No one likes to admit their faults and shortcomings, but no one is perfect. And in a job interview, pretending to be perfect can actually hurt your candidacy.
Recruiters and hiring managers like to ask job candidates about their strengths and weaknesses to gauge a candidate’s truthfulness, image of self and, of course, areas that could be improved.
If you’re looking for a new job using a job search board like ZipRecruiter, here’s how highlighting your strengths and owning up to your weaknesses can help you find a job that’s the right fit and avoid disappointment at the end of the interview process — or landing a job you struggle to carry out.
Common Strengths and Weaknesses
So, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
It’s one of the toughest and most common interview questions, right up there with questions about your reasons for leaving your job.
The hiring manager or recruiter won’t expect you to itemize every single one of your strengths and weaknesses. Rather, they want to know about your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the job description.
The strengths and weaknesses your interviewers will want to know about could be soft skills or technical skills.
Here are some common strengths that employers commonly look for in job candidates:
- Teamwork: You work well with others, especially in situations in which it’s faster or more efficient to collaborate with coworkers.
- Leadership skills: You don’t shy away from taking a leading role, along with the responsibility that comes with it.
- Focus: You aren’t easily sidetracked from the task at hand.
- Multitasking: You can juggle multiple priorities and reorder them when necessary.
- Integrity: You always ensure the job is done the right way with no corners cut or rules bent.
- Creativity : You tend to look at things differently and come up with less conventional solutions.
- Flexibility: You don’t break when you have to bend to accommodate changing priorities.
- Detail Oriented: Nothing gets past you, especially the important details.
- Organization Skills: You know exactly where your tools, projects and assets are at any given moment.
- Self-starter: No one has to tell you when you need to do your job. You get to work when something needs to be done.
- Writing skills: You are clear and efficient in your written communications, even if you don’t have extremely strong writing skills.
Here are some common weaknesses people list during job interviews:
- Self-doubt: Sometimes you aren’t sure if you’re doing things the right way.
- Inexperience: You lack experience with a tool, a technique or a responsibility in the job description.
- Lack of Attention to Detail: You aren’t that detail-oriented. Sometimes, you miss important details either because you’re working too fast or just fail to recognize them.
- Impatience: Sometimes, you get frustrated when things don’t move as quickly or as smoothly as you’d like.
- Disorganized: You sometimes lose sight of tools, projects or assets.
- Lack of Creativity: You usually don’t come up with a new way of looking at a problem.
- Shyness: You tend to shy away from the spotlight, including leadership roles.
- Poor Communication Skills: You’re not always forthcoming with timely information.
How to Promote Your Strengths
No one wants to look bad in their job interviews. When asked about your strengths and weaknesses, you have to strike a balance between not overselling what you’re good at and not focusing too much on things you struggle with.
When asked about your strengths, don’t list everything you think you’re great at. Focus on the things you know you do best and that are most applicable to the position.
If you can’t identify your strengths on your own, consider asking a coworker or a friend. You could also think back to any coaching or performance reviews you received from past or current bosses.
How to Frame Your Weaknesses
Tie your weaknesses to your professional growth. In your responses to interview questions, try to help your interviewers understand how far you’ve come in shoring up your weaknesses in your professional life.
If you feel your leadership skills could improve, for example, tell your interviewers about how you’ve volunteered for leadership opportunities to improve. Showing them that you’re working to improve shows them that you have self-awareness and can be coached up.
Employers usually give you a cheat sheet with many of the answers they want to hear — the job description.
Example Answers for Interview Questions
Here are some example answers you can use as templates for your responses in your next job interview.
What are your greatest strengths?
I feel that some of my greatest strengths are my ability to focus, multitask and keep track of all of the details of my assignments. Over the years, my manager has entrusted me with a heavier workload and has remarked on my ability to stay on task and balance my priorities efficiently.
This respondent listed several related skills, which is more believable than listing a dozen strengths. They also use their manager’s trust in them as evidence of their ability to manage multiple tasks efficiently.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
Based on feedback I’ve heard in the past, I feel like my communications skills could use some improvement. I’ve taken this feedback to heart, and I’ve worked to be more vocal in the workplace. I specifically attended a series of Lunch and Learn sessions at work with the goal of improving my leadership skills.
This answer to the interview question acknowledges a weakness upfront, without going into too much detail about how big the issue is.
It also shows that this respondent listened to feedback and took steps to improve their communications skills.
Find a Job That Plays to Your Strengths
Every job will require a certain set of soft skills and technical skills. But how can you focus your job search on job opportunities that demand your best skills?
Get personalized job recommendations from a virtual recruiter named “Phil.” ZipRecruiter incorporated the power of artificial intelligence to allow Phil to make your next job search easy and efficient.
Just tell Phil your experience and your career goals. Then Phil will get to work scouring job postings, analyzing millions of data points and sending you a short list of the most relevant jobs.
There are millions of active jobs on ZipRecruiter, and it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your job search. While Phil saves you time on browsing jobs, ZipRecruiter’s One-Click Apply lets you apply to open jobs instantly — all it takes is one click to submit your resume and profile to employers.
Ready for a smarter job search? Getting started with ZipRecruiter is as simple as creating a free account and uploading your resume.