What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses? – (Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Have you ever played chess? How about the board game Risk?  

What do both of these games have in common?  They’re both strategy games that have a way of bringing out your strengths and weaknesses.  

They also require you to think multiple steps ahead of your opponent in order to project the best possible outcome and ultimately, win the game. 

An interview is exactly the same. 

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No, you’re not playing with cards and I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring a set of dice with you, but any good interviewer will tell you a successful candidate is one who comes to the interview with a strategy in mind and is prepared to think on their feet.

When a hiring manager goes into an interview, they have one goal in mind:  find the best possible candidate for the position. 

So how do they do this?  chess-616836_640

Through a process of elimination using carefully selected questions.

Parroting back prepared answers to standard questions does little to tell an interviewer about who you really are.

Sure, they might be happy with the fact that you’re good at memorizing, but most job require much more than that. 

Interviewers want to see what happens when they rattle your cage and throw you off balance…which is why they love questions like…

What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

At first, it might seem like a ridiculous question, but the strategy behind asking it is actually brilliant.  The interviewer is intentionally trying to get you to answer a question that is designed to trip you up. 

Do you notice how this question is essentially in two parts?

No?

Don’t worry, we’ve got some strategies to help you turn a potential stumbling block into a launching pad of awesome!

Before we get into your strengths, let’s take a moment to talk about your weaknesses.

What is Your Greatest Weakness?

As we mentioned above, when asking about your strengths a hiring manager will often also want to try and learn about your weaknesses.

In reality, it is pretty rare for a hiring manager to ask you them together as one question, but you still need to be prepared in case this question comes up.

Generally speaking, you should prepare for these questions separately, because each of them have unique characteristics and should be handled on their own. However, these two questions will often be asked in a row and are obviously connected so you need to prepare both!

MIKE'S TIP:

If you find yourself in a situation where the interviewer asks you “What are your strengths and weaknesses at the same time, make sure to always start with your weaknesses and end with your strengths.  You want to leave a good taste in the hiring manager's mouth, so make sure the last thing you say in your response is something that leaves you in a positive light.

So in other words, focus on your weaknesses first!

Although this article focuses primarily on the way you should approach answering “what are your greatest strengths” question, we made sure to prepare a great article addressing how to answer the question “What are your weaknesses?”  Please click here to check it out!**

Okay, without further ado, let’s talk about your strengths!

Preparing To Answer About Your Strengths

When you’re sitting down across from a hiring manager you want to make sure you’re presenting yourself in the best possible way. 

You want to show them that you’re the perfect candidate, the answer to all their hiring needs, but how do you do that when you’re asked a question specifically designed to throw you off? 

Easy!  By answering it before it’s even asked! 

By preparing for this question ahead of time and outlining several possible answers you’ll be in a much better position to come up with a an answer in the interview that not only covers the question, but makes you appear polished, well prepared and confident.

For someone who is unprepared for the question “Tell me about your greatest strength,” trying to come up with a quick answer can be a huge stumbling block. 

But before we get started you should download our free Greatest Strengths & Weaknesses Cheat Sheet!

This handy (and FREE!!) pdf contains everything you need to answer this tricky question at a glance.  Click Here To Get The Greatest Strengths & Weaknesses Cheat Sheet!

Most people, when caught off guard and already nervous from the interview process end up sitting there thinking frantically, “what are my strengths??? uhhhh..” and then tend to blurt out the first thing that comes to their minds. 

How NOT To Answer “What Are Your Strengths?”

Let’s start out with what NOT to say when you get asked this question:

THE COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT ANSWER:

“Uh, wow.  Well for starts, I have a super good grip so my mom has me open all her jars for her.  Yeah, that’s a good strength.  And I have a wicked backhand in tennis.” 

If this were a dating interview and not a job interview, an answer like that might earn you some points, but unless you’re interviewing for a job at a jam factory or trying to work your way into a position as a tennis pro at the local club, your answer is weak, confusing, and lets the interviewer know right away that you’re not prepared and that you lack the skills it takes to really think on your feet.

THE OVERLY AGGRESSIVE OR COCKY ANSWER

“I’m a leader with proven results which means it’s my way or the highway.”

Are you applying for Mercenaries-R-Us?  If not, it might be a good idea to tone down the testosterone.

THE STRENGTHS THAT JUST KEEP ON COMING

“Well, I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m a great team leader, I work well with others, I’m prompt, I’m focused, I pay attention to details, I’m grounded, I really appreciate hard work, I’m never late, I can work weekends, I’m super excited to be here, I’m motivated, I’m…”

Whoa!  This isn’t MadLibs and we aren’t asking you for thirty adjectives to describe yourself.  A hiring manager wants to hear one or two…maybe three (absolute tops) qualities about you that you consider a strength. 

THE ‘IT’S ALL ABOUT ME’ ANSWER

“Um, well, I’m super funny and smart and all my friends say I’ve got a great attitude and I’m really easy to talk to.”

Again, this isn’t a dating show and although the interviewer IS interested in getting to know you better, this is not the question to answer with all about you information.   

THE STRENGTH THAT’S ACTUALLY A WEAKNESS ANSWER

“I’m a total workaholic.  If I’m on a project I’m gonna make sure to stick with it to the bitter, bloody end.”

Although this might sound like a strength, it’s actually a weakness in disguise!