One of the most typical questions interviewers ask is to name your strengths and your weaknesses. Surprisingly, I hear time and time again that candidates dread this question and are often unsure how to handle it. However, keeping in mind that your chances of having to answer this question during an interview are extremely high, you can think of a strong answer in advance instead of trying to come up with something on the spot.
Back at school, our interview coach gave us examples of potential adjectives one can use as “strengths” – self-motivated, dynamic, proactive, autonomous, team player. ZZZZzzzzz… I cannot even count how many times I have heard all of these. Her advice on handling the question regarding one’s weaknesses? Taking an actual positive and positioning it as a negative. “I take on too much. I am too responsible. I am a perfectionist.” It may sound cliché, but if I had a dollar for every time I heard one of these, I would be rich.
Here is my advice. Think of your actual strengths! They do not have to be over-used adjectives, but can rather be examples of your achievements. Those are specific to each individual and vary by industry. Here are a few examples. A salesperson can stress his or her lack of fear when looking for new business and provide an example of how s/he increased bottom line in the past. A marketing specialist can provide an example of his (or her) superior analytical skills and back it up by giving an example of how this can be relevant to the potential employer. You are the best judge of what your unique professional traits and skills are – provide them as examples of your strengths.
Personally, I much prefer the term “areas to improve” to “weaknesses”. I recommend that my candidates think of what their areas to improve actually are and talk about them. This demonstrates that you are self aware and that, no matter what you mention, it is possible for you to continue working on it. In Quebec, one of the most common areas to improve is one’s grammar in either English or French. Additionally, you can list the areas in which you would like to gain further experience (it can be industry exposure, specific tasks, supervisory experience) or education.
What makes you stand out from the rest is you – your unique background and your unique aspirations. Talk about these and the hiring manager is sure to remember you!