. Your goals must be clear and attainable and have ways to measure progress. A much clearer goal would be to increase profits by 10% in a year. You can then have specific goals for the managers of different departments.

For example the goal for the marketing manager may be to find new and more efficient ways of marketing so that your marketing efforts reach 5% more customers with the same budget. The production manager may have some good ideas about streamlining production to increase productivity. A goal for the sales manager maybe to break into a new or untapped market.

The important thing is that your overall goals are clear, all of your managers are on board and know what is expected of them and that you continuously monitor each departments progress. This process should be repeated by your managers to their team members.

Advertising

2. Come up with Objectives

Now this may sound the same a coming up with goals, but it’s not.

Goals can be thought of as the end result, where you want to be. Objectives are the steps you must take to reach the goals. Take a look at this article to know their differences:

Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

For example. a goal might be to increase customer satisfaction and the objectives to getting there might include faster shipping times, easier returns and improvements in customer service etc.

4. Hire Competent People, Then Get out of Their Way

As a manager, your boss or senior executive should have gone over the companies goals so that you have a good understanding of where the company wants to be. A good manager should set out clear goals for the department with reasonable, attainable and measurable goals. You can then take the goals that have been set for your department and give them to each employee according to their skill level.

Now you may have noticed the second part of the tip was to “get out of their way.” This is only if you hired the people who have the correct skills. Part of your job as a manager is to check on and measure progress of your employees. If you are finding someone who just can’t seem to keep up, try setting them up with a mentor, or even beak down their job responsibilities so they don’t seem overwhelming.

But the bottom line is that you have a responsibility to the company to get your part of the overall mission finished on time and done well, otherwise it reflex on you as a manager. While no one likes it, termination maybe the only solution.

5. Have Regular Meetings with Your Staff

Problems, issues and bottlenecks will inevitably arise in any organization. Part of your job as a manager is to identify the issues and correct them before they become problems.

Having regular productive meetings with your staff is key to identifying problems before they get out of control.

Let’s just say that your employees are having a hard time shipping items on time because they can’t get them from the warehouse soon enough. This is where you earn your money!

Advertising

What you don’t want is people from the shipping department calling up the warehouse and it turning into a screaming match. It’s time for a meeting with the warehouse manager. Perhaps the issue is that they aren’t getting reliable predictions about the number of units being sold each month. Now we have identified the problem, a lack of communication between sales and warehouse.

Almost all issues arise because of a lack (or problem with) communication. A good manager will be the go between for the team and the managers of the other teams. As long as cool heads prevail, you can almost always come up with a solution that satisfies everyone.

6. Use the “Sandwich” Method When Dealing with Problems That Arise from Otherwise Good Employees

Everyone makes mistakes, some are small and can be dealt with a memo to the team or a quick word with the offending employee. However, an otherwise excellent employee can make a major mistake that can cause a serious disruption to your units responsibility. These types of problems need to be addressed by you, the manager.

As long as this is a one time occurrence and the employee has not had issues in the past. The sandwich approach is the the best.

Start by explaining that the employee is valuable to the organization and that their work has generally been a positive influence in the company.

Next address the problem that occurred and what steps could be taken to avoid simular problem in the future.

Close the conversation by reiterating the value the employee has to the company and reinforce the steps that will be taken to avoid the problem again.

7. Always Remember That Examples Work Better Than Positive Reinforcement or Negative Reinforcement

The carrot and the stick has always been a resource for managing employees. You can use the carrot to entice your employees to do what you want, or you can use the stick to punish the employees for not doing what was expected of them. Or you can be an example of whats expected of them.[1]

As I said before, everyone screws up, including you. When you do screw up, take responsibility for it!

Part of your job as a manager is to be an example to those you manage. Be open about your mistakes and the steps you are taking to avoid doing the same thing in the future. After all, you can’t expect your employees to admit mistakes if you’re not the example.

Advertising

There should be a process in place for when things like this happens. Acknowledge the problem, analyze the root cause of the problem, implement procedures to avoid reoccurrence of the mistake, evaluate the solution you’ve come up with and, if it works, move on.

8. Be Smart About Building Your Team

As a manager, you have to deal with a lot of different situations, people and personalities. You also are going to be given new and sometimes more responsibilities, including things like budgeting, forecasts, presentations and payroll. So think seriously about your own strengths and weaknesses so you can hire accordingly.

You want people who will complement your strengths and help you with your weaknesses. There’s an old saying that you should “hire slow and fire quickly “.[2] It’s a good thing to keep in mind, take your time to find the right person for the job.

Once you have trained them and given them all the tools for the job, then you can evaluate them. If for whatever reason they aren’t living up to expectations (that you were clear about!) Then, it might be best to terminate them quickly and search for a new person.

I see so many situations where a person is hired for a job that they aren’t qualified for or just can’t do a good job at and they stay there year after year. Keeping the wrong people will hurt your team, inspire resentment with the other team members and you’ll spend a lot more time babysitting instead of focusing on more important things.

This actually goes back to taking responsibility for your mistakes. You’ve identified the mistake of hiring the wrong person, so solve it quickly, rectify it by hiring the right person and move on.

9. Maintain a Positive Attitude and Promote It Within Your Team

We’ve all had that grumpy boss or coworker who never seemed to care much. Did you respect and look up to them? Of course not, people are naturally attracted to others who have an upbeat positive attitude.

Having a positive attitude will make your job as a manager so much easier just because people are much more likely to follow you.

As for your team, encourage team building activities. We know that not everyone will like or even get along with everyone else. So use team building exercises as a way to make sure that your team stays goal orientated.

10. Don’t Forget to Use Positive Reinforcement

Often, we get too caught up in what we are doing. After all, as managers, we are usually juggling several different issues, problems and deadlines all at once, that we forget to just say “thank you”.

Advertising

Don’t have the attitude that your employees are just doing their jobs. That project deadline that got pushed up, the unexpected project that got dropped on your teams lap make everyone’s life harder. Especially yours, you now have one more ball to juggle.

So when that project gets done on time or you made the new deadline, don’t forget to show gratitude to your team who were the ones that really made it possible. Yes, you still have 4 balls juggling in the air, but just like having a positive attitude makes you a more effective leader.

Positive reinforcement strengthens that manager employee relationship.[3] It can take many different forms, and will vary by company, some may allow an extra day of PTO, gift cards, public recognition or just a private acknowledgement from you the boss, whatever form it takes it’s important that their achievements are appreciated.

The Bottom Line

Managers have multiple responsibilities and jobs to preform, and I can guarantee that one of the most important tasks of management is to utilize all the company’s assets in the most efficient and productive way possible.

If you manage employees, then they represent a large company asset that you have an obligation to run as productively as possible.

By giving your employees the proper training up-front and practicing good communication techniques, you can minimize the time you spend fixing mistakes and focus on delivering on-time projects and new business. This can mean a huge increase in productivity at minimal costs.

I don’t know any boss that wouldn’t like to see a boost in performance that takes little to no investment. So set yourself up for success with these 10 tips to improve team management skills and boost performance.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next